Creating Lasting Change

What makes people want to change? Notice that we didn’t say, “think they should change.” There is a big difference, and not just in the words being used. Words are powerful things, and depending upon which ones we use, we get very different pictures and emotions.

There are many things that make people think they “should” change, and all of them add up to pressure from outside themselves. It may be disapproval from a family member or friend. It may be social or cultural norms or even prohibition of some specific behavior. It may even be fear of punishment or humiliation.

But when pressure to change is coming from the outside world, our desire to change is probably going to disappear as soon as the pressure is removed. The results of our change efforts are not very likely to last, either. What makes people really want to change is pressure coming from the inside. Most prominent is the desire to move toward greater experiences of pleasure and at their very core, happiness.

Next comes the knowledge that if we don’t change, we will be violating our own standards, failing to live like the person we know ourselves to be. It also helps if we realize that the results of not changing will be far more painful than any discomfort we may create for ourselves if we do change. A technique that’s really useful when it comes to creating positive and lasting change is to use the power of your imagination.

Imagine this: You have an “ice cream habit” that you’d really like to break. Let’s face it. You are trying to lose weight and really don’t need those extra calories several times a week. Suppose that your least favorite food is, say, tomatoes in any shape or form. You really can’t stand them. Now, picture that bowl of ice cream – your favorite flavor – smothered in tomatoes. Voila! Discomfort with the habit you want to break! That picture you create, and the emotions you attach to it should help you break that old habit.

Creating vivid mental pictures linking pleasure and rewards to the behavior you want and pain and discomfort to the behavior you want to get rid of really do work. You are creating new neural pathways to override an old habit. Play these “mental movies” for yourself several times a day, every day. If you really focus your attention on them, you create new associations in your brain, associations that will make it much easier for you to change your behavior in a lasting, positive way.