David told me he needed help getting things done on time, but when I started talking with him about how he managed the details of his life, he stopped talking about changing and started talking about how he had always been late and would never change.

“I always say I will get a project done early, but I never have. I always just end up feeling like such a loser and then I do it again the same way next time. I can’t change.”

Ron came into our first meeting and said his wife was about to leave him because he was never on time.

“I promise to be home before the kids are in bed, but then I just get caught in a project at work and it’s 9:00 PM before I get home. I’ve tried everything, but I’m just not going to change.”

Sheila and Ted were referred by Ted’s doctor for couple’s coaching. When I asked, “What would your life look like if it suddenly improved?” Sheila’s frustration just burst forth.

“He keeps telling me that he’ll do better, but it’s been fifteen years and he still never gets anywhere on time. Am I supposed to act like that’s normal?”

Ted looked up sheepishly and reported, “I feel terrible and I know I’m impossible to live with, but no matter what I try it doesn’t work. I’m just a mess; what can I do?”

Each of these clients ended up making changes that made life easier for them and for their spouses and work colleagues. And where did I suggest they start? By forgiving themselves.

A study by M. Wohl et al, detailed in a paper entitled, “I Forgive Myself, Now I Can Study: How Forgiveness for Procrastinating Can Reduce Future Procrastinating,” gives some interesting evidence that forgiving yourself for messing up can help free you to give a better effort at trying again.

In my practice I’ve seen that an increased ability to implement a new approach, along with an effective technique and the support of an understanding ally can make a huge difference. I encourage my clients to pay close attention to the fact we’re talking about forgiving themselves. And while it may be helpful for their spouse to forgive them, it’s the self-forgiveness and then a sincere new effort that is key.

Did you know that old dogs can learn new tricks? And people of all ages can and do learn new ways to act in their lives, especially if they can forgive themselves for past mistakes.

Give a call if I can help, 978-446-9600.

Jay Livingston