How long will it take to change?

How long will it take to…lose 10 pounds? Feel better? Leave this marriage? Get the degree? Transform my relationship with my father?

At some point, most of my clients ask me how long it will take to change.

Here is what I observe about time and change:

Change may happen over time, but it is not measured in units of time.

Change, if it can be measured at all, is measured in care and commitment.

Your current circumstances, fears, dreams, ability to tolerate anxiety, personal history: all these things impact what you’d like to change, how you experience your ambivalence about change, and how committed you are to the actions which will change your life.

You could, after all, lose ten pounds in 10 minutes if you had your right arm amputated.  “But that’s extreme,” you say. Yes, it is: and if you experience your circumstances as being sufficiently painful (see the movie 127 Hours for one example), you will find yourself considering divorce, surgery, quitting, and other options you once considered “extreme.”

Stop looking outside yourself—at the clock and calendar—to figure out how long change will take.

The answer’s not out there.

Instead, look inside and consider these questions:

What is your measure of devotion to making this change?

How does the pain of your current life compare with the anxiety associated with change?

What are you willing to live with (or live without) in order to demonstrate your commitment to this change?

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