Thinking About Making a Change? Questions from Motivational Interviewing to Help You Move Forward

Motivation for Change

Is there something that’s been sitting in the back of your mind, nagging at the edge of your daily thoughts? Some examples of changes people often consider making are, “I should start exercising”, “I know I need to cut back on smoking” or “I want to communicate better with my partner”. It’s very common for people to have ideas about things they want to change, but once we start thinking about it, the prospect can be very daunting. People often respond to feeling unsure about a change by simply setting it aside and deciding to deal with it later. Unfortunately, this tendency can result in procrastination for weeks, months or even years. The questions in this article are consistent with an approach called Motivational Interviewing. They are aimed at helping you consider a change you are interested in without becoming overwhelmed and setting it aside, once again, for later. Whenever I really start to consider making a change in my life, I ask myself these questions and sometimes even write out the answers on a piece of paper. I encourage you to grab a sheet of paper and just jot down some ideas in response to each of these questions. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve uncovered important insights that hadn’t previously occurred to me and I hope the same will be true for you.

Desire

To make a change, it has to be something that you want, something you do really care about. If you are thinking about changing something, it’s likely that you already have some desire to change it. To foster that sense of desire, think about the following questions:
  1. What are some of the most appealing things about the possibility of making this change?
  2. What would it mean to you if you were able to follow through with this change successfully?
  3. How will making this change help lead to some of the things you want most in your life?

Ability

When I talk to people about changes they want to make, people sometimes feel that they wish they could change something, but don’t feel confident or capable that they would be able to do it.  For that reason, they downplay their desire to change. They pretend it doesn’t matter. If you really want to foster your desire to change, go ahead and answer the following questions that will help you build your confidence that you really can make this change.
  1. What sorts of things have you changed in the past?
  2. What have you learned from past experience that will be most helpful to you in making this change?
  3. If you knew that you definitely wanted to make this change, what would it take to really make it happen?
  4. What part of this change are you most confident that you can successfully accomplish?

Reasons

You’ve already answered some questions that are focused on your desire for change. Perhaps as you were answering those questions, reasons for making the change emerged. Being as specific as possible about those reasons and having them at the forefront of your mind can increase your desire and motivation for you to move forward with the change.
  1. How will making this change improve your life?
  2. What are some of the biggest benefits of making this change for you?
  3. What are some reasons why other people will be in favor of you making this change?

Need and Urgency

We can have all the desire in the world to make a change, but if we have been putting it off for awhile, we may continue to avoid doing anything about it. Thinking about what is most urgent about making this change can help light a fire under you to get started with the change you have been considering.
  1. What do you feel like you really do need to do, when it comes to making this change?
  2. What part of this change seems most urgent to you?
  3. What makes you want to make this change sooner rather than later?
After completing this exercise, notice how the different questions affected your interest in making the change and spend additional time thinking about the questions and answers that increased your excitement and confidence about going through with it.

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