Successful Change Requires Consciousness, Focus and Repetition

Changing one’s self—how one thinks, feels, values or believes—can be very difficult to do. It can be even more difficult to maintain.

While sometimes desirable, an individual’s ability to work toward “change” can feel extremely uncomfortable. It is much like forcing a right-handed person to use only their left hand. At the first sign of frustration or stress, the changes that have been made will likely be abandoned, and the individual will revert back to old, familiar ways of doing things.

To be successful at changing ourselves—from being an angry person to being a calm one, or from being a self-centered person to one who really listens to others—we must remain highly motivated. To change, one requires a new vision of what things will look like after the changes have been instituted.

Change most often occurs under the following circumstances—when we feel safe; when the changes result in something better than what we currently have; when we realize that we can manage or accept the reactions of others to these changes; and when our self-esteem is high enough to overcome our fears of taking risks through change, of the potential for failure, or of embarrassment.

Maintaining what we have changed requires that we remain conscious and focused on our goals. It requires many repetitions of the new behaviors—doing the new behaviors on purpose and repeatedly—if change is to be permanent.
If you’re serious about changing your behavior, make a contract with the significant people in your life to help you monitor your progress!

“Is it ever too late to regain balance in a relationship?”

Can a relationship end – of course! Sometimes so much damage is done, mainly through poor communication, misunderstanding and assumption making, that the will to carry on, to try again gets lost. Couples can go on for a very long time “trying”, but like adding weights to the old scales of justice, one pound or one thing more can tip the “that’s it” scale and the feelings shut down and the relationship is virtually over.

What happens is couples stay together for a very long time even if things aren’t going that well between them. They work at loving each other, make love – hoping this will bring them closer, carry on a normal routine – go to work, visit friends, take the kids to soccer – but the whole time are evaluating and when that “one more thing happens” it’s over for that person. It doesn’t mean they end the relationship, that they leave physically, but they do leave emotionally. The cold war begins! This is a very difficult time for the couple and the therapist. The individuals are hurting, are angry and blaming – they don’t see how their behavior is contributing to the dissolution of the relationship. “If he/she were only (different) then it would be ok!” Unfortunately they remain in this deadlocked position for a considerable period of time before they seek help. They are lost and few couples come back from the “It’s over” decision.

An old saying comes to mind when I think of the attitude of some individuals I have met:
            “I want my cake and I want to eat it to!”

To me this means, I want to act and do and say what ever I please and I expect you to continue to love, cherish and put up with my self-centered attitude without any change in your feelings. Oh yes, and continue to act “as if” you are pleased to see me, and to have intimate relations with me when I want, and “really want to”. Yeh! Sure! Didn’t anybody ever mention that living together is very difficult and must be worked at “on purpose”, daily? That if you don’t treat your partner well – he/she won’t treat you well! No? Better talk to someone about this soon.

So, my answer to the question “Is it ever too late to regain balance in a relationship?” is yes! It’s never too late to work on a relationship but some have gone on too long and have become too destructive to reverse the bad feelings.

So what can we do? Encourage people to come in and talk about what’s truly going on for them. Counselling needs to help the pair improve their communication. Communication skills are a great place to start. In my experience, most if not with all couples, their problems are rooted in or get worse because of their poor communication skills.
If one of the partners puts an effort into the relationship – starts to really listen to what the other partner is saying, is genuinely interested and curious as to what the partner is saying; and gets the angry, condescending tone out of their voice when speaking – they are seen as trying, and this effort can bring the other person around to having hope and wanting to try as well. This is what we work for as therapists – couples “trying”, “working” at making things better, using the skills, “doing” (not talking about doing) things better. Hope is abound!

Favorite Chapter/Concept

I don’t have a favorite concept from my new book “Finding Balance: 101 concepts for taking better care of self” but I can tell you which four concepts I use most in my daily work as a counselor/therapist.

“Play Isn’t Nice It’s Imperative”. I find myself constantly reminding my clients of the importance of choosing fun and relaxation in their daily lives. Balance between work and ones Real Life is the goal we strive for. This concept is presented in a really funny story – p.38.

Quite often with a new client or a couple who had presented with relationship issues I would begin the session with a scaling question. “Where do you see yourself on a 10-point scale – 1 being low and 10 being ideal – in your relationship right now? If the answer is an extreme I would explore what is behind that score. I might also ask the question ”Would you rather be an 8 on your own or a 3 in a bad relationship?” The concept “To Be an 8…Congruency and Self – Love Are The Key, Not a Relationship” (p. 68) can be very helpful to people to understand that sometimes being alone is more appealing than being in a poor relationship.

In my practice with couples  use almost daily the “Active Listening” (p. 45) and “Be Married to Your Principles, but Not the Outcomes” (p.51) together to offer a mini-workshop I call Communication 101. In a short period of time using mainly these two concepts, I can introduce couples to a better way of communicating with each other. Communication is a skill and can be learned.

I believe all of the 101 concepts in this book will have meaning for different people at different times in their lives.

The A-Ha Moments

A ha!

There are many, many “A-Ha” moments in the book “Finding Balance: 101 concepts for taking better care of self!” Each moment has become concept and is a new way of looking at old pattern.

Often when I am doing therapy with a client, something in the interaction produces a new thought, an “A-Ha moment is born. I say the new thought out loud and it appears to be helpful, the person responds with new understanding. Sometimes the response is puzzlement or confusion but in the dialog that follows there is often more questions and exploration that lead to new things being learned and perhaps even a change in behavior.

