your ability to change), and (3) if you start without determination and
a commitment to fully solving the problem. So, what can you do if you
can't get started changing?
First, there may be a variety of barriers to change that need to be
removed. For instance, many different kinds of fears stop us cold.
Dennis OGrady (1994) in How to Overcome the Fears of Changing
mentions several: fears of the unknown (if you change) and of facing a
new situation, fears of failure and of looking foolish, fears of
commitment and of not wanting the changes you get, fears of
disapproval and of criticism of what you become, and fears of success,
increased responsibilities, and people thinking you are selfish or stuck-
up. The book underscores that fears, such as self-doubts and self-
criticism, like Ill fail, kill the will to change. Likewise, a constant
stream of mental shoulds, like I should be doing better, often
disrupts rather than strengthens our efforts to improve. Dr. OGrady
recommends countering your fears of changing by thinking positively
about the possible outcome and by increasing your self-esteem and
confidence in your ability to self-direct. His and other think positive
books/articles could help some people but when does it work?
Current wisdom says we get to action by learning more about the
problem and about ourselves (e.g. how the bad habit harms us and
how we profit from or need the problem, e.g. smoking helps us relax).
Also, significant others may powerfully confront us about our problem:
the kids say they want us to stop smoking and live longer or our lover
hints that our rolls of fat are not real sexy. Serious thinking on our
own about what kind of person we would like to be may also help us
get to action, especially if self-discipline and personal growth are
valued traits. Many people are inspired to try to change by talking to
others, either others who have changed themselves or others who will
listen and understand our gnawing self-dissatisfaction and desire to be
better. These are just common sense ideas. The remaining limited
"wisdom" we have now about getting ourselves ready to truly change
is in Table 2.2. Surely we will soon learn more specifics about these
crucial self-help steps (see Klar, Fisher, Chinsky, and Nadler  for
a more academic discussion of the intention to seek self-change).
As mentioned before, you need to keep in mind: (1) we often need
to make several attempts to change before we are successful. Either
we try and fail (e.g. the smoker who says, "Quitting is easy! I've done
it thousands of times!") or we work on only one part of the solution at
a time, going through the stages with each successful self-help
project. So, expect some difficulties. Indeed, a previous failure may
have prepared you to succeed the next time. (2) Since we can
effectively work on only a couple of problems at a time, and since
most of us have many, many self-improvements we would like to
make, it is only necessary to get "psyched up" about a couple of self-
help projects at a time. Putting many projects "on the back burner" is
okay, as long as you are working hard on your one or two really
important current self-help projects.