1) You want to improve and be happy.
According to the Dalai Lama, all people have one thing in common: they want to be happy. And it is true, all people do want to be happy - it's just that some of us partake in behaviours, that although may bring us some temporary relief, are also destructive to us in the long run. Quite often we engage in destructive behaviour to lessen a discomfort that we feel within. If the behaviour also carries the risk of an addiction, then this becomes a biological battle too, pulling us further into the dark abyss.
One of the first things that we can do is to become aware that at the base of our behaviour is the desire to be happy. It is also important for us to recognise that we are doing the best we can given our biological, environmental, historical and circumstantial experiences. Once we recognise that this is the case, we open ourselves up to choices. We can choose to explore and examine the darker side of our personality. We can choose to understand what drives our negative behaviour, and we can choose our direction of change. We can choose to learn behaviour that nourishes us in a softer, loving, more beneficial way. Yes, change may be challenging but also essential if you are to make the most of this gift that we call life. And perhaps at such times it is especially important to remember Maslow's stance: that human beings are not naturally bad or even, but in fact are inherently good.
2) You may not have caused all of your problems, but you need to deal with them anyway.
A few years ago I spent two years working with people who had had car accidents. Many of these individuals had not caused the accidents, but had rather been on the receiving end. For some of these individuals the road to recovery meant accepting where they were. It meant that they had to acknowledge that although they had not caused the accident, they had to deal with the aftermath anyway.
The fact of the matter is that life will present us will all sorts of circumstances; and if we wish to be in a place of emotional wellbeing, then we need to recognise our personal power and understand that sometimes although we may not have caused the issue at hand, we may have to deal with it anyway. Sometimes a deep sense of acceptance is what is needed in order to remain calm and deal with what needs to be dealt with.
3) Sometimes gradual change is what is required.
It isn't always necessary that we need to be more motivated or work harder. Sometimes a gradual change is what is required. Sometimes you need to step back and question what is right for you. If you're content, and if it is safer for you to take smaller steps towards your destination, then this is fine too. Depending on where you are along your own personal journey, the gradual route may be better suited for you.
4) There is a reason as to why we behave in the way in which we do
People do things for a reason. One of the most important steps to emotional wellbeing or happiness is understanding that all behaviours are caused; and even though at times the behaviours may actually be hurting you, there is an exquisitely good reason as to why you are engaging in them.
I have done a fair amount of work with binge eating disorder sufferers in the past. Many of these individuals to begin with cannot always see why food has become such an issue for them. But there is always a reason, and very often the reason can change over time. For example, some of these people learned that food had become a source of excitement and hence they had to learn to nourish themselves in other ways that filled that void. Perhaps one of the most important things that I have personally learned along my journey is that although I may be awake and functioning most of the time, I have not always been conscious or aware; and that when one of my troublesome behaviours would kick in, I would often go into an unconscious trance - in other words, I was both there and not at the same time. The answer? Continual practice and mastery of entering into a place of stillness and awareness. The more I practiced this skill, the easier it became to break away from unwanted behaviour.
5) Dealing with an issue from a place of non-judgement is useful.
Non-judgment is perhaps one of the most powerful skills that we can develop. We're human. We will make mistakes and when we do, blame and judgement can often be our primary response because we have been conditioned in such a way. However, rather than viewing life from this stance; rather than blaming or judging either a person or the situation, it is more conducive to step back and see the situation as it is. Describe the situation and the consequence from a non-judgemental perspective. Highlight the facts of the situation and then decide what best action is required for changing the outcome. You are where you are. The situation at hand is as it is. The question is how will now move forward in the best way?
6) New behaviours need to be practiced before they become second nature!
People will often expect to be taught a skill that they will be able to use only when needed - and of course it will have desired outcome right? Wrong. An Olympic athlete will partake in the final race only once, but practices hundreds of times beforehand. They don't learn a skill and then perform it only on the day of the competition do they? They carefully pan and train to master their sport. They practice very frequently. There is much work that goes into becoming a world-class athlete.
Mastering a new behaviour is the same. If for example you have been in the habit of responding to a situation angrily, it will take time and practice for you to access that place of stillness within. The more you practice being in that place of stillness, the more you will find your level of awareness expand and increase, and at some point you will begin to experience space in your mind. There will be space between the trigger and your response, and this space will create enough time for you to make a different response choice.
The secret is to practice accessing stillness everyday - on days that you're not angry, or on days that you're very happy and even on days that you just cannot be bothered! It is the practice that will build the skill and prepare you to use it effectively when it is most needed!