Helping Your Life Work
January 1, 2007
Volume 3, Issue 1

Time for a Change

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was hooked. It was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night. And it was the thing that I turned to repeatedly during the day. Sure, I could rationalize why I did it, but there was no getting around it. I needed my daily fix. You’d think that when I started to experience pain because of it, I would stop, but truth be told, I couldn’t. So that’s why I have decided to come clean, and publicly admit to my secret addiction.

So here goes: Hi, my name is Barbara and I am an e-mail junkie. I check my e-mail dozens of times a day. I can give you lots of reasons for this behaviour. One is that many of my clients (existing and potential) communicate with me via e-mail, and I have always taken pride in the speed with which I return phone calls and e-mails. Another is that I have family and friends who live far from me and this is a cheap and easy way to communicate with them frequently. In fact, e-mail seems to be the preferred mode of communication even for those who live close by.

But I think there are two other underlying reasons, which I will ‘fess up to now. First, checking my e-mail keeps me looking and feeling busy and provides a great excuse for not getting some of the more important stuff done. And second, as much as I may deny it, I have become hooked on all the bells, whistles and other gadgetry of the computer. The irony of it is that up until 7 years ago, I had identified myself as somewhat of a Luddite, averse to all that new-fangled technological wizardry. Somehow, even I have been swayed.

So now that I have confessed, what do I plan to do about it? I know that going cold turkey is not going to work. I can’t suddenly stop using e-mail. My livelihood depends on it. And being a member of the 21st century, I would feel oddly disconnected if I didn’t use it. No, a reduction in the behaviour is what is needed. 

Well, considering what I know about the “stages of change” (Dr. James Prochaska and Dr. Carlo DiClemente identified them in the late 1970’s), I thought I would consider where I was on the scale. I knew that I was past the precontemplation stage of being unaware or in denial of the problem. In fact, I was probably past the point of “contemplation” (weighing the benefits and costs of the behaviour). I could see that there were greater benefits to reducing the frequency of checking my e-mail – less procrastination, more time available to achieve my goals, less pain in my neck and wrists, etc. I was probably even past the “preparation” stage, having already begun to experiment with reducing the frequency, determining the best times of the day to check the e-mail and preparing a schedule to follow. So that meant that I was ready to move into the “action” stage where I would work on trying to stick to that schedule. I say, “work on trying to,” because being a realist and a therapist, I know that I (like most people who attempt change) won’t “get it” immediately. There will be relapses until I can develop and learn to maintain my new behaviour in the “maintenance” stage. Even then, I may still need ongoing support.

This being the beginning of a new year, you may also be contemplating a change. You may want to find a new job, leave an unhappy marriage or break free of a habit or behaviour that has proved problematic. You may have tried to master this change many times in the past without success. If this is the case, you may want to consider where you are in relation to the stages of change and see whether you can use some help to get from one stage to the other. For simpler changes, you might want to partner with a friend or spouse who will support you through your change while you support his/hers. For more difficult changes, it may be preferable to employ the services of a counsellor or psychotherapist who can guide you through your change slowly and with care. Just remember, any change takes time and patience, so be gentle with yourself while you keep your eye on your goal.

By the way, it is not too late to join my new group, “Twelve Weeks to Greater Self-Esteem,” starting Monday, January 15, 2007. Please call if you are interested in getting more information.

Happy New Year.  I wish you happiness and health, peace and prosperity, good times and good thoughts and success with any new changes in your life.


Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
416 498-1352
“Helping Your Life Work”

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