I take peoples feelings/thoughts about their issues, which they don’t seem to understand, and turn them into pictures and words that they do understand. I have heard this approach to doing therapy called Psycho-educational therapy. I don’t know what it should be called all I know is that at certain times in the therapeutic process a well placed concept can save many hours of session time.

An “A-Ha” moment is when the “light goes on”, when there is more clarity, when there is the realization that there is potential for new possibility to an old problem/issue”.

How Experience Shapes My View

I have been in the helping profession, in one form or another, for about 60 years. I started working with kids when I was just a kid myself, 9 or 10. Nightly they would knock on our backdoor asking if I could come out and play catch, wrestle or just talk. I started coaching at age 15, taught Jr. high in my early 20’s, eventually moving into full time counseling in Sr. high school. During my 20-year teaching career I was constantly attending workshops and conferences as well as working on my undergraduate and Masters degree in counseling. I guess I knew at some point in my life I would move into the field of psychology. After leaving public school and for the next 16 years I worked for the Manitoba Teachers Society (MTS) in their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). I saw thousands of teachers and others in the helping professions and spouses; did hundreds of workshops and really honed my counseling and therapeutic skills.

As to the question: why did you get into the helping profession?

I guess it goes back to those days when I started playing with the neighborhood kids on my street. I knew when I was 12 that I wanted to work with kids and so teaching was a natural decision and the start of my journey into helping people. Teaching and counseling kids for twenty years, then working with adults in an EAP for another 16 years – each step allowing me to grow and become a better counselor/therapist.

I love what I do and at age 69 I still work three days a week for Blue Cross (EAP) and one day in private practice. I work out daily, write books (3), produce a weekly newsletter, golf, walk my dogs (3) and sing in a jazz quintet. Exactly why I became a therapist is still a bit of a mystery to me.

About “Finding Balance”

“Finding Balance: 101 Concepts For Taking Better Care of Self” is about better understanding and methods of treatment for the “issues” that people identify in therapy that get in their way to having a better life. Through exploring these “issues”, a variety of insights and therapeutic stories were developed and presented as Concepts to better treat the “issues”. It was written for people in the Helping Professions and all woman – they do a good job of taking care of others but do a poor job of taking care of themselves.
I did not mean to write this book! Most of the concepts, insights, and stories in the book are the result of the creative interaction between my clients and myself. New ways of understanding and treating the issues/stressors that people presented began to evolve. Insights, concepts and therapeutic stories just seemed to flow from every session over a two-year period. I wrote them down on a piece of paper and threw them in a folder in my briefcase. One day I dumped the contents of the folder out on the dinning room table, and started writing, as I felt compelled to shape the ideas into readable form. The result was “Finding Balance: 101 Concepts For Taking Better Care of Self”

I tell people that at first I did not believe in my own book. It had a nice look to it, nice cover, and it said a lot of things I believed in and I found it meaningful and useful. What I didn’t know was that other people were also finding it meaningful and useful. That I had written a valid piece of literature (as judged by the feedback and testimonials from the reader) nearly blew my mind. The Concepts help ‘cut to the chase’ inviting understanding and insight with a minimum of verbiage – and that’s good!

The book is written in short, one to two page concepts that readers, particularly any males who read “self-help/permission to take care of self” kind of books, find very appealing. The concepts are complex but the language is quite simple - very readable. The book promotes self-care and encourages the reader (gives permission) to take good care of self.

Take care of yourself first, then take care of others!

Remember: Work is what you do to earn money to have a life; it is not your Real Life.
The reason many of us don’t find it easy to have fun (until the work is done) is because we don’t have as many “permission to have fun messages” on our computer (brain) as we do work hard messages.

Originally, Finding Balance was written for people in the Helping Professions (educators, nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists). I had a contract working with educators at the time and saw many other “helpers” in my private practice and I wrote the book for them. These people who were so great at helping others were neglecting themselves and very poor at giving themselves permission to take care of themselves.

However, by the third printing - this is now printing #5 - people from all walks of life began to read the book and declare “This is me in your book”, they had the same issues as the people in the Helping Professions. So I rewrote parts of the book making it more generic. I now realize people, no matter what job they do, are just people. We all suffer from the same life stressors and come with similar baggage and therefore “Finding Balance” 101 concepts for taking better care of self” fits all.

Finding Balance: 101 concepts for taking better care of self

I wrote a book entitled Finding Balance: 101 concepts for taking better care of self. I had been an educator in Manitoba for 38 years, 20 years in public school and 18 years with the Manitoba Teachers Society’s EAP (Educator Assistance Program). The majority of my professional time was spent counseling burned out, over worked, under empowered and extremely distressed folks. At the same time, I worked at introducing the Manitobans to the concepts of prevention and wellness that led to the development of primary prevention teams, workshops and presentations and written materials. The purpose of these activities and articles was to continually remind people to take better care of themselves!

The book was written for people in the Helping Professions and most definitely for people who continually work too hard. Most of the concepts, insights, and stories in the book are the result of the creative interaction between client and therapist. Time in therapy has often been reduced by an on-target teaching concept, such as those that fill the pages of this book. These concepts help ‘cut to the chase’ inviting understanding and insight with a minimum of verbiage.

Finding Balance: 101 concepts for taking better care of self includes 144 pages of stories, insights and concepts spanning my career of 45 plus years in counseling, therapy, wellness workshops and presentations. This is a very personal book in that you will see yourself, in a general sense, in many of the stories and concepts