Get A Life: It’s hard to change behaviors

Loretta LaRoche More Content Now

Over the years I’ve led hundreds of workshops on stress management, and many of the participants have wanted to change portions of their lives that get in the way of their happiness. I initially thought that the information I was sharing could move heaven and earth. After all, I had studied the subject for years and was privileged to know and learn from brilliant researchers.

However, I was in for a rude awakening. Trying to get people to change behaviors is akin to yelling “stop it” at a dripping faucet. If you don’t try to find the source, it isn’t going to stop. We often have a great deal of trouble uncovering the source of our problems, because we would have to confront ourselves instead of trying to fix someone or something else. It’s hard to acknowledge that we are part of the problem.

Some of us have been victimized and have legitimate reasons to point the finger. However, in the everyday of life, we often forget that we make choices about how to live our lives. We become habituated to our beliefs about our situations, and it becomes harder and harder to extract ourselves from them. I stayed in a marriage that literally made me sick for years because I was afraid of being alone. The ultimate irony was that I WAS alone. I had to change my story and realize that I would be much healthier and happier being by myself. My decision to leave the relationship ended up being the best thing I ever did. It allowed me to learn how to be in right relationship to myself. The following poem by Portia Nelson has always been one of my favorite analogies as to how difficult it is to change our lives but to also realize that it is possible.

“A Biography in Five Chapters—Chapter One- I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost…I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. Chapter Two- I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in this same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. Chapter Three— I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I fall in..It’s a habit…but my eyes are open. I know where I am. I get out immediately. Chapter Four- I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. Chapter Five. I walk down a different street.”

Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360. Visit her website at