How to Change Your Life: What We Know

Path to Ambivalence

People who are stuck in life, are often ambivalent. They want two things, but can’t have both. They are in conflict. But this broken path, or cross-roads paralysis can so easily lead to real failure in life – failure to become happy and fulfilled, to achieve life purpose, to do the things most important and stop doing those things that block pursuit of one’s core values. It’s kind of like an addiction.

Ambivalence and Addiction

One of the most problematic issues confronting our society, most every society in the world, is addiction – a clear path to personal, social and spiritual breakdown and failure. Addiction may be defined and understood as a relatively compulsive pattern of behavior, which may or may not include substance use, that is both self- and other-destructive, and appears to reflect a loss of personal control and free choice. Yet, most all addicts would tell you that there is an important part of them that doesn’t want to be under the control of a substance or uncontrollable behavior. They are just plain stuck.

When we think of addiction, we picture hard drugs, like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, but cannot forget alcohol. Then there is the costly “war” on drugs, many believe unwinnable, that we have been waging for so many years. So many lives lost or ruined, families destroyed, accidents caused, could have been prevented. Or could they?

Some believe that when the drug takes over, so to speak, in a person’s life and body, that he or she loses control, loses will power, the ability to choose to use or not. Out of this kind of thinking, personal responsibility has passed over a threshold. They can no longer be held completely accountable. For example, it is common to hear the alcohol dependent person, the “alcoholic,” to declare that he has a disease (indeed it is a dis-ease) and cannot really be held responsible for what he does when drinking or drunk, or even for this ability to stop drinking after just a single drink. This is called the loss-of-control hypothesis.

We see the same sort of thinking around many “behavioral addictions” such as gambling, smoking, eating, and pornography. Similarly, the “loss of control” hypothesis is tapped to explain personally harmful behavior here as well.

But is it true? Considerable clinical research as well as anecdotal evidence suggests the answer is a qualified “no”. It seems that it is not that a person actually loses personal control, can no longer choose their behavior or exert will-power after a certain point in their behavior or drug intake. Rather, the individual may lose the ability to predict their subsequent behavior. In other words, the drinker may sometimes be able to only have a drink or two one time as planned, but another time becomes drunk after many drinks. The addictive gambler may only gamble for a short time on one occasion (thinking she does not therefore have a problem), but on another occasions, doesn’t seem to be able to stop, and stays all night.

What to do

For a long time we in the clinical addictions treatment field, were relatively ineffective in helping (or, better, forcing) them to change. Some of the drugs we tried to use, to break dependence on certain drugs, caused addiction of their own (e.g. Librium, a powerful tranquilizer, was first used to treat alcoholism. But then it led to its own addiction). Hospitalizations worked during the time the addict was under 24 hour care and surveillance, but once the person was back home, the addictive behavior all too frequently returned. Programs were imposed on people, and even if they worked, when the program was no longer in force, the addiction was back. In fact, most addicts relapsed within 30 to 90 days. It was a bleak picture. It was time for a change, for different approach maybe.


Motivation the Key

A paradigm shift happened, and is still ongoing, in the addictions treatment field not too many years ago. We began to view addictive, and even problematic behavior choices in general, as related more to motivational rather than to physical or psychological addiction processes. Research showed that even the most chronic and severe addicts always retained the power to choose, to decide, and to change. But they were stuck at the decision point of: “should I change, do I want to change, do I need to change, is it important to change, would I like to change, would it be better to change than to stay the way I am now, who am I?” We found that no matter the problem or compulsive behavior, or even substance dependence, motivation was the key, and individuals could be significantly helped by working with them to build up their own motivational strength and self-efficacy rather than imposing a program on them. So we began to provide motivational science training (Miller & Rollnick, Motivational Interviewing, 2002, Guilford Press; www.motivationalinterview.org) to addictions counselors, and now many others in the helping and life coach/counseling professions who work with those who are stuck in various life trials and places (e.g. physicians, nurses, psychologists, marriage counselors, probations and corrections officers, social workers, ministers, pastoral counselors, business consultants, etc.). The results have been impressive enough in addictions that this motivational counseling approach is often the treatment of choice, while very promising results are found in a number of other counseling areas.

Expansion of Motivational Science to Life Purpose Coaching and Personal Change.

The Dave Thorpe Experience is a new program for life of purpose coaching and change. It is the first to employ the same motivational science and application that has been proven so successful in the treatment and recovery of some of the most severe addictions.  The Dave Thorpe Experience has been designed and validated on those who may need to make, or could be interested in changes in their life paths – who want to find ways out of their previous life paths that have failed to fully satisfy or fulfill their desires. As such, Dave addresses in a systematic way the places of ambivalence, where the individual is stuck in life, conducts a deep heart analysis of what he or she really wants to do, is called or gifted to do in life, creates an efficient and powerful change/action plan, engages and maintains the new paths and goals through personal accountability strategies, and ultimately provides training in leadership to pass these life benefits and strategies on to others in their lives.

If it Works with Addicts Why Not with Us?

The Dave Thorpe Experience is potentially for everyone who wants more fulfillment out of their own life, who is looking for or needing life purpose transformation. It’s for all of us who have made New Year’s Resolutions that have been cast into the sea of forgotten or failed attempts, it is for those adults who want more out of life, for those parents who would like to introduce their wandering teens or young adults to a program that could launch them into true life purpose, and even for those retirees who want a new direction, who aren’t ready to just stop living passionately. It’s for you and me.

The Dave Thorpe Experience, Motivation, Purpose-Transformation and Life Change

The program is based on a scientifically-validated motivational interview and life coaching process that promotes powerful life transformation. As such, it represents a relatively unique process that launches people into a discovery of an ultimate path to new life potential and purposes, while helping to answer the question of “how to change your life.”

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