Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D., LMFT, LADC, has been in private practice in Stillwater, Oklahoma since 1990, and in the counseling field for over 25
Yeah! We get a fresh new year to work with! I am really excited about the New Year. Each new year we get a new canvas on which to create our lives. Is it a snow white canvas with no history? No, not at all. But if it were without history, we would not have the progresses that we have made in our lives up to now. Each trial and tribulation is a powerful teacher that assists us in putting things in perspective, in forcing us to do some inventorying of our strengths and weaknesses, and to change, despite every intention and attempt to not change.
Change is a scary thing for most people. Yet, everyone changes on a daily basis, in a variety of ways. We cannot not change. We can resist by insisting that others stand still and do things as we want them done and we can argue for not changing with “This is the way we have always been” or “This is how we have always done it”. Then we can get our feelings hurt, get angry, and pout, when the demand for change nudges us toward inevitable changes that we fear to make. Or, we can be pro-active, in accepting the changes in others, in identifying areas needing change in ourselves and working toward goals to enable us to make those changes, and we can be patient when significant others are not changing as much or as fast as we would have them change.
Unwillingness to change can be disastrous. I am not entirely sure why people are so afraid of change. Perhaps it is because familiarity tells us that we are safe and novel situations or events challenge us to muster resources that we fear that we may not have. In evidence of this theory, are the examples of people who will not try anything new, such as skiing, golf, sewing, singing in the choir, etc., because they believe that they will not excel at it. We forget that most new behavior involves skill development and that skills are developed over time with practice. We may not have a natural talent at golf, but if we play regularly and seek to improve in the game, we will.
People may also fear change because they believe that when things stay the same they still have control over their lives. They may erroneously believe that the only way to have stability and security in your life is to resist change. They may believe that life is unfair when the circumstances and people in their lives demand change. Feeling angry and resentful toward the people in their lives who want and need them to make changes, they may believe that if they continue to resist change that the demands for change will stop. Sometimes the demands for change do stop, only to be followed by abandonment from the people who the find behavior unacceptable and are no longer willing to tolerate it. By clinging tightly to an illusion of control, they often lose the people that they believe matter most to them.
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Those that are perhaps a little more comfortable with change, set New Years’ resolutions or goals. Many of these goals never get off the starting block and are never realized. When this happens people often conclude that they are just not good at working toward their particular goal – or not good at change. Perhaps they blame others for not supporting their efforts or for sabotaging them. People come up with all kinds of excuses why they cannot change. They are usually excuses and not real reasons. Remember that you are your own best cheerleader. Encourage yourself, even when others do not.
If you are looking at this new year as an opportunity for growth and change, remind yourself of the goals that you had for this last year. If you achieved those goals, how did you do it? What were the keys to your success? If you did not achieve your goals, why not? What were the obstacles? What skills or habits did you need to make those goals reality? What did you do or not do to acquire those habits or skills? Did you need help from others and not ask for it? Did you need professional assistance and rationalize not seeking it because of expense/time/convenience/pride? What would you need to do this year to accomplish whatever goals you are setting now?
Remember that history is instructive. Use it for the teacher that it is, and not to shame and browbeat yourself about failure. The only failure is to be so immobilized by fear that you fail to try something different or new. Set your goal(s) and learn how to maximize the probability that you will accomplish it. Read more information about how to accomplish the goals you set. The internet is full of such information, including articles on my own website, http://www.peggyferguson.com.
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