Four Steps From a Dysfunctional Behavior to a Healthier Behavior

Do you have a behavior or a belief that you know does not or may not serve you, but you haven’t been able to change it? I certainly did. Growing up, I had very low self-esteem, especially when it came to relationships. I did not believe I was worthy of being in a healthy, intimate relationship with a woman I was attracted to.

The four steps that I used to overcome this dysfunction were:

  • Awareness

  • Acceptance

  • Deciding to change

  • Transformation

In my case, awareness lasted a very long time. Of course, l knew that I had dysfunction when it came to relationships. Because of my poor self-esteem, I hardly dated at all in my teens and twenties, but I accepted this as my normal. It wasn’t until my fifties that a light came on. I found a picture of myself in my twenties and I was a perfectly normal and good looking guy. I knew that I had a dysfunction and it was all about my beliefs. However, that still wasn’t enough to move me out of awareness.

Like many people, I needed a trigger to push me past a critical threshold to transcend awareness into full acceptance of my problem.

I was raised by a neglectful father. A woman I knew had been physically abused by her father, but she told me that she would have rather been physically abused than neglected. This hit me hard. At that point, I realized that I had open wounds that had not been addressed or healed. I finally was able to accept that I had a problem.

Here is another threshold example. A person who drinks too much may be aware of a “potential” problem. A trigger event, such as a DUI or losing a partner, can solidify the awareness and move the person to accept that there is a problem.

In the acceptance phase, I started reading about being the child of a neglectful parent and the types of behaviors that often result from this situation. Many of the examples I read about fit me exactly. I joined a support group and talked with other people with similar circumstances. I discussed the situation with my family members who had their own perspectives.

During the acceptance phase, I used the excuse that my upbringing was responsible for my behavior. At first, that seemed like progress to me. But I met people in my support group who had overcome their dysfunction. This was a powerful motivator for me. It did not take me too long, though, to realize that the excuse was not serving me well. I wanted to thrive. I wanted to become the best version of who I could be, and not be limited by my past thinking and programming, so I made the decision that I could and would change.

Deciding to and wanting to change are very important steps in the healing and recovery processes. Action without awareness, acceptance, and decision rarely works in either the short term or the long term. Think about people feeling pressured into a weight-loss program without acknowledgment of a problem or a real desire to change, which might involve looking deep at underlying beliefs and behaviors. Any sort of meaningful change isn’t going to happen until they know they need to change and want to change.

The fun really starts when you get into the work and start to see progress and receive positive feedback.

The transformation work takes many forms: courses, support groups, coaching and, most importantly, doing! You cannot just read or hear about change. Progress comes from taking action which involves leaving your comfort zone, taking risks, and making mistakes. I read about men who had overcome fear and anxiety about approaching women and they took extraordinary actions to approach everyone and not be deterred by rejection. I started to do the same. It wasn’t perfect. I learned that some rejection is normal and that I am also empowered to not select women who were not good fits for me. I recently ended a relationship where there were red flags that we were not able to resolve. I consider this great progress. I have an abundance mentality and know that there are many high quality women who want to be with me.

Do you have a feeling that you have a dysfunction in your life that hasn’t been addressed and is holding you back? Don’t do what I did. It took me decades to move from awareness to acceptance and on to change. I encourage you to explore what normal is. Seek help. Be vulnerable. We are humans having human experiences. There are people available to help you, if needed. You can quickly move to acceptance and then decide to change. This can actually take only days and weeks. It does not need to take months, years or decades.

Written by Greg Damian: I am a 61-year-old author, motivational speaker, health and fitness disruptor and an Elite coach. My mission is to assist men over 50 to overcome perceived limits of their age to look and feel younger. My book, Abs at 60: The Four Steps to Look and Feel Younger at Any Age is available on Amazon. Each chapter of the book has a set of questions to answer. You can download a free workbook that includes all of these questions at At my website you can also learn about my Elite coaching services. I will donate 50% of my coaching revenue to a charity of your choice, if you meet your goals.