People often ask me, do you think he/she will change? Can people really change? He/she says he/she will change, should I believe him/her? How do I know if it will last?
The three main ingredients of change are:
Insight (or new information)
Insight or new information, can be many things, but often involves either learning how our behavior or choices are negatively affecting someone else or ourselves, and/or discovering what is driving our current behavior (often an upsetting experience from the past, see my “Getting to the root of the problem” post).
Motivation- There are many things that can motivate behavior change. A frequent example that comes to mind, is the loss of an important relationship. When people break up, one or the other of them (or both of them) is often motivated to change whatever caused the break up. The loss of the relationship (and the wish to reestablish it, or not repeat the pattern) acts as a powerful motivator for behavior change. People will often make big promises to change in order to win back a partner, or not carry the mistake into their next relationship.
When the motivation is removed (the relationship is intact again, the couple gets back together) is the person able to maintain the changes? This is why the third ingredient of change is of crucial importance.
Time. Does the behavior change pass the test of time?
There are really two parts to this. Time with the motivation present, and time with the motivation removed.
In the relationship example, this means that the person promising to change may need to show that he or she can maintain the behavior change for some period of time before the other partner has enough trust to try the relationship again.
Once this occurs, the bigger test is: does the behavior change persist even with the removal of the motivator? In other words, if the couple gets back together, is the behavior change maintained?
For a while, the new motivator may become maintaining the relationship, but eventually that may wear off, and only then, will you be able to see if the behavior change can be maintained in the absence of a motivator.
There are obviously no shortcuts on this one. You just have to wait and see.
Sometimes these ingredients are not enough for change and people become stuck in negative behavior patterns. I will address this topic in another post.
What are your experiences with trying to make changes in yourself or responding to someone who promises to make a change?