How to Motivate Yourself with Change Talk

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From Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a therapy technique developed, in part, by psychologist William Miller.

In a recent episode of Psych Spiels & Silver Linings, the practice’s podcast, motivational interviewing was discussed as a technique for helping in the process of making a change.

Miller highlights that to successfully make a lasting change, it is likely we need to have about twice as much “change talk” (thoughts about wanting to change) as “sustain talk” (thoughts about not wanting to change, or finding it too difficult).

He suggests a number of questions, listed below, to pose to ourselves to increase our “change” self-talk.

The Questions

Before asking ourselves the specific questions below, we might consider the broader questions of how important a specific goal is to us (such as increasing our physical exercise to a particular level), and how confident we are in achieving it.

We can rate our initial level of importance and confidence in the goal on a 0 to 10 scale. We can first ask ourselves why the number is not lower – for example, why do we rate its importance at 4/10 rather than 2/10?

We can then ask ourselves what might possibly influence us to see the goal as more important (for example, thinking ahead and visualizing how things might seem in six months time if we had made the change compared to if we have not).

We can then do the same thing with our confidence ratings (for example, we might think if we tell a friend that we intend to make a change, that might boost our confidence that we would follow through). Any insights generated from this exercise might help generate further steps on a path to change.

Asking ourselves the specific questions below can help increase our change talk to at least twice the level of our sustain talk, and help us build on earlier steps to achieve and maintain our goal.

Miller suggests that you write down responses to these questions about a change you would like to make in the next six months.

Why do you want to make this change?

How could you do it?

What is a good reason for making this change?

How important is it, and why?

What do you intend to do?

What are you ready and willing to do?

What have you already done?

In a therapy setting, our response to these questions will likely be explored further to amplify change talk.

We can also explore these questions further ourselves, noticing which questions have more personal impact on our change talk.

If, for example, we ask ourselves how important something is for us, we could ask a number of follow up questions.

Why is it more important to me than it was 2 years ago?

What would have to change to make it more important to me to make this change?

How can I make it more important for me to make this change?

Would getting the perspective of those I care about make a difference?

William Miller talks about nudge factors. These questions can help nudge us towards a clearer understanding of how important making a change may be for us.

Please listen to the full episode of Psych Spiels & Silver Linings, Mobilising Motivation, which discusses this topic and much more. It can be heard on the player below.