“Change is Possible” appears at the top of my website. I should probably follow that up with “Change is Hard.” We are all creatures of habit. It is really hard to change our thoughts and behaviours which, over time, become habits. Even when we recognize that our habits are self-defeating and bad for us, we still resist change because change is so difficult. There is nothing harder than changing and improving ourselves. We are our most challenging project.
It is for this reason that we should feel proud of ourselves and give ourselves credit for any improvements we choose to make in our lives, however small they may be. Deciding to help someone who is close to us, deciding to communicate more honestly and openly with others, deciding to express our needs and wishes more assertively and respectfully, deciding to exercise, deciding to think more logically and rationally, deciding to focus on our strengths and not only on our faults, deciding to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and others for theirs, deciding to take better care of our health, physically, and emotionally – the key word in all of these examples is “deciding.”
We are often told that we should be grateful. Gratitude is powerfully important. There is research suggesting that when we feel grateful we are happier. But we are not told often enough that we should feel proud of ourselves for deciding to improve. Since change is so difficult, we really should pause and give ourselves credit for making the decision to change.
I often suggest to my patients that they keep a journal entitled “Things I’ve Chosen To Do That I’m Proud Of” and that they read and add to it each day. The entries may be small; for example, calling a friend who is going through a tough time, going for a walk to get some exercise, apologizing for something that they regretted saying, eating healthier, or taking time out to relax or enjoy some activity. The entries may also involve major accomplishments such as seeing a difficult project through, completing an educational program, resolving a conflict with another person, leaving an abusive relationship, giving an important presentation, or scheduling an appointment with a psychologist or another professional to seek assistance.
One of the most important attributes we have as humans is free will. No matter what our circumstances, many of which are beyond our control, we can decide how we will cope and how we will live and ultimately what kind of person we will be. We deserve credit for every one of the good choices we make.
Moving forward, my hope is that we will all take more time to feel proud of the good decisions we have made and are making today, especially if they lead to improvements in our mood, lifestyle, and relationships with others.
It may seem strange to pat ourselves on the back and say “Good for me,” but it is as powerfully important as being grateful for the good things we have that just came our way by chance.