Your Change

Man changing a tire © Tyler Olson | Dreamstime.comYou can change – if you want it enough to make the effort required for long enough. Yes, that’s several “ifs” – but each of them is about your choice and your willpower.

The interesting thing about willpower is that it’s limited. Recent studies have suggested willpower is much like a muscle: it can be temporarily exhausted by over use, and it can be built up by “exercising” it. (For more on this, see The Neuroscience of Success.)

Here are some ways to improve the chance that your attempts at change will work:

  • Set clear goals for yourself.
  • If the change is big, set small/short-term goals, medium goals, and large/long-term goals.
  • Don’t get hung up on one slip or failure. Judge your success or failure over a period of time – 3 days, a week, even a month. If you did the right thing more often, or did not do the wrong thing as often over the most current period as compared to the last one, you have improved. If you have had a number of periods of improvement, one backwards period is a warning, not a disaster.
  • Be careful with whom you share your goals, and what you say. Some folks secretly enjoy seeing failure, and some will resist your changes even if they would benefit from them.
  • Promise small, deliver big. To assign arbitrary numbers, if you are at 20 and promise to get to 60 in six months, but only get to 40, your bride will feel you have failed. If you promise 40 and do 40, she feels good. If you promise 35 and do 40, she feels great. Don’t intentionally promise far less than you think you can do, but be on the conservative side of realistic.
  • Make one change at a time. If you try to make many changes, you will over-exert your willpower and fail at most or all of the changes.
  • Take some breaks – find a plateau and don’t push past that for a week or two.
  • Have a long-term outlook. How do you want to be in five years? What needs to changed to be that, and in what order?

Also in this series:

The Belief That’s Sabotaging Your Marriage
Her Change
Change – it get’s easier

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5 Comments on “Your Change

  1. This is something I found to be very valuable to help me change. There are 4 essential elements which cause positive change: 1) Recieve new information – without it I don’t know change is needed. 2) Value the new information – without value the new information will be disgarded like many e-mails we receive, never even looked at and thrown in the trash. This also means that we must value the source of the information or the messenger of the information. If we don’t we won’t value the information. 3) Apply the information. We only apply what we value. Therefore, value must be so great that we are willing to apply the information to our lives. Without application – change never takes place. 4) Evaluate the results. This may mean we need to evaluate the application process also, because we may have the correct information but aplied it incorrectly. Upon evaluation, we either devalue the information and trash it, or we reapply it. When it is reapplied repeatedly, it becomes a habit because the new information becomes part of our thinking processes.

    Understanding the process of change has helped me greatly because I no longer am looking for the “quick fix” but I am looking for progress.

    Paul, everything you said on right on and isn’t it amazing that God usually changes us before He changes our circumstances.

    • Of course I’m drawn to #3. When it doesn’t seem that change matters and there are no positive results from that change, it’s impossible to maintain the change.

      For example, if I watch what I eat, count every gram of fat, carbs, fiber and protein and stay at the doctors recommended value to lose weight, and I’m still gaining weight, even after re-evaluation, then one gets to the point of why bother. If I’m going to gain weight regardless how much or what I eat, I’d rather have the loaded bacon-cheese fries than the grilled chicken salad with no croûtons, cheese and fat free-low-calorie dressing.

      The same is true if your spouse is not responding favorably to your changes. If they take a so-what attitude, or they don’t appreciate the changes, then it’s very difficult if not impossible to maintain the change when the relationship is not getting better.

      This is especially true when you are doing exactly what they asked you to do. If they want you home more, or want you to change jobs so you don’t travel as much, and then when you come home every night and they ignore you, you begin to wonder if they really wanted the changes requested.

      After a while, if it seems the information we got from our spouse in #2 appears to not really mean what they said, the next time they provide information in step #2, we will be less likely to believe it, or in other words, we’ll discount the information given that in previous laps through this cycle, they’ve proved that just because they say they want something such as you changing jobs and not traveling any more, they don’t really want it because they don’t respond favorably to the change.

      Step #4 may mean we applied the information correctly, but the person didn’t really mean it in step #2.

      So what happens then? One cannot force a spouse to give reliable information, or to even stick to what they say. Having lived that, it’s a frustrating existence, breeding anger and resentment.

      • It appears that you don’t feel that you can value the liability of the information that you receive and maybe the informational source is unreliable. If history has shown it is, then maybe you need a new informational sources for the changes you need in your life. I know that I get e-mails stating I need to change this in my life to have a better relationship with my wife, but because when I tried the new information, the result were either non-existent or negative, I now consider the new information from those sources to not be of any value and I immediately delete them without looking at them anymore. But when I receive biblically based information, I value it because God’s word never fails – oh, my application of it is not always correct – but His word never fails. Because I value it, I do apply it and whne the results are not what the bible says they should be, then I evaluate the application of the information, make adjustments and reapply. The other thing I must be careful that I do not do is take and interprete the biblical information through my circumstances, because God’s word is true regardless of what my circumstance is. I must view my circumstances through God’s word. When I do, I am more apt to correctly apply God’s word and see the God desired results. Remember, because we don’t see the results we want does not mean that the application did not work. Sometimes our desired results and God’s desired results are different.

  2. I can’t help but remember the man pledge from Red Green: “I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.”

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