We often can find ourselves in sticky situations. Places in life where we feel stuck. Perhaps a pattern of behaviour; or a relationship or career choice we regret; perhaps it’s through circumstances we didn’t choose for ourselves, but through no fault of our own, this is now our reality. When we find ourselves in these types of situations, for many of us hopelessness can set in. Particularly for pervasive problems that have been lingering around our lives for way too long.
You’ll never change.
How often have we heard these words spoken over ourselves or others we care about? When I used to work in Supported Housing, one of our residents once told me, “I’ll never be able to read, Debs, a doctor told me.” Firstly, how devastating that a professional, whose job is to help us with illnesses and issues we face, had carelessly uttered these words. Perhaps even without thought for their effect, over this young person. Turned out this resident had a form of dyslexia and with our help and other services, it turned out he was able to learn to read (if he then wanted to put in the hard work to do so), he just needed a different strategy for learning than he had been offered up to this point.
How often have we spoken words over others? Perhaps thoughtlessly. Or even maybe believing that others were without choice or hope because we could not personally see a solution. How different this is from the types of stories that typically inspire us? Movies, books, social media extracts, viral You Tube videos… stories of people who have overcome adversity and impossibilities to aspire to and achieve their form of greatness. Often people who have had life limiting rather than life expanding words spoken over them by parents, teachers, careers advisers and others in a position of authority. People who have had their dreams stomped all over, their hearts broken, and have been left in a raggedy reality believing that settling for a shallow form of existence is all they can possibly aspire to.
Is change possible?
I have a firm belief that there are not many situations or people who cannot change. I even believe this over some of the most extreme situations we can face. Our bodies and minds have amazing potential to achieve way beyond what we could ask, think or imagine for ourselves. But I didn’t always think this way. I remember at times romanticising about the possibilities of change in people’s lives. I remember watching movies or reading books about it, but not seeing change in circumstances and people around me, this leading me to believe that good things happen to other people (not the people in my world). However, in recent years, and particularly since I’ve become a counsellor, I’ve begun to believe more than ever in the ability of people and circumstances for change. I’ve seen it in my own life and I’ve seen it in the lives of many of the people I have worked with.
So what’s the secret?
Is there is a secret (or a few secrets) to change? In the changes I’ve observed in myself and others, it’s this: We first have to change our beliefs about change. If we don’t believe we can change, then we probably can’t (or won’t). And then we have to be willing to change our behaviours. To do things that scare us. And to persevere and put in the hard work. It’s that simple (or hard! depending on how you look at it).
One very interesting thing I’ve discovered, is that most change isn’t the dramatic, movie type, overnight success story or overcoming impossibilities within a week! Most change is incremental. It comes in being willing to take a small step to do something that is scary, to do it afraid, and to become confident in that step. And then next time to push ourselves that one step further, to move forwards into a new level of freedom in that area.
I’ve seen this in relationships, in people overcoming anxiety, in people who have faced up to the realities of horrendous and horrific past experiences and walked away from them, no longer condemned to repeat their own personal history or family circumstances or be confined by them because they have chosen to change their reality. What areas do you want to change today? Maybe just take one small step towards change in one area of your life. You may be surprised at the results!