Home > Psychology, relationships > How to Make Changes in Your Relationship and Life

How to Make Changes in Your Relationship and Life


making changeDo you have a big change to make, but don’t know where to begin? Are you in an unsatisfying or painful relationship that you don’t know how to end? Do you find change overwhelming even if it’s for the best? Do you believe the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t?

The building blocks of change are generally the same for anything you want to do in life. Once you learn the fundamentals, you can set goals that are reasonable and attainable. The following is an easily generalizable template for creating change whether it’s in your relationship, your career, or some other aspect.

1) Identification. Identify areas for potential growth. What would you like to be different in your life, be it professional, personal, familial, or intimate? Change often occurs as a domino effect; change just one thing and other changes usually follow.

2) Prioritize. You can’t fix everything at once. Decide what’s most important and focus on it. Sometimes you have to address other underlying issues before you can create the change you want. Lay the groundwork for change. For example, if you want to end your marriage, just don’t spring it on your wife. Consult with a financial adviser, an attorney and secure a place to live. If you want a raise or a promotion, create a case to present to your boss about why you deserve it.

3) Definition. You can’t make your relationship or your life different unless you know what you want to change. The desire to change usually begins with vague feelings of dissatisfaction and/or a painful experience(s). Sometimes change is demanded by a boss or spouse. Nevertheless, the more concretely you define the point of change, the more likely you’ll be successful in accomplishing it.

Think of specific examples and how they affect your life. Write them down to refer to as you work on your goals and make progress. Visual records are helpful, especially when you encounter obstacles and feel discouraged. A journal or action plan reminds you of how far you’ve come and the direction in which you’re headed.

4) Strengths and Limitations. What skills, tools and supports do you possess to help you on the road to change? These can be abstract, such as determination, enthusiasm and a willingness to take healthy risks or tangible, such as a support network of family, friends, sponsors, mentors, supervisors, access to resources and specific talents and abilities.

Second-guess what might trip you up (we usually trip over our own feet). Examples include: fear, procrastination, ambivalence, risk avoidance, limited access to resources and skills deficits. How can you address these issues so they don’t impede your progress? Most weaknesses or limitations can become strengths with awareness, guidance and action.

5) Long-Term Goals vs. Short-Term Objectives. Understanding the difference between long-term goals and short-term objectives is one of most important factors in creating change. Many people aren’t able to differentiate between the two and become stalled in their efforts. It’s part of prioritizing.

Long-term goals are over-arching and achieved by identifying and accomplishing short-term objectives that acts as baby steps. Before you can walk, you have to learn to crawl. A person doesn’t just awake one morning and decide to run the Boston Marathon that day.

“Run the Boston Marathon” is a long-term goal comprised of short-term objectives including: Speak with doctor; meet with physical trainer; begin physical training program; work with nutritionist; improve diet; and build endurance, etc. Do due diligence and break it down.

Objectives help you achieve your goals. There should be multiple objectives for each goal. Some objectives may not work out, which is why it’s important to have a plan B and/or plans C, D, and E, if necessary. If one objective doesn’t work, try something else. There are multiple paths to achieving a goal.

Be creative, but also be realistic. Setting extremely difficult objectives is a set-up for failure. Objectives should be accomplished in a relatively short period with moderate to above-moderate effort. Achieving short-term objectives builds self-confidence and a sense of mastery, which in turn improves the likelihood you’ll accomplish the change(s) you want. Now you just need to figure out what you want to change, which is often the most difficult step.

Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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Photo credit:

Making change by SAMBoddy on flickr.

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  1. Laura
    July 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    This is so helpful and well-written. I have needed a starting point for change and this article was it.

  2. Danno
    February 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    My wife and I work in the same place, and we have the same supervisor. I have initiated a divorce, and I am almost positive my wife will do her best to cause problems for me at work and get me fired if she can. But I’m almost looking forward to it. I feel stagnated in my job, and I feel that it doesn’t make the best use of my abilities. My boss is abusive and unappreciative, and she has threatened to fire me many times for infractions such as requesting a work schedule that coincides with my child care responsibilities. Inertia and fear of the unknown have kept me there, but I’m ready for a change. I think I will stay in my current job until I am forced out, mostly because my wife needs a victory (she needs several victories, actually, but getting me fired would really give her a charge) to feel that she has taken vengeance upon me for daring to end our nightmare of a marriage. Whatever she does, bring it on! I have claimed the house (which is in my name, and which I paid for), and sometimes I think she may burn it down to punish me for re-growing my backbone and testicles. Okay, fine, that will free me to move far away from her, like to another country, and start a new life out of her reach. I have custody of our son, so I will bring him with me. I can’t leave my little buddy to be tormented by that evil witch. I am ready to roll with any final abuses that she cares to dish out on my way to a new and better life. Bring on the changes . . .

  3. Trace
    May 4, 2010 at 4:31 am

    Excellent post, Dr.T! This is a must read after breaking up with an abusive partner.

  1. November 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

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