Author: Sonja Meyrer
Recently I had an interaction with a young woman struggling to surrender her relationship with alcohol. We talked briefly about the circumstances in her life that brought her to my office and then discussed the path to recovery. Toward the end of the session, she said something so honest I had to suppress a deep sigh:
I’m not sure I’m ready to part with alcohol. I like it and I like the way it makes me feel.
You might think that as a recovery coach, I would find that statement frustrating or even exasperating but in truth, it was refreshing and useful to hear her say aloud. She was not being difficult or defiant, she was simply not ready for change.
Change can be hard. Think about the things you have been wanting to change in your life. Perhaps you have been talking about painting the living room or fixing a broken tread on the deck stairs. Maybe you have been regretting the expanse of your Covid belly or you really, really need to organize your google drive. Or perhaps you need to end or take a break from an important relationship and you just can’t bring yourself to have that potentially painful conversation.
Here's the thing: You don’t need to be super smart, experienced or even terribly organized to initiate change. You don’t even need a ton of money, expertise or encouragement to get motivated.
You just need to be ready.
But how do we get to the point of being ready, you might ask? How can I convince myself to do something I know I should do but don’t really want to expend the effort at this time? There is a culturally beloved proverb that says “the teacher will appear when the student is ready.” I understand this to mean that we are constantly exposed to all kinds of life lessons but we will not learn from them until we are actually teachable. With regard to change, I would amend that phrase to read, “change will happen when the “changer” is ready.”
In coaching, we use the Behavioral Change Model to assess someone’s willingness or readiness to change or take action. It looks like this:
Notice that three stages precede the Action stage: Precontemplation (I might start thinking about change); Contemplation (I am thinking about change); and Determination (I think I will make a change). For some of us, these three stages will be accompanied by some degree of pain or grief. Mostly, we find ourselves launched into the Action stage because we no longer can tolerate the place of Inaction.
In the rooms of recovery (like Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon) this place is sometimes called “rock bottom.” For some, this is also described as the place of incomprehensible demoralization – a place where our lives have become so unmanageable that we can no longer go on the way we have been. An arrest for DUI, an emotional drug-related intervention or a stress-induced heart attack can be such a pivotal moment for some. But not everyone needs to have a major life-changing crisis to be ready to change. Much like our tolerance for physical pain varies from person to person, so too our tolerance for emotional pain will be unique as well. For you, a deteriorating friendship, repeated job loss or an obsession with trying to control someone else’s behavior could be enough of a catalyst to start exploring your options.
So, here is my suggestion to those of you plagued with a laundry list of things you think you “should” be working on or changing:
If you are not ready to change, let it go. Stop feeling guilty and recognize that you are human and not everything warrants your immediate effort and energy. Rub your jiggly belly and wear your stretchy pants to dinner with impunity. Or wait to paint that living room until the wall color comes into style again.
Recognize when you are ready, when you have had enough and you can no longer tolerate the status quo, and find a trusted person to help you take steps forward toward something new.
To explore whether or not you are ready and to make an appointment, email me at email@example.com