By Emily Keller, Ph.D., LPC, RPT

We are well into the first week of 2018. If you are like most people you have decided how you want to change yourself. You’ve made a plan. You’ve stuck to it. Or, maybe not.

The new year offers to us a new page, or fresh start. Starting something new — making life-enhancing resolutions — with a new year just feels right. It even feels easy. Deceptively easy. The reality is that if you really want to change yourself, it is hard. Many New Year resolutions don’t last. The good news is you can decide to change yourself any day of the year. It isn’t too late. And you don’t have to wait until 2019.

People make self-enhancing decisions that stick every single day. If that were not true, then it would be unwise for me to work throughout the year. Rather, I would only meet with clients on the first day of the year, or month, or week.

If you are ready to change yourself, and you are wondering how to make a plan that sticks, consider using what redecision therapists use in psychotherapy: contracts. It may sound boring, but by the time you finish reading this you will understand how to get started at using contracts to successfully change yourself. Download this  form to help you make the changes you need to make in order to reach your personal and professional goals.

Whether you are aware of it or not, you already have contracts with yourself.

We all have overt  contracts (the ones we know about and declare as resolutions). We also have covert contracts (the ones we don’t know about). If they are not aligned, guess which one will be successful. If you guessed the covert — or hidden — contract, you guessed correctly. No matter how much we say we want something in our conscious mind, it doesn’t matter unless we also want it in our subconscious mind. The subconscious part of us prevents change it doesn’t want.

Believe it or not, the subconscious part of us wants what is best for us. So why won’t it get out of the way?! The subconscious part of us believes what it is doing is not only in our best interest — but necessary! To the extent we haven’t experienced what we want as safe or beneficial, our subconscious part will resist change. Rather than work against this part, we need to tune in to it and work with it.

How do we tune into our subconscious mind if it is out of our awareness? There are many clues to what our subconscious self wants. In this redecision therapy blog post, I will briefly review clues expressed in language. I’d like to take you through a brief exercise to illustrate how to tune in to and edit your language in order to change yourself for good.

Contracting Exercise to Help Change Yourself

1.) Download and print the contracting form here (same as the one linked above).

2.) Identify what you want to change for you that will enhance your life.

3.) Fill in the left-hand side of the form according to what you are thinking, doing, and feeling instead.

4.) Take some deep breaths and relax.

5.) Read this brief guided imagery, close your eyes, and imagine (use first-person, present-tense, active-voice; think, “I am … “): Congratulations! You changed what it is you wanted to change for yourself. See yourself in this now moment having made the change. Take a minute to imagine what you look like now and where you are. Now, imagine how you are feeling now that you have made the change. Imagine what you are thinking about yourself that is new and different now that you have made the change. Also, imagine what others are thinking about you now that you have made the change. Finally, imagine what you are doing different behaviorally now that you have made the change. Take all the time you need to clearly see and experience the changes emotionally.

6.) Fill in the right-hand side of the paper. (It is marked “Future,” but fill it in as if it is the present, using the same first-person, present-tense, active-voice language you used in imagery.)

Now that you have a clear view of where you are and where you want to go (a basic contract), let’s explore the words you used to see what your language says about how you might stop yourself.

** SPOILER ALERT** Do not read further until you have done the exercise above. You might not write as freely doing it afterward.

This is not an exhaustive list of language that redecision therapists are trained to tune into, but it is a good start. It includes some common words and phrases.

Try: Yoda said it best, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Try is not a commitment. Try is a lie. You won’t meet your goals by trying to.

Able to: It’s not a matter of ability, it is a matter of willingness. Committing to being able to do something is a non-contract. It is a matter of being willing to do what you already have the ability to do.

More: This is another way of putting off commitments. “I want to be more patient.” That is a non-commitment. Do you want to be patient or not? Are you going to do it perfectly? No. Who is?

Get rid of: Every aspect of us has a light side and a shadow side. If you want to get rid of a part of you, that part is going to resist annihilation, and for good reason. That part has a light aspect that is beneficial to you in some way. You may even need that part to meet your goal.

Hopefully, you got through this exercise without any of the above words. Or these: maybe, sort of, kind of, it feels, better … etc. If not, consider what support you are needing and wanting to get your subconscious on board. Remember, we just explored some language clues. If you are repeatedly failing to meet the same goal, some part of you is resisting — for a very good reason. Consider finding a redecision therapist to help you close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

Lasting change is a redecision away.

Emily Keller

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The Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy is committed to making the world a better place for all by connecting people to their worth, value, and dignity and the worth, value, and dignity in others.  We offer to our clients excellence in clinical therapy and psychotherapy training.

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