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You Can Change Your Life

Change begins with awareness, but we are transformed when we make a choice.

Highly sensitive people are often interested in personal growth, both for themselves as well as others. We like to keep striving to meet our own highest potential. But many of us face the challenge of repeating the same mistakes or behaviours over and over, and not understanding why or what to do about it. On our quest for self-improvement, we can easily find ourselves not climbing a mountain, but running on a treadmill, and despite all our best intentions and efforts, getting nowhere.

Change is never an easy thing to do, even when we want to change. And sometimes what prevents us from changing is simply not knowing what to do other than what we’ve already been doing. There are two reasons for this:

1. We hope that if we just keep trying, the outcome will be different. But the same behaviour will usually result in the same consequence.

2. We know we need to change tack, to take a different approach to things, but we don’t know what the alternatives are.

The important thing to recognise is that there are alternatives. There is always another way of doing things, another way of resolving a situation, another path to follow. In his book, Why Do I Do That, Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives, Dr. Joseph Burgo says that once you recognise or become aware of something you are doing, you then have to make a choice. You can continue to do what you’ve always done, which is usually easier because it’s automatic, or you can do something different, which is harder, but will bring a different outcome. So if you decide that there is something about yourself or your life that you want to change, you can do it if you remember these steps:

1. Awareness. Take a step back and recognise the patterns in your life where you’ve taken the same approach to a situation repeatedly over time but with negative results. For example, perhaps you are always finding yourself in unhappy relationships and you want this to change. Looking back over your life, you can see a pattern where you have tended to respond to conflicts in your relationships by getting defensive.

2. Choice. Recognise that you have a choice. The awareness of what is really going on can feel like a door opening to a new life, but you have to choose which way to go. If you have noticed that you usually get defensive, take a moment and decide whether or not you want to continue to take this course or choose another response.

3. Action. Once you’ve made a choice, take action. Take a step forward and walk through the doorway. This could mean listening to the other person so that you are considering their point rather than defending yourself.

4. Repeat. Paying attention to what you are doing and then choosing not to engage in harmful behaviours will allow you to loosen the grip those behaviours have on you over time. According to Dr. Burgo, ‘only by making a different choice, over and over, will you begin to develop new habits.’

Change is never easy. It takes effort and practice and time. But just like learning a musical instrument, with regular practice your ability to change will improve over time and soon you will be making choices that lead to real change in your life, the life you’ve always wanted.

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