Existential Psychology

Stop Talking About Doing It And Do It

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From the motivational interviewing point of view if you’ve been talking about enacting a life plan or project for a while now but haven’t taken any concrete steps to bring it to fruition then you’re in the stage of contemplation. To recap, the stages of change in motivational interviewing are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

The main psychological advantage of indefinitely remaining at the stage of contemplation is that you derive pleasant thoughts and feelings around your particular desired life change without having to do any of the difficult work to get there. But those pleasant feelings have an expiration date. You’re living beyond your psychological means when you derive your fulfillment from wanted life circumstances rather than actual life circumstances. Unless you do something to bring your plans to fruition then sooner or later it won’t be pleasant emotions you experience, it will be regret and disappointment.

If you look over the stages of change again you’ll recognize that while talking about a life plan makes it seem very real to you, like it’s almost within your grasp, the reality is that you’re pretty much at the very beginning of the journey. But you don’t need to worry about action or maintenance yet. The fact that the process of change is so big and ephemeral for most people is one of the main reasons why they remain stuck. That’s the beauty of the motivational interviewing framework. It cuts a desired life change into manageable, easy to conceptualize parts, allowing people to recognize where they are in the process and what they need to do next.

If you’re at the contemplation stage then the only thing you need to be concerned with right now is isolating and addressing the ambivalence keeping you from moving to the preparation stage. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that might help to clarify some of that ambivalence:

What factors in my current living environment are set up for my change and which are likely to get in the way?
What are the pros and cons of leaving my current mode of being to pursue this new mode of being?
What does commitment mean to me?
What does determination mean to me?
How important is this life change to me?
What percentage chance do I give myself of success?
Exactly how long have I been talking about my life change?
Exactly how much longer do I plan on talking about my life change?

It’s kind of strange to have big dreams turned into small concrete steps but all dreams are achieved through a series of concrete steps, whether they’re recognized as such or not. If you’ve been talking about your dream for a while now the stark fact is that it’s going to remain a dream unless you can break through your current level of ambivalence to get to the stage of preparation, break through the next level of ambivalence to get to the stage of action, and break through the final level of ambivalence to remain at the stage of maintenance. It can really all be boiled down to one simple piece of advice. Stop talking about doing it and do it. Or decide through asking yourself the questions above, and many more like them, that you don’t actually want the change you’ve been talking about as much as you thought, which will free up your psychic energy to pursue something else instead.