Can People Really Change?

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By Stephenie Craig, LCSW

Stephanie Craig, Lcsw

Are you worn out from navigating the current emotional climate in America? Tensions certainly abound. Mask or no mask? Reopen or slow down reopening? Support black lives or support law enforcement? Peaceful protesting or fear of looting? It’s a lot to sort and manage emotionally.

Maybe as you’ve been quarantined, you’ve noticed something about yourself that needs to change. Maybe an important relationship isn’t as strong as you believed. Maybe racial tension has caused some reflection and personal work around racism. Entertaining the need for internal change is no small thing. Do you find yourself wondering if you or others can really change? Or are you basically stuck in the ways you’ve always thought and behaved?

The good news is your brain was created to expand its capacity and shift its focus based on what you intentionally and repetitively practice. In addition to your neurobiology, humility is required for true change. Being able to admit there are things you need to learn that only someone else can teach you opens the door wide for genuine, deep, sustained change. Everyone falls short and needs to engage in change throughout life, but how does that actually work?

10 Steps to Transformational Change:

  1. Notice the discomfort. Life events creates emotional/relational discomfort that challenges you to admit something in your life is unhealthy.
  2. Name the problem. “I’m drinking too much.” “I’m working too much.” “I’m not standing up for others like I want to.”
  3. Grieve the impact of the problem. Acknowledge and take responsibility for the hurtful impact the problem has had on yourself and others. Give heartfelt apologies and confess/receive forgiveness from God.
  4. Confront and release shame.  Notice where you are beating yourself up for the problem and recognize that shaming yourself results in feeling stuck and impedes growth and healing. Commit to move forward here and now.
  5. Cultivate curiosity about the problem. Where and how often is the problem showing up in your daily life? You may experience some overwhelm realizing the problem is more widespread than you knew. Allow yourself to be emotionally unsettled about the problem. Entertain the need for action to make a change.
  6. Educate yourself. Consume new resources, seek counseling/support to understand the origin of the problem. Learn new tools/strategies to make a change.
  7. Commit to and complete action steps for change repeatedly. Begin taking a pause each time you notice the problem and take intentional steps to implement the new positive behavior or strategy of change. You may begin by noticing and making the change after you’ve already engaged in the problem at first. That’s ok, it’s part of the process. Eventually with practice, you’ll be able to notice and implement change before the problem has occurred.
  8. Sustain change. Practice new skills for weeks, then months until you begin to notice the problem is showing up much less in your life. Eventually, the new, healthier tools and perspective will become normal. Make a life-long commitment to keep the new normal.
  9. Celebrate and enjoy freedom of change. As you see the evidence of transformation in your life, know that with commitment and attention such change can be repeated in other areas of your life.
  10. Embrace humility. Know deeply that you don’t have life figured out and there’s always something to learn. Be open to repeating this process of change as you are open to noticing more problem areas within yourself.

You can apply this process of change to many areas of your personal life including bad habits, stuck relationships, negative thoughts/beliefs and community areas of change such as pursuing justice and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. The important thing is to be a person who continues to do your personal work so you can show up as a positive contributor in your relationships, community and world. As you walk through your process of change, remember counseling or coaching can be a helpful tool. Journey Bravely would be happy to connect with you along your journey at

Stephenie Craig is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker/Therapist of 18 years, specializing in emotional/relational health. She loves hearing others’ stories and helping people find new perspective that produces peace, healing, and connection through counseling. Stephenie provides treatment for adults, teenagers, couples, and families with anxiety symptoms, parenting struggles, teen issues, depression, grief, divorce, and other life transitions. Connect with Stephenie at

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