The new year has always been a reason for people to make a resolution to make positive changes in their lives. Many are dealing with difficult life choices, circumstances and problem behaviours that should be addressed. Often, instead of taking action, it is common to make excuses as to why change may not be necessary – at least, not now.
Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing (CCCN) Executive Director Alan McQuarrie says, “My opinion is that more of us should adopt the baby philosophy of change – if something stinks, change it!”
When contemplating change, many seek the help of a counsellor. They want to know, “Should I leave a partner who ignores me or is abusive to me?” “Should I make a career move?” “Should I ask my adult child to leave the home?” Should I move in with a partner who uses substances too much?”
There are many unhealthy situations that exist in people’s lives and that need to be addressed. The question is: when should a person make a change? The answer is: like everything in life, it depends.
McQuarrie explains that no major life decision is ever clear cut and that is why people feel they need to consult an expert. “At the CCCN, we can’t tell you what to do. But we can help you clarify your thinking.”
For those that may not want to see a counsellor or wait until one is available, McQuarrie outlines things to consider when making a life change:
- Make a list of what you want to change – they can help simplify complicated decisions.
- Make a list of the pros and cons for any life decision – fold a paper in half and make two columns listing why you should change and why you shouldn’t. Put the list away and come back to it a couple of days later Sometimes, time can help you take a more objective view.
- Make a list of the barriers to change – what is holding you back and why? Barriers can include thoughts and beliefs, or they can be about other people, lack of money, or unfortunate events. Ask yourself, “how can I get rid of these barriers?”
- Anticipate possible consequences of your decisions and write them down.
- Seek out other people in similar circumstances and learn from their decisions.
- Identify current circumstances that are influencing you now – remember, circumstances can change and your feelings about your situation can also change.
- Take time when making major decisions – this is especially true if outside parties are trying to influence you. It is always best to sleep on a decision to have more perspective.
When it comes to change, recognize that no major life decision is easy to make, and most cannot be made over night. There will always be doubt. McQuarrie suggests using the 80 per cent rule. “If you feel strongly about a decision and if you can honestly say that you have an 80 per cent conviction to make change, then make it. Most of life’s biggest decisions are never clear.”
Mark Twain once said, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."
Need to talk to someone? Contact CCCN at 705-472-6515 or email [email protected]. Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, services will be provided by video or phone.