“How can I feel better?” we ask. We naturally want to feel good. Emotions of sadness, despair, and shame don’t feel good. When we experience unpleasantness, we want to escape. Our whole existence from embryo to now have worked together to create the person we are today. Biological design, environments, and personal choices all intertwine, setting trajectories that make our current behaviors stubborn and stable. Change is difficult. We must buck current inner trends to start something new. However, consciousness with the power of episodic foresight and neuroplasticity create opportunities for personal improvement. Change is possible.
There’s no shortage of advice on how to accomplish this. We live in information overload. The internet is a blessing and hazard. Anyone can speak with authority; credentials optional. Sorting through the massive piles information, with both the credible and the ridiculous mashed together, is our challenge. While we work to discover more, maybe we should implement something simple. Be patient, be kind, and be forgiving. Life is complex, success alluding. We’ll get there but not immediately.
Sarah couldn’t believe it. “The scale must be broken,” she thought. After several days of watching her diet and adding exercise, she still hadn’t lost weight. Frustrated and discouraged, she just wanted to quit.
Effective Action to Make Difficult Change
Many skills notably improve our lives; but we must artfully identify proven remedies while refraining from the fluff. We must sort through advice, identifying foolishness—the tales told by idiots, “full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing,” and work on implementing proven remedies built on soundness.
Many skills notably improve our lives; but we must artfully identify proven remedies while refraining from the fluff.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Effective action must be understood in context. Even eating a proper diet and beginning exercise doesn’t guarantee immediate results. However, persistence in doing what is right eventually takes hold and our lives begin to express the magnificent desired changes. However, Many of us desire a certain outcome without desiring to make the necessary sacrifices to get there.
Correct Action and Hope
Making difficult changes requires re-apraisal of current behaviors and life trajectories.
We must be willing to ask ourselves, “what can I be doing differently?” Unfortunately, many simply dream, if I had this or that in my life everything would change, never contemplating exactly what must be done to achieve this or that. According to C. Richard Snyder, hope is composed of willpower and waypower. Without one or the other, we don’t move towards our desired hopes. T. Franklin Murphy wrote about hope saying it, “creates solutions to obstacles, following proven paths when possible, or blazing new routes when necessary; this type of hope is a skill—a mindset” (2020).
Willpower to materialize hope is our self-determination. It is our stick-to-it-ness. Enroute to change we encounter obstacles, Many lose motivation at these points in the journey. The difficult change reminds of our fears, gives life to the comfort of the past, and we quit. Working through these setbacks requires self-determination and a plan.
Snyder’s waypower refers to our knowledge and confidence to find pathways to our goal. We need confidence in our ability to find a way to achieve our dreams, coupled with the actual ability to design pathways that lead to correct goal. Often our pathway may be ill designed never ending where we desire it to end. We can’ achieve our desire for riches through failed ventures.
Keeping the Status Quo
Let’s face it, there is a lot of pressure free comfort in sameness. The devil we know is easier than venturing down new trails, exploring worlds unknown. The status quo is our faulty safety net. When things get tough, we turn and run. Relapse is a term applicable to much more than drug and alcohol addictions.
Our willingness to return to old lifestyles makes change extremely difficult.
Focus of Attention
While we’re waiting for change. Here’s my advice, throwing my thoughts on to the obnoxious heap of well-being directives. When we constantly ask, “How can I feel better?” our thoughts gravitate to what is wrong. What’s wrong becomes the focus. Naturally, we must identify errors in behavior; but too much focus on what’s wrong, ignoring what’s right, bothers the soul. Life always feels wrong if that is our focus. Improvement requires some tension, noticing error and working towards change. However, too many thoughts about what’s wrong disrupts. In our efforts to improve, we digress. We feel bad when all we see are the blotches. Instead of harsh judgments for failings, we can accept some foibles. Humans feel pain, disappointment, guilt, sorrow and anger.
Roy F. Baumeister, Todd F. Heatherton, and Dianne M. Tice wrote “there is a fair amount of evidence that continuing to focus attention on one’s sadness can lead to depressive episodes, and one effective way to avoid depressed moods is to distract oneself from sad thoughts” (1994).
A young person recently asked how they could forgive their x-girlfriend, seeking advice to achieve peace from the perceived wrongs. The question seeking help was a short sentence. The following fifteen paragraphs with bullet points and bold print were about how they were wronged. This person’s focus was on how they were wronged and why hurt and anger was justified. Obtaining the peace of forgiving never comes from focus on the wrong.
Whether our goal is to improve our emotional landscape or forgive, our focus must be on objects and processes that achieve our aim. Without correct focus change in not only difficult, it is impossible.
Feelings and Focus
Our feelings follow our focus. Feelings are part of our human heritage.
We work towards improvement, not because we are defective, but because we evolve. We encourage healthy growth with constructive behaviors. The “what is wrong with me” thoughts discredit the sanctity of life, dampening aliveness, and discouraging internal motivations to change. We depress our souls, curl in the corner and endure the ruthless shocks of life.
See Learned Helplessness for more on this topic
A Few Words from Psychology Fanatic
Change is difficult but possible. We must stop the insanity; we must be kind to ourselves (self-acceptance); be less judgmental. We must practice patience, while engaging in proven methods that promote growth. Along the difficult path of change we must find outlets for creative expression (healthy escapes), practicing self compassion, expressing self forgiveness, and enjoying healthy relationships.
Change is difficult but possible. Our journey will be aided by improved emotions as we address key areas that contribute to successful living. By focusing on constructively doing, instead of what is wrong, our life naturally falls into place and change happens.
Baumeister, Roy F., Heatherton, Todd F., Tice, Dianne M. (1994). Losing Control: How and Why People Fail at Self-Regulation. Academic Press; 1st edition.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2020), Hope Theory. Psychology Fanatic. Published 2-1-2020. Accessed 5-21-2023.