Changing our habits, behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs can be difficult.
Often, the first attempt to change results in failure, backtracking, and more than a couple of curse words.
However… change, transformation, and evolution𑁋whatever you want to call it𑁋is happening all around us.
For some, the mention of change is frightening. These people would rather stay in their comfort zone and avoid taking a step into the great unknown.
And if they do, they allow life and external force to control them.
For others, change is a conscious effort. These are people focused on taking a step toward a better, happier future.
And when they do, they are guided by internal forces that help them overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.
But that doesn’t answer the question.
Why is change so hard for some and so easy for others?
Let’s explore the possibilities.
Why is change so hard?
From a young age, we are being bombarded by new information, new ideas, new technologies as well as the new challenges that go with each. As we build new relationships, collect new experiences, and learn new things𑁋we also change our minds.
Gradually, our minds ripen, our perceptions develop, and our actions, beliefs, attitudes, and thinking are hardened into feels-impossible-to-break patterns, biases, generalizations, and stereotypes.
By early to mid-adulthood, we are, more or less, set in our ways.
Once our sense of self is deeply ingrained into daily routines, biorhythmic rituals, and self-induced brainwashing (i.e., overthinking)𑁋how the hell do you get out?
The human being is organically programmed for stability and balance. If we get too hot, our body sweats to keep us cool. Or, if we’re too cold, our body shivers to warm us up. And if neither of those work, we will react to our body’s state and turn on a fan or put on a sweater. We are programmed to say within the limits that keep us alive and well.
So not only are we coded to maintain our ways, but also wired-ing to sustain it.
Understanding the stages of change
Change is possible.
If it weren’t, tobacco companies would have murdered millions more than they already have since the world discovered how harmful, destructive, and cancerous cigarettes can be.
To overcome the hurdles that get in the way of us changing, let’s look at Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model.
After examining the experiences of smokers as they tried to quit, Prochaska and DiClemente found 5 main stages:
- Precontemplation is when people do not intend to make any behavioral change in the foreseeable future. People in this stage may be unaware or unconscious that their behavior is problematic (to the point that they are in denial).
- Contemplation is the awakening of the problem or the desire to change. People in this stage are seriously thinking about their behaviors and how they can make a change in the foreseeable future. They will typically be contemplating the pros and cons of equal weight given to both.
- Determination (Preparation) is the trigger that pushes people to the point of making a plan of action. People are already beginning to make small changes, even if it starts with their mindset, which will eventually lead to healthy, positive changes in the near future.
- Action is when the magic starts happening. People are now changing their behaviors, experiences, and routines to adjust to the inner desire to change their lives for the better. They are also effectively building new habits to overrule old habits.
- Maintenance is the ongoing work required to prevent relapse and continue a new life with the new behaviors, experiences, and routines that have been developed. For highly addictive behaviors, relapse is common, and this stage is dedicated to rebuilding themselves to stay on course and fully changed.
Progress through the stages of change may not be easy. To help get through each stage𑁋and calm any overwhelming feelings of anxiety or uncertainty𑁋it can be useful to start with a cost and benefit analysis.
Cost and benefit analysis is a systematic way of understanding your strengths and weakness. Once this is outlined, a plan can be created with the best approach to achieve change.
Here’s a modified example from Katherine Schreiber‘s ideas on why change is so hard:
(Psst… this would be the perfect time to take out a piece of paper or open up a productivity app to write out the following example for something you want to change)
- I want to… stop eating junk food (and lose weight)
- Advantages of continuing… Food makes me happy, social aspect, etc.
- Disadvantages of continuing… Not good for my health, embarrassed to wear my speedo, more expensive, etc.
- Advantages of changing… Feel good, look good, wear my speedo with pride, etc.
- Disadvantages of changing… Miss eating my favorite food, the uncontrollable cravings, etc.
Taking the effort to write a cost and benefit analysis helps to formulate ideas about your current situation and imagine actual changes you can + have to make.
To better improve your chances of change, add the following categories to explore ideas for an effective plan of action:
- Obstacles… Visiting my auntie who bakes the world’s best brownies; Skipping breakfast and impulsively eating snacks at the office; etc.
- Support… Uncle Bob (because he’s an athlete); Steve (because he’s a vegan); My best friend Sally (because she’s always been supportive since day one); etc.
- Goals/plans… Stop eating fast food; cut back on sugar; choose one day a week to indulge and reward me; start going to the gym; etc.
Most times, we keep our ideas to change inside our heads. Extracting them and examining them is critical for making change feel realistic and achievable.
Are you ready to change?
Change is effective when we implement a few simple steps and strategies that help us move away from the old and closer to the new.
Perhaps the hardest part is turning that initial awareness of a problematic thought, habit, or behavior into a strong momentum that gets change started.
Whether you’re struggling to change or fear is your obstacle, remember this:
Not taking the challenge and responsibility to change will only keep you a prisoner to your unfulfilled wants, needs, and desires.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Understand your obstacles.
Create a plan of action.
And launch yourself toward a better, happier future.