Willingness is all we need

Supporting others to make lasting changes can be discouraging, and then there are the moments where I have the privilege of witnessing a client change their way of being. Truly there is nothing more rewarding. Having a client come to me, smiling from within, beaming with pride and joy, describing leading a life they love is indescribably satisfying. As a young psychologist, I remember experiencing very little of this. As my career lengthens, I am able to witness more and more these hugely impactful miracles.

Last week I telephoned a previous client for an update. As soon as he heard my voice, I could hear the giggle of pride in the back of his throat, I could feel the energy through the phone that he had developments to share. I gave him a chuckle of anticipation in return and opened with one of my usual phrases, "Whatz happenin'?" The deluge started. He shared he has his own apartment, a job, has re-entered school, is clean/sober and has linked himself to a community of support. My heart leapt and I felt the warmth of relief and pride wash over me. He was doing ok; and really to be fair, he was doing great.

One of the most crucial questions to ask past clients who have directed their lives in a way they always wanted them to go is, "how did you do it?" Essentially the question is really "Why now?" The benefit is not just the therapeutic nature of asking ourselves these questions, it is my supreme curiosity. Helping others to make changes is the most complicated and sneaky part of my job. The same tools could be given for the same challenge to two different clients and one will use them and the other won't. The same encouragement and support could be offered and it will assist some but not others.

Each look backwards at a person that has created change in their life is an individualized experiment that offers clues to the larger complicated process. This particular client answered very simply, he said, "I was willing." "Meaning what specifically," I prodded. "I was ready and wanting," he answered. I thought deeply about his definition of willing, it was a mixture of desire and motivation.

The question of how to generate willingness is one of how do we create motivation. In the majority of clients I have supported, desire is not lacking, its motivation that's missing. Many elements of our lives can provide motivation but the one element that I have witnessed as the most powerful, lasting, and effective is the connection to the people we care about. Said another way, when all else fails to create a desire for change, the relationships we cherish can often stand the test of resistance.

Utilizing others in our life to increase our motivation can be a painful and difficult journey. The first phase of that journey I have found to be helpful is to prepare ourselves for vulnerability. The second phase is to request feedback from those that are important to us. The third phase is to integrate and apply that feedback to our experience. The fourth phase is to use the gift of feedback to clarify our goals and generate the sense of connectedness and support within ourselves.

We will all of have different tools that we employ to create willingness but remembering that readiness can be broken down into desire and motivation can help us move forward. Desire is not enough. Wanting a different experience for ourselves will not bring about change. To be truly transparent, having both desire and motivation will not always bring about change but it is the only place to start.

To my previous Client, I am so deeply grateful that you prepared yourself for vulnerability, you requested feedback, you applied that feedback, and then clarified your goals. I am in awe of your willingness and all that embracing both desire and motivation has brought you. You are an inspiration and will certainly become others source of support and care through their own changes. Living the life you love is the greatest gift that we are offered, you deserve it, we all do.