Often clients come to me for therapy or coaching because they notice a pattern in their lives that they don’t like. It may be something they developed because they needed it at one time and it isn’t serving them anymore, or it may be a habit they’ve had for as long as they can remember. Other people may have noticed and asked them to stop, or they have noticed that something needs to change. The conversation around a habit or pattern that needs to change often begins with the person telling me how much they dislike what they are doing or dislike the results they are getting or how much it is upsetting someone important to them and they really don’t want to do it anymore. The next question is, usually, “When will I change?”

The short answer to this question is always that we change when it hurts too much to stay the same. Once you’ve identified the problem and why or when or how you do it, and then that it is something you could change and want to change, you’re on the right path, but there’s a final hurdle, actually changing. For most things that we do without much thought (habits or patterns), the hard part is really thinking about it. We are often too busy or tired to even see that we are doing it until we’ve done it. This makes breaking it harder. Then, if you’re anything like me, we put ourselves down for not being able to do something so simple as stopping that behavior. On some level, this actually reinforces the bad behavior because now we believe it will be that much harder to change it because we’ve already failed once.

We skip over that hurdle when something happens that makes it so much more difficult to stay the same than to actually make the change. Let’s face it, change makes us look into the eye of the unknown. If we change this behavior, then what else needs to go? Are we really so flawed that we do things like this all the time and don’t even think about them? What will I do without it? Even if it’s something we’ve outgrown, the unknown is often more frightening than the things we know and do every day, even the ones that are hurting us. Sometimes we need to ease into something new, take our time getting used to the new idea, new behavior, new self-identity. Eventually it does get too uncomfortable to keep doing the thing we know we should not do. That’s when we change.

The long answer to, “When will I change?” is that you will change when you are ready to. You will know when that moment is, and it happens at the right time for you. Readiness to change is determined by many factors, including a clear vision of where you want to be when you are finished with the process. You can’t make big things happen in your life because other people need it or want it. You have to also want it for yourself. You have to be ready to move forward into a new place and leave the past behind. You have to want this enough to spend time every day exploring new behaviors and thought patterns. You have to feel like it fits into your life, your new life, not because you think you “should” do it.

And, honestly, the longer you’ve been doing a certain thing in a certain way to the point that it’s become a habit, the harder it’s going to be to change it. The more areas of your life that are touched by this habit, the more time it is likely to take to change it. And the more reinforcement you get from outside of yourself, from you family and friends, from society at large, from feeling you are being supported in your actions, the more time it will take for you to do something differently.

What is it that you really want to change? What steps are you willing to take today to set that into motion? How can I help you do that?