“Nothing changes, if nothing changes.” – Unknown
Therapy can be a very cathartic experience. Taking the time for intentional guided self-reflection can lead to life changing perspectives on the way we see ourselves, our relationships, and our lives. That said, the magic of creating change is not just in the learning, it is in the doing!
When I was a high school student, a teacher of mine used to always say, “knowledge is power”, and for a long time I thought this was true. So I started reading and learning as much as I could. Then one day, I read an article that offered a different view that suggested, “knowledge is potential power”. Immediately, I wanted to argue but I kept an open mind. “Knowledge”, it went on to explain, “is only potential power until it is applied”.
Suddenly a light went on. What you know cannot make a difference unless you do something about it. Knowing how to lift weights will not make you stronger if you don’t actually lift them. Knowing 100 ways to save money will not change your bank account balance unless you actually start saving money! So, contrary to my friends well-meaning advice, what you know changes little, but what you do can change everything!
Learn then DO!
As human beings, we typically require more support with doing than learning. I see clients who learn very quickly, struggle when it comes time to implement the changes they wish to make. Understanding why a relationship is toxic does not do any good unless they are willing to install some firm boundaries. Knowing the life they want to live will not change the life you are living unless they start with small steps forward. Change always requires action.
“But Bonnie… You don’t understand, change is hard and scary.”
Change can be both hard and scary, but that is usually our fault. Typically, it is not change that scares us. We scare ourselves. When we think of the risks that accompany change, we usually create ‘what if’ horror stories that make us want to avoid change altogether. What if I fail? What if I get rejected? What if they don’t like me? And so on. It only takes one or two ‘what ifs’ to start the downward spiral of terror with each downward step being more terrifying than the last. Before long, we have ourselves scared so badly the probability of disaster feels practically inevitable. This is the state we call analysis paralysis!
If we could face change in a grounded, less panic-stricken state, we would see there is less to be afraid of than we think.
The Sky Is NOT Falling
Take a minute to write down a change that you would like to make. Now list the things you tell yourself might happen if you make that change. How catastrophic are the outcomes really? Not uncomfortable, or unfortunate… I mean absolutely life threateningly catastrophic! Probably none. But here’s the thing, when you get yourself all worked up with ‘what ifs’ your brain starts acting like a problematic outcome = catastrophe so to avoid both it keeps you from making change by blocking action.
Time to Act
If you are ready for change, get ready to act. Pick the smallest step you can take and take it. If you want to eat healthier, cook some veggies. If you want more time for yourself, start saying “No” to invites and request that don’t serve you. If you want to beat social anxiety, step outside of your comfort zone and say hello to a stranger.
If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always gotten. So, no more thinking, debating, questioning, and terrifying yourself with ‘what ifs’. Whatever you want, go get it!
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Bonnie J. Skinner, MEd, CCC, RP
B. Skinner Coaching & Psychotherapy