“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.”
~Michael John Bobak
Last week I met my new San Diego State University students for their first day of internship. This is my fourth year being a field instructor for Master of Social Work interns and I love having the opportunity to nurture and mentor new social workers. To begin their field instruction, I always share one of the therapeutic models I have been using for over twenty years called Motivational Interviewing.
This brilliant and empowering model was created by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick and is now considered one of the evidence based therapies used by social workers, counselors and therapists of all kinds.
At the core of Motivational Interviewing is the recognition that ambivalence is a normal part of the change process and that true motivation for change must come from within and not be imposed by others.
Ambivalence is the state of having mixed or contradictory feelings or ideas about something or someone. A common experience of ambivalence is being really excited about a new opportunity, but also feeling scared about the unknown.
As a result, exploring our ambivalence is fundamental in the process of creating real change in our lives. Unfortunately, we often do not identify and resolve our conflicted feelings, beliefs and thoughts and then cannot figure out why we are not able to sustain our motivation to change.
To see if this is true in your own life, try this exercise:
- Think about an area you are interested in making a change in your life.
- Identify the feelings you have about the change.
- Do you recognize any ambivalence you feel around the change?
- Create a list of pros and cons for making the change and a list of pros and cons for not changing.
Giving yourself the opportunity to explore and acknowledge your ambivalence is critical to resolving it and empowering yourself to take inspired action in the change process. When we do not take the time to resolve our ambivalence before committing to the change, we often relapse back into old behaviors.
“Arguments for or against change already reside within the ambivalent person.” William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick
We tend to be much more motivated to change after we have resolved our ambivalence, so nurture yourself by creating space in your life to explore your ambivalence. Once you identify your conflicting feelings, choose to respond to yourself with compassion and kindness. Recognizing the various emotions you are experiencing about a change helps you be more understanding and nurturing toward yourself in the process. Once our ambivalence is resolved, we are much more successful in creating healthy, nurturing and supportive habits in our lives.
As Zig Ziglar reminds us, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
May you nurture yourself through the change process by acknowledging and resolving your ambivalence and may you continue to nurture peace in the world from the inside out!
Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,
Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker
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