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Adversity and Changes

Volume XVIII, Number 1 Spring 2021

Most of us don’t like changes. Even changes for the better can be challenging to handle. But we all think about changes at times. Sometimes we may want the outcome that change will bring, but we may not like what we have to go through to get it.

I don’t know about you, but we have had plenty of adversity lately to cause us to think about possible or probable changes in our lives. There’s harsh weather, politics, the economy, the pandemic, to name a few big ones. Nothing like a good ice storm, and the resulting power and internet failure lingering on for seven days, to bring up a sense of adversity and associated changes.

Almost all of my clients find me because they want guidance and support for changes they want to make in their lives. Consequently, I have learned how to facilitate change and how to tailor the strategy to the client. This begins with a deep look at the “Know Thyself” advice of the Delphic inscription taught by Socrates. It is important to articulate what is going on and take charge of our fleeting thoughts that vie for attention and confuse us. There needs to be a coherent description of the components. A principle of psychotherapy is that we must name a problem before we can succeed in doing anything to make it better.

Some helpful questions:

What do you want to change?

What do you hope to accomplish?

How will this strengthen you?

Are you running from the whip or running toward the light? (phrasing offered by a client)

How will you articulate a realistic goal?

What activities will support the change you want to make?

Who will support you in making this change?

How will you sabotage your best efforts to do something new?

How will you avoid that sabotage?

There is no time like the present to do this. All of you who have worked with me will have seen and experienced my Action Plan tool. Sometimes we alter it, but rarely. I will copy it here, and you can do this on your own.

If you struggle to know exactly how to begin, refer to your top values. What values guide your decisions and your life? How do these values influence the way you set up your action plan? You can consult friends or family on this to help you form your initial thoughts clearly.


Today’s date___________________________

The goal I set for myself today is _________________________________________________________.

This goal needs to be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely.

(One goal only. Example: “Reach out to a family member once every other week.”)

In order to accomplish this goal, I will perform the following activities


Support people who might assist me


I realize I may sabotage my plan by


So I will avoid this by


I will complete this goal by_____________________________________________(date)

Recommendation: 3-6 months

To give your Action Plan more commitment and power, tell a friend or family member about it and ask him/her to be a support person for you.

Sometimes, if the goal is to do less or none of something, it is most helpful to cultivate a new and related behavior before considering life without the old, unwanted, but familiar, behavior. For instance, if your Action Plan is to limit your spending on entertainment to a specific amount (name the amount!), you might first develop some new entertainment that you like, which is free. So, you might explore hiking, drawing, playing music on an instrument you already own…you get the idea. Get something related that you like and can enjoy anticipating.

We can all make use of the adversity we encounter. Like everything else in life, adversity, though certainly negative at first, holds within it a silver lining. It can increase our discomfort and cause us to make a change for the better. What positive changes have you experienced from the adversity you’ve faced over the past year? Or, if you’re not there yet, how can you envision making something positive of recent struggles? Happy Trails!

© 2021 Thayer Cheatham Willis. All Rights Reserved.

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