How to change

June 30, 2010 | By | Reply More

Most of the big problems we face today are created by human beings, and they have human solutions.  If only we could and would change our ways.   If only we could switch to a non-fossil fuel economy, we could solve dozens of well-known environmental and political problems.  If only we would “just say no” to drugs, reckless conduct, sloth, and rampant consumerism.  If only we would just buckle down and be more informed and more active citizens, we could keep a better eye on our government.  It goes on and on.  Well designed solutions already exist for so many of our problems.  If only we would change, but we can’t seem to change.  We tend to be trapped in our own destructive and ignorant ways.

How can we break out of this stagnant cycle?  Back in 2002 at Psychology Today, in an article titled “The 10 Rules of Change,”  Stan Goldberg wrote that change isn’t easy, but it is possible, and there’s more to it than just saying yes (or no).  He offers ten observations and strategies for implementing change.  They include the following (these are Goldberg’s ideas, as I interpret them):

1. All behaviors are complex.   Therefore, break down the behavior into smaller parts and take baby steps.  If you want to be a better musician, practice your scales, study your theory, practice new pieces, listen carefully to others performing, and a dozen other things.

2. Change is frightening.   Acknowledge this fear, then force yourself to visualize your new desired behavior in detail so that you can make an accurate comparison with the status quo.   Also, consider making big changes gradually, if that helps you.

3.  Change needs to be positive.  Consider rewarding yourself for making the change.  But also consider the intrinsic reward of the new behavior.

4.  Streamline the process of change and prepare for problems ahead of time.  It’s usually not instant or automatic.

5.  Blend the change into your life gradually, appreciating the advantages of the new path.  Allow enough time to pass for the new routine to become a habit.

6.  Monitor your own behavior carefully and consider seeking the feedback of others, to better understand your progress.

7.  Communicate structure and stick to that structure, so you and others around you understand what you are in the process of changing.  Outline the necessary sequence of events and consider tweaking the parts of the sequence.

8. Practice in many settings, and consider involving others in that practice.

9.  Protect the new behavior by making room for it in your schedule and in your environment.

10.  Small successes add up to big changes.  Thus, treasure the small changes, keeping in mind that a positive attitude goes a long way.

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Category: Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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