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Steps For Lasting Change

Steps For Effective Behavioral Change

Look at every path closely and deliberately.

Try it as many times as you think necessary.

Then ask yourself, and yourself alone…

Does this path have a heart? If it does, the

path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.

Carlos Casteneda

When it comes to dealing with addiction, emotional problems, relationship problems, or having gotten off-course in life, recovery has two components: recovery from behaviors that no longer work and recovery of a healthy and fulfilling life. Focusing only on not doing something anymore or moving away from particular behaviors keeps us in a deprivation mentality.

After all, what we really want is happiness grounded in a sense of purpose and things to wake up to with joy and enthusiasm each morning, to keep us going when the road gets rocky (as it inevitably will, from time to time). The cup can always be at least half-full rather than half-empty — and at times the cup can even be overflowing!

In order to shift our focus away from the problem, we need to spend time and energy on the positive and healthy values and associated activities we would rather have in our life. Take a look at the following values (an extremely truncated list) and consider which ones are important to you:





Peace of mind






Free time

Meaningful work

Close friends


Adequate financial resources

Obviously, the list is endless, so come up with additional values as well that speak to you.

Now, pick your top three values.

At this point in your life, what are you doing to live in line with these values?

Recovery of your life involves moving into action. This is usually less intimidating when your goals are broken down into doable action steps. So, for each of the three values that you listed above, write down two actions you can take in the next week.

To give an example, if your number one value is family:

Action step 1: Eat dinner with my husband and children at least four times this week, without distractions (TV, texting, etc.). Ask everyone about his or her day, and really listen. Share a bit about what’s going with me. Be there emotionally as well as physically.

Action step 2: Call my parents this week and catch up with them. See if there’s anything I can do to help them, and give them an update on my life. Make plans to visit them soon.

Make your action steps specific and doable. It’s easy to become paralyzed by seemingly overwhelming or vague assignments. Keep in mind why you value those items at the top of your list so highly. Be truthful with yourself, rather than attempting to live up to someone else’s standards. What speaks to your heart?

Lasting change may occur slowly, but it does happen as long as you remain clear on your values and are willing to recommit if you slip into old behaviors. One of the biggest barriers to recovery of a meaningful life is hopelessness. Remember that hopelessness is an emotion and not a fact about your life. Keeping this in mind, you can better use tools to regulate that emotion and change your behavior.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What is my intention?

Do I want to recover?

Do I want to create a life worth living?




Steps For Lasting Change

Rachel Fintzy Woods, MA, LMFT

Rachel Fintzy Woods, M.A., LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist in Santa Monica, California. Rachel counsels in the areas of relationships, the mind/body connection, emotion regulation, stress management, mindfulness, emotional eating, compulsive behaviors, self-compassion, and effective self-care. Trained in both clinical psychology and theater arts, Rachel works with people to uncover and develop their unique creative gifts and find personal fulfillment. For 17 years, Rachel has also been conducting clinical research studies at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the areas of mind/body medicine and the interaction of psychological well-being, social support, traumatic injury, and substance use. You can read more about Rachel at her website:

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APA Reference
Fintzy Woods, R. (2017). Steps For Lasting Change. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Jul 2017
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