For change to be effective, you must want it badly enough to do the work.
The student immediately began crying when I asked how I could help. "I tried to register for a class and the system won't let me" she sobbed. I put the box of tissues in front of her and began checking her records. "You need a better English placement for that class, and starting in the Fall semester, with your current placement, you will be very restricted in the classes you can take." She sobbed harder.
"I'm not smart enough for that." I stopped her right there and we had a discussion about affirmations. "Just say to yourself 'I am smart'. Repeat it at least once an hour." Her response amazed me. "I could never say that about myself". So she and I practiced saying it together, one word at a time, until she could say the three words together. Then I urged her to retake the English placement test because I knew she would place higher. I gave her my business card to carry in her pocket on the day of the test and instructed her to put her hand in her pocket and feel the card anytime doubt crept into her thoughts.
The following week, I checked her placement and was elated to see that she placed into the highest possible English class. I feel proud of her success as well as my success as a counselor and motivator. I immediately sent her a congratulatory email.
The following week, this same student had an appointment to see me, and I was so sure she would be thrilled with her accomplishment. Imagine my surprise when she began berating herself for not doing better. She wanted to discuss possible career paths. Based on the results of an interest inventory she took, we explored her choices. Each one that I suggested was met by a "Yes, but..." reply from her.
I took her back to square one and started affirmations again. My strategies for changing her negative thinking are things that have worked for me and for other students I work with. Each time she became aware of a negative thought, she should imagine a huge red stop sign and say the word "STOP" to herself. She responded with "But then I'll have to remember to say all those positive things. That's a lot of work."
By the time our appointment was over, my frustration level was pretty high. I was trying harder than she was to get her to change. My mentor early in my career once told me "When you find yourself working harder than your client, it's time to take a step back." This student said she wanted to change, but she didn't want to do the work. Her expectation was that I would be able to change her, although I'm not sure how she expected that to happen.
If you ever find yourself claiming you want to change something in your life, examine your intentions. If you truly want to make a change, it is you who must do the work. Otherwise, you are destined to stay exactly as you are. And maybe that's okay.
IT IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD!