Any theory, any idea, any advice you receive on how to make change happen in your life is useless if you can’t realistically apply it in your life.
It doesn’t matter how much sense it makes.
It doesn’t matter how elegant the theory is.
It doesn’t matter how charismatic of apparently successful the person who is selling the idea is.
In the history of psychology, there have been dozens of theories that have been elegant, that have made sense, that have been put forth by articulate, sometimes brilliant people. Psychology and the personal growth field have never been left wanting for many cool, interesting theories on how people can change their lives.
The fact is, however, a lot of people tend to be left confused, disappointed, or angered by their experiences with psychology and the personal growth field, and for a very good reasons: the theory and tools they were given were not realistic for them, they were not presented and explained in a way that was applicable to their lives; and the failure of those theories to help was often blamed on them.
(I’m not exaggerating here— it’s an all-too-common occurrence for therapists or personal growth teachers, when their ideas don’t seem to serve a patient or client well, to either overtly or passively blame the patient or client. After all, if they admitted that their teachings may not have been all that helpful to those patients and clients, or that they weren’t presented in a way that was ideal, they’d probably lose business, God forbid.)
Not every theory of change or psychological tool is going to be equally helpful to every person.
It’s much like physical exercise: it’d be silly to expect every human, of every body type, to benefit equally from any given type of exercise.
People have different body types; people are different ages; people have different past experiences with exercise; people have different physical needs and goals. To recommend the same type of physical exercise to every human would be just begging for a large percentage of those humans to experience strain, injuries, and discouragement.
(That doesn’t stop certain personal growth teachers from having some very concrete ideas about what types of physical exercise are and aren’t appropriate for EVERY human, even though those teachers themselves lack education and certification in personal training…but I digress.)
Psychologically, people have different learning styles.
People have different attention spans.
People have different backgrounds and conditioning experiences.
People have different emotional wounds that are in various stages of healing.
It’d be absolutely asinine to expect every human being to respond equally well to a generalized theory of how to create change in their lives.
(Though, again, that doesn’t stop some therapists and some personal growth teachers from charging a great deal of money to teach their techniques of creating change to anyone who is willing to offer up a credit card number.)
You need a theory of change that is unique and specific to YOU.
You need tools of change that fit realistically with what you have to contend with every day.
You need an approach to changing your life that is consistent with the changes you’ve already made in your life.
(Oh, yes, didn’t anybody tell you? You’ve already made changes in your life, completely without my intervention or the teachings of any other therapist or personal growth teacher— you already have tools for change that work. You may not have given a great deal of thought to what specific steps you took to make those changes, but that IS something a therapist or teacher can help you discover…but anyone who tries to convince you that you NEED their specific approach to change your life is probably looking to make a profit before anything else.)
More than anything, what many people need is an approach to change that allows them to feel in control of their journey— not dependent on a guru, therapist, sponsor, mentor, or guide. Teachers can be a great deal of help on our paths…but it’s essential that we realize the teacher is not the path itself.
What can you do to facilitate finding your own, unique, effective theory of change?
You can get curious.
Get curious about how you’ve learned the things you’ve effectively learned in the past.
Get curious about what gets in your way when you try to change things up in your life.
Get curious about the times when the things that usually trip you up, haven’t— when you’ve been able to effectively navigate around the obstacles.
And you can give up the fantasy that so many gurus are asking you to buy into— that THEY know what you need. That only THEIR ideas can see you through.
You already know and have what you need. It may not feel like it, but trust me, you do.
The trick is connecting the dots that are already there.
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