At the New Year, we are often hungry for change. We want to see ourselves achieve more in the work place, feel better about our health, and be happier in life and relationships. These are worthy goals, and yet so often, even with the dangling carrot of greater things ahead of us, we get stuck in patterns of waiting. We mistakenly believe that we can’t change UNTIL someone else or something else changes first.
Have you ever heard yourself say, “I’ll change WHEN…”? We all do it. We feel our attitude, behavior, or actions are justified or unalterable until someone or something else makes the move to change first.
It goes something like this. “I want a happier and healthier marriage. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could connect on a deeper level and really take care of each other’s hearts emotionally?” You know that your part is that you repeatedly shut down when you and your spouse are in conflict. Instead of thinking, “I’ll make an effort to not shut down when we disagree.” You think, “I’ll stop shutting down WHEN my spouse stops being pushy and defensive when we argue.”
We’ve all been there. “I’ll start eating healthy WHEN I get a raise and can afford healthier food.” “I’ll go back to school to get on the path to my dream job WHEN my life doesn’t feel so full and crazy.” “I’ll stop being driven by fear WHEN we have more police officers and the crime rates go down.”
We can live our lives in an eternal state of WHEN.
Living a life of WHEN indicates a belief that we are powerless to change our situations. Instead of believing that we have a say and can determine the course of our lives, a WHEN attitude says that we have to behave or act a certain way because of a situation we are in. We give up our power by believing that what others do or the situation we are in has more control over our future than we do. We find yourself in an endless loop of wanting more and dreaming of a greater life, only to be stopped in place, waiting for someone else to make the first move.
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust death camp survivor and renown psychiatrist, said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I cannot imagine what it must have been like to face the horrific “When’s” inside a concentration camp. Frankl faced an unchangeable situation and was forced to adjust himself from the inside out. While our everyday situations may not appear as dire, the challenge remains the same to us today.
We have the power to choose everyday to change ourselves. We can choose what we eat, how we respond in conflict, and what our schedules look like. Are there variables that make decisions to change harder than others? Absolutely. Choosing to buy healthier food in order to live a stronger and healthier life may come at a great cost to your family’s budget and lifestyle. You have the power to make that decision nonetheless.
This is the great CHALLENGE TO CHANGE OURSELVES. As you start this New Year, envision what it would look like to truly live that life, the dream that you find yourself thinking about. What change is required within yourself in order to see that dream happen? What are the variables that you cannot change or control in this situation? What have you given power to in this relationship or situation that has controlled you and your ability to change?
As you reflect on this, I hope you find motivation to take the steps, big or small, toward the change you desire to see in your life. If you find yourself stuck while processing through your desire to change your relationships and situations, I would be happy to meet with you to help you Discover Hope for a powerful life. Please schedule your free 15 minute consultation or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathanael Read, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, practicing in Redding, CA. He currently specializes in marriage therapy and couples counseling, working with couples in conflict or distress, and individual counseling for those affected by depression, anxiety, and trauma. His passion is to help clients DISCOVER HOPE in their lives. Contact Nathanael with questions or to set up your FREE 15 minute Consultation to learn how you may benefit from therapy today.