Most of us think that there are things about our behavior, thinking, or lives that we would like to or should change, but change does not come easily. Some of the reasons that change is hard even when we want it include:

Many of my newsletter articles address dealing with emotional barriers to change (see articles from July, 2011: The Biggest Barrier to Organization, October, 2011: The Role of Emotions in Decision-making, May, 2011: The Meaning of Procrastination, February, 2011: Healing the Hole in Our Hearts, February 2010: Making Change Possible, and October, 2009: Support for Change) so let’s consider that area covered. Last month I wrote about building new habits and will write about support later, so this month let's consider the experience with new behavior part.

Before there is any outward indication of change, some people go through a process of inwardly contemplating what a potential change would mean and how to live under those different circumstances and assumptions. Mental rehearsal reduces fear and makes taking action more effective. Making this process more conscious may enable more effective movement in the direction desired or needed.

So what are the steps or stages of mental rehearsal? We
- encounter the emotional reactions that arise when we contemplate giving up our old ways and undertaking something new

- accept that change must happen

- mull over various possibilities and consider the effects of different decisions or actions

- evaluate the steps needed to carry out various possible actions

- determine whether help or resources are needed and how these might be obtained

- mentally practice making the change before launching full-scale implementation

Most of these steps take place before we even make a decision about making a change (decisions that do not involve entrenched behavior can happen with a lot less process). It may appear while we are going through this process that nothing is happening because there may be no external action. However, the mental activity is often as important, if not more, than the actions one takes. The mental activity makes the external change possible and faster when it does begin.

An example of how rehearsal might occur in an organizing context could be that we:
- think about getting organized and may become anxious or feel overwhelmed

- calm down and realize that we just have to do it, no matter what it takes

- evaluate which systems and equipment are needed to organize our things, such as item homes and a filing cabinet, and which items can be discarded

- consider various possibilities for organizing our things (such as all at once or in small stages) and choose a method and system (alphabetical or categorical)

- begin organizing and identify what other systems, equipment, or knowledge might be needed

- modify our systems as we work or use them when we see that change is needed

As long as you are still analyzing various routes to change and actively considering various possibilities, give yourself credit for the work that you are doing. It is important.

© Gloria Valoris 2012

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