Breaking the Habit

As the season gets colder and time rolls into entering New Year’s, I began to think of the notion of new beginnings, resolutions, and changing how we do things from our past, even starting a new present reality. I am forced consider an important question; How do we change? It is perhaps the most critical issue in therapy, where no matter what issues are presented, an underlying assumption that all therapists make is that whoever enters our office is there primarily to desire a change in how they do things, how they relate to others, or improvements on how they cope with their lives.

So, due to my model of competition, I think how change is done by other competitive systems who have become stuck in old habits. There are a myriad of failing sports teams to look at, where there is discord from top to bottom, a lack of leadership and a failure in established goals. However, my focus is not on these teams; rather, I focus on the teams that have an established record of failure and have managed to turn it around. Coaches refer to this as a change of culture around the team, and a change to a “winning attitude”, whatever that means.

How can we apply this to our own lives, though? How do we change our own culture to that of a winning one, where everyone becomes  oriented around success? Some of these may be difficult questions. It involves looking at the values and beliefs that have helped us to create our lives with one another. This is especially true in couples and families, where two people coming together in a relationship inherently bring their own values and belief systems to the table, and must find a way to consolidate them in a family. This is hard enough to begin with, but what happens when there is a failure to do so from the start? Starting fresh is difficult when there is a backdrop of fighting and a sense of failure, and the process toward improving relationships can be agonizingly slow for many of us.

I suggest a novel approach for these couples. During this time of the new year, I like to consider for myself what I have done that I feel contented that it as improved my life, both in the recent past and long term. If I can think of some things that I don’t wish to pursue for myself, when I speak to my spouse about it, I am much more willing to consider changes that they propose. Sometimes getting the feedback first will trigger issues of defensiveness, rather than an honest look at what works and what does not. However, after self-reflection, I do consult my partner. We’re in this together, and it is not only my beliefs that contribute to our difficulties and successes, but rather both in a relationship. If this is your first time trying to do this and are having a rough time, it may be an optimal situation to enter into counseling, for the aid of a mediator in structuring this kind of conversation in a healthy way.

That said, have a wonderful New Year, with all of the excitement that new beginnings and new potential that go with a brand new future, and a new way of living your lives in 2013 and beyond.

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