Three tips for making tough changes

Personal change is generally easier if we have an organised routine to adapt. Photo by Calista Tee on Unsplash

Making a change is difficult.  If it was easy, I wouldn’t be writing this.  Counselling and psychotherapy is mainly about self-development, and self-development is mainly about change.  Therefore, anyone who works in self-development is in the business of helping people to make positive changes in their lives.  And the reason people seek external help, is because change is hard.

Although change is hard, it can be made to feel easier if we use a few tried and tested techniques.  These tips are based around the way we humans are built, and are designed to provide a wise focus for our efforts.


The human mind likes routine.  Our bodies are built to establish sets of automatic routines.  Once they become second nature, we can do them almost without needing to concentrate, and this frees our minds for next-level thinking.  Any skill operates in the same way.  We learn basic routines, and then build on them.  So first make sure you have a basic habitual structure for each day.  Then, when you want to make changes, modify that structure to integrate the new focus.

If your day is always messy, then it will be hard to add new tasks to it.  Everything will feel exhausting, even your normal life.  But if your day is a routine you are expert at, then it will naturally be easier, not only to live a normal day, but to integrate small changes of pattern and focus.  Athletes know this. They work on a basic routine, and then build flexibility into it where necessary.


Many people, when they have a new goal, behave as is they have suddenly become some superhuman version of themselves that never existed.  Not surprisingly, they collapse a few days later in a heap.  The elastic band of old habits and thoughts pings them back to reality.  The cause is a lack of empathy with the natural self.

If you want your changes to stick, then allow your life to be an imperfect reflection of your aims.  Realise in advance that you can be lazy, depressive, tired, fed up, angry, disappointing, contrary and difficult to control.  If you are realistic about this, then you will be a better coach to yourself, because you will work with yourself as you are.

So allow for your own nature.  Have a sense of humour about the fact that you are trying to control a mind and body whose development began billions of years ago.  Build in little rewards and incentives.  Build in rest times.  Sometimes let yourself escape from the pressure.  Make sure you have an environment full of self-care opportunities.  As I said earlier, be realistic.


Personal organisation is the adaptation of your environment around an intention.  Think of an airport.  It is organised around the intention to fly people around the world.  Everything – the design of the buildings, the geometry of the land, the use of technology, job specifications – everything is organised around this intention.

In the same way, if you intend to make a positive change in your life, then it helps to begin to adapt your environment to suit this intention.  In particular:

  1. Begin to lose items that obstruct your intention
  2. Begin to repair or upgrade items that help your intention

A good parent is sensitive to a child’s needs, and helps with resources to aid development.  When we are adults, we need to do the same for ourselves, being sensitive to our own needs, and improving our tools and resources.

There they are: three recommendations for helping yourself make difficult changes:

  1. Integrate change into an established daily routine
  2. Allow for your own nature
  3. Organise, organise, organise