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Realistic Expectations in the Process of Growth and Change

Change takes work and it is not a linear process.

When trying to make an important change your life, it is important to keep a realistic mindset. This is even more true when you are working on changing something that has been present in your life for a long period of time.

Change does not happen overnight.


Change takes work. One of the first things that I speak about with my new clients at the very first session is that simply showing up to your appointments is not going to yield significant change in your life.

Therapy is not a passive process. Therapy requires effort and hard work; likewise, making personal change requires deliberate effort and hard work. Even though some people may read this and be put off by the idea of having to work hard to make changes, if something is important enough that you want to change it, the amount of effort that you put into making that change will be nothing in comparison to the amount of satisfaction and fulfillment the change will bring to your life.

If something has impacted your life enough, and particularly if this has happened for a long period of time, it is not surprising that it is going to take work in order to change it. The process of changing your thinking, your emotions, and your behaviors can certainly be challenging, but it can be some of the most worthwhile change you make in your life.

Change is not a completely linear process. Even when you put in significant effort to make things different, it is not possible for something that has been occurring for a long time to radically disappear so quickly. With that in mind, it is important to be as realistic as possible.


On the road to change, it is normal and expected for there to be times where old thoughts, emotions, or behaviors re-surface. What’s important during these times is to not allow these instances to feel like setbacks. What’s even more important is not to label these instances as “setbacks.” When you view them as setbacks, it is possible your motivation may decline and progress can be stalled.

Rather, these occurrences are merely bumps in the road and natural hiccups that are going to occur in the process of change. When you can look at these instances as just that, they don’t hold as much power. This means you can free yourself from their occurrence, and you can continue to grow and change without allowing these moments and instances to hold you back.

I decided to write about this topic because when working with my clients and in the midst of their process of change, I often find myself having this conversation. More specifically, many people will report that even though they had a good week (meaning, they have noticed and experienced continued growth in their area of change) and didn’t engage in the particular mindset or behavior they are working to modify, they had some thoughts about it, or almost gave into the thoughts (and engaged in the behavior), and this felt like a setback.

My response is consistently: “It’s not a setback. It’s normal, and expected. Work with it, move through it, and continue to move forward toward your goal.”

When you approach growth and change with realistic expectations, the path is much smoother, productive, and the outcomes are much greater.

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