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Roadmap for making change

September always has that 'back to school', fresh start feeling, so it can be an ideal time for making change. There might be something you want or need to change in your life but aren’t sure where to start. Perhaps there’s some area of technique you want to improve, or you want to work on your thoughts, feelings or behaviours. Maybe you are thinking about changing career, or want to get on top of your studies. Or perhaps it’s lifestyle factors – you might want to implement more healthy routines, or get to grips with your finances. There may be one change you want to make, or many. Identifying the change that you need to make is the first step to achieving it, so well done for getting to that point. But it can feel overwhelming, especially when there’s more than one thing that you want to change. In this blog, I will take you through the change process used within cognitive behavioural therapy step-by-step, so that you can follow this guide or roadmap in the knowledge that it will help you to create lasting and positive change.

1. Make sure that the thing you want to change is specific. So, for example, saying, “I want to be a better dancer” is too vague – how will you know when you are? To become clearer on what you want or need to do, I recommend setting goals for each area that you want to change. Goal-setting is a really useful tool as it helps you to nail down exactly what it is you want to change, why you want to do it, what resources you may need, and by which time you want to see results. Effective goal-setting can enhance motivation, confidence, focus and effort, thereby improving your actual performance in that area. You can use the free SMART goal-setting worksheet here, to ensure that your goals are relevant, achievable and measurable.

2. If you have more than one area you want to work on, don’t try and do them all at once. That will just create unnecessary pressure which will lead you to feeling stressed and potentially feeling like a failure if you don’t manage to live up to unrealistic expectations. Instead, focus on one goal at a time. For example, a while ago I had been burning the candle at both ends with work and social commitments (which makes my life sound much more interesting than it actually is). I started feeling really tired and irritable and knew that I needed to get more sleep, do more exercise, and eat more healthily. Achieving all three goals at the same time simply wouldn't have worked. I started with the easiest goal that I felt would have a knock-on effect on the other goals - so, I started going to bed earlier. Similarly, if you’re feeling quite overwhelmed or anxious, I recommend choosing a goal that is fairly straightforward and small that you can do quickly and easily which will enhance your confidence and belief in yourself. If, however, you feel that you have the capacity to make a big change, then prioritise which goal you really want to work towards right now.

3. Create a plan for achieving this goal. To do this, write down as many ideas as you can think of which will help you to work on this goal. You can include some far-out ideas here – this encourages flexible thinking. Evaluate the pros and cons of each idea to help you decide which one to try.

Here's an example. Let’s say you’re a teacher who wants to go freelance after working for a school for a number of years. You know that in order to build up a client base, you will need to advertise yourself, classes and groups. Firstly, you set a SMART goal to help you identify how many participants per class is necessary for you financially, and when you are hoping to start teaching as freelancer so that you know by when you need to have advertised effectively. You're aware that a marketing strategy would be useful but, having always been employed by organisations in the past, you don’t know how to do this. So, you write down as many ideas for marketing as you can think of and evaluate the strengths (pros) and weaknesses (cons) of each idea:




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