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Motivated to Change

You talk about how you want something different in your life - a new house, a better relationship, to get out of debt, lose weight - but nothing changes. You find that you spend (waste) a lot of time talking about it, but not doing anything about it. How do you motivate yourself to change?

There are two ways people change: by choice or by force. Neither one is very pretty.

Change by Force
"By force" means that you have no choice. For example, you lose your job so you have to find a new one. Your doctor gives you bad news about your health so now you have to lose weight, or suffer the consequences. Your husband is having an affair; this forces you to divorce.

There are times when you know you need to change and you think about it, but instead of being proactive (i.e., seeking new employment before you get laid off or talking to financial planner before you go into foreclosure), you sabotage things. You wait until things get so bad that you are forced into action.

Force is not pretty because you cannot choose to move forward and create something new; you have to change or suffer the consequences.

Change by Choice
The other option is to choose change. Choosing to change means that you have become willing to do whatever it takes to make a change in your life. You sacrifice your comfort with the way things are in exchange for the hopes of something better.

Choosing change is great in that it allows you to be proactive. Instead of waiting for the forces of fate to push you into moving and making a change, you take the actions needed to move forward.

This isn't pretty either, because any way you look at it, change is hard. There are forces at work that are meant to keep you right where you are. For instance, fear is a big obstacle to change. So are habits.

But fear of the consequences is also a motivator for change. If you are scared to die, and most people are, you might be more willing to give up unhealthy foods so you can continue to live and enjoy yourself, your relationships and your work.

Overwhelm is another big hurdle to change. You see all that needs to be accomplished in order to change and you become overwhelmed. This de-motivates you or, rather, motivates you to continue along your current path no matter how unhappy you may be.

So how do you break through the barriers and choose change?

Two Motivators for Change
We humans will always move toward pleasure and away from pain. It's that simple. People endure a lot of pain without realizing it. You put up with so much stuff that you do not like, that causes you pain and frustration and aggravation. You hold tight to old wounds and repeat damaging behaviors. Day after day, you are bombarded by life's negative forces and you do battle, often without realizing just how much of a fight you withstand. Until, of course, at the end of the day when you crash from exhaustion!

You might have much difficulty being happy and enjoying pleasurable experiences. True happiness comes from within. But in a world in which most people are so busy and full of worry, happiness and joy are left on a wish list somewhere.

Change Is Possible
You can learn to sensitize yourself to your pain. You can also learn how to be happy and enjoy yourself. But you cannot do either if you are running on a treadmill. You have to slow down enough to assess your life and learn about yourself - your likes, your dislikes, what makes you unhappy or uncomfortable, where you are frustrated or angry - before you can begin to change anything.

Your Two-Part Challenge
So here is your coaching challenge; it is twofold.

1. Pay attention to your emotions and identify what frustrates you or annoys you. Where are you angry, disappointed or uncomfortable? List these things in a notebook. You can eliminate many of these items quite easily. Others will take some time. Go slowly; there is no rush.

We start by identifying what hurts because it can create space for what feels good. Many people have so much pain that they don't know what they want; they just know they cannot take it anymore!

If you know you want something better in your life, that's great. But don't skip doing the exercise above. You are still living with annoyances and old hurts that will hold you back and interfere with happiness and success if you continue to allow it. You first have to unearth these things so you can deal with them.

2. What do you envision for yourself? What do you want? What would make you happy? A vision is a compelling force that will solidify your commitment and pull you toward it. It provides direction for your thoughts and actions. Without vision, how will you know where you are going? You will continue to be buffeted by the circumstances of the day, throwing your power to the wind.

Envision Your Pleasure
Identify your pain; envision your pleasure. Start saying no to what feels bad and start thinking about and considering what feels good. That's your work for now. Let me know how I can support your success.

Julie Fuimano-Donley is a life coach and motivational speaker. E-mail her at to arrange a free 30-minute coaching session to learn how coaching can benefit you. Visit to learn more about coaching, sign up for her newsletter, or to have her speak at your next meeting or conference.

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