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Creating Change by Taking Risks and Ending Self-Sabotage

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A person walks across a city street

I have been drawn to the poem “Autobiography In Five Chapters” by Portia Nelson for the past twenty years. I have shared it with many people over the years, and they have usually appreciated the example and image it provides them in understanding the dynamics of implementing change.

Autobiography In Five Chapters

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it is there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

~ by Portia Nelson

It is a great example of how there are times when we need to work through something over and over again until we see how and what we need to change. In hindsight, we may look back and wonder, why didn’t I see the signs, red flags, or the problem sooner?

  • Maybe we didn’t notice we were having a problem… sometimes it’s difficult to see what is right in front of us.
  • It’s likely we weren’t ready to accept there was a problem or that something needed to change.
  • It’s possible we didn’t see any really good options for changing the problem.
  • Maybe we weren’t willing to or weren’t interested in changing.
  • Perhaps we were waiting until things got worse before we were willing to put in the changing effort.
  • It’s likely we were struggling with exerting the efforts that change demands.
  • Maybe we were afraid to try something new.
  • Maybe we were afraid to fail

Often, the solution to something we need to change in our life is more simple than we realize.

Sometimes we overthink it. Sometimes we have trouble seeing the options and choices that are available to us. When we don’t see the problem or we lack understanding the solution, it is difficult to not do the same thing over and over and not see that it is up to us to make a change.

Instead, we think others should change or we think it’s not our problem. However, if something affects us negatively, it is our problem, and it is up to us to do something about it. When we don’t see the need to change ourselves, we often “fall into the hole.”

We keep walking down the same road and do nothing different, repeating old patterns, and, yet, we hope for the best, including a different result.

When that doesn’t happen, we are often still surprised. In these situations, our logic and wishful thinking aren’t working in our favor. The good news is, even though unhealthy patterns are extremely difficult to change… they are not impossible.

The important thing is to learn from our experience, have an open mind to find a better way, and have a willingness to seek guidance, support, and help when we need it. Sometimes we are blind to these patterns, and we need to be open to others’ feedback. When they share feedback, suggestions, and what has worked for them, we can learn from their experiences, and it can help us not feel and know we are not alone.

Change is hard. Change can be painful. Change is scary. But, often going down a different road, or making a different choice is one of the primary ways we grow. It may be risky. It may be radical. But, it can be positive, healing, and it may even bring immense joy into your life.

Colleen Koncilja Bartlett Illinois Trauma Therapist

About Colleen Koncilja, LCSW, CADC, ICGC-II, BACC

I have been providing individual therapy, group counseling, and treatment services for over 30 years. I currently provide therapy to adults and couples in our private practice, Health and Healing Therapy PLLC, where I serve as the Director as well as a Therapist.

View my therapist profile.