Dear Angelo,

I read your last column on New Year's Resolutions and it's probably one of the best articles I've read on them. But for some reason I'm not able to change anything in my life. Do you have any advice for the how-to's of getting unstuck?

Signed, Creating Change


Dear Creating Change,

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-tse

Happy New Year! This is the perfect time to take that first step toward a new goal. What are you waiting for? There will never be a better time to begin than right now. Nothing will change unless you change.

You may have accusing voices telling you things like "I can't change." "It's not going to make a difference." "Things will always be the same."  But you have to dismiss those negative messages and push in the opposite direction.

When I find myself in challenging interpersonal situations I'm sometimes tempted to wall myself off. Instead, I force myself to go out and mix with people, creating new situations instead of hanging on to things that didn't work out. Time and time again this leads to positive outcomes that turn my circumstances around. Is it easy? No. But it's well worth the effort.

Most of us know what we need to do. But awareness by itself isn’t enough to create change. For instance, someone may be aware that they have to lose fifteen pounds, quit smoking, or meditate every day, but that’s not good enough to actually lose the weight, to be smoke free, or feel peaceful. In order to lose fifteen pounds, stop smoking, or feel relaxed, they have to put a great deal of effort into making it happen. They have to make a decision to take new action - exercise, quit smoking, sit (meditate). This is where most people fall down. Awareness without taking right action is only wishful thinking.
 
More people don’t change because it’s hard. It requires sacrifice. It also leads us into new, unfamiliar territory, which may feel strange, scary, and painful. But you can do it. Being a gay man in a heterosexist and homophobic culture, you’ve already proven you’re resilient. You have the courage it takes to confront things.

Pain isn’t the enemy. The fear of passing through it is. I believe you can stand your pain. I have great faith in you. After all, your pain is only a part of you. You can’t dodge emotional anguish. You have to face your painful demons to heal. The only way out is through.

Recovery from many wounds in my life has brought me some of the most incredible emotional pain I’ve ever known. But facing this pain head on with support is the best thing I have ever done for myself, growing through it in order to move forward to the other side. My pain has great meaning for me as it has made me a better and stronger person, plus it's helped me to be a good therapist, ushering others along the path.

So, my take home tip is - in order to change something, you have to make the decision to change, put in the extra effort to step outside your comfort zone, make the right choices, and actually do things differently.
Life experiences are like coins. You lose them sitting on the couch. Chinese Wisdom
All The Best, Angelo.

Angelo Pezzote is a gay psychotherapist, columnist, and author (Straight Acting - Gay Men, Masculinity, And Finding True Love). He has appeared on Montel, Logo, SIRIUS radio, in print, and online. Lessen your troubles by visiting askangelo.com for more. Look good inside and out. Life...who's helping with yours?