Many people believe change is impossible, and I understand why they feel that way. Most of the time they are confusing personality with personal behavior. The basic human personality is relatively constant over time, but human behavior can and does change. Personal change happens when people change the way they think.
Some people seem hell bent for destruction, and it’s all too easy to conclude that for them change is impossible.
When I sailed across the Pacific Ocean on my catamaran, I discovered that the same people got in trouble again and again. It was almost predictable that there would be another near miss or new disaster at the next destination. Every time we sailed into port, we waited to hear the next installment of disaster in paradise.
One particular sailor ran into a coral reef in one atoll, took a major knockdown at another destination, and rolled his boat in heavy seas in a third location within the space of one year. When “lightning strikes” the same person three times, you know that individual has a problem. You get the feeling that human change is impossible because the same person is having serious difficulties again and again, while other people in the same area experience smooth sailing.
California even has a three strikes law. If you are convicted of felonies on three separate occasions, you spend the rest of your life in prison. Three strikes, and you are out. The premise behind such laws is that human change is impossible.
In spite of this dismal assessment of human potential, I have discovered that positive change occurs in the most unlikely places.
I treat many patients who have been incarcerated for crimes related to alcohol and drug abuse. For too many of these individuals, alcohol and drugs create a fatal death spiral from which they do not escape. Fortunately, many of them overcome their addictions.
I have numerous patients formerly addicted to meth, cocaine, heroine, and alcohol, who escaped their addictions without ever going to rehab for treatment. They simply arrived at a point in their life where they no longer wanted to be prisoners of their addictions. They had experienced enough misery to last ten lifetimes, and they said no more. They changed their belief about who they are and what they can do with their life, and they became a different person who was chemical free. They actually changed their life.
I am grateful to those patients, because they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that people in the worst circumstances can and do change. Because of them, I am committed to helping people change their lives one belief at a time. I know that I am not wasting my time, because as long as you have breath in your body, change is possible. As long as you can think a thought, you can change your beliefs.