Human behavior is fueled and captivated by habits, but change is inherently part of everyday life.
So, why is change so hard?
What really holds people back?
I’ve done a lot of research on this topic and, As I continue to talk about what matters most in the personal, family, and work lives of people, I feel that it’s important to help them change the trajectory of hard-fought personal transformations by helping them alter their perspective about the process.
Change is a continuous process that interrupts or disrupts the conditions of life leading to a new way of thinking and behaving. Change always presents the challenge of beginning something new, ceasing old ways, reducing something or adding to it.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the most current relevant example of massive unexpected change.
People resist change because they believe that they will lose something of value or fear they will not be able to adapt to the new ways. Because it jeopardizes their sense of security, they also withstand change if it remarkably alters their usual schedules.
So, what if I told you that, depending on the level of complexity, you can make the changes that you’re struggling with by simply changing your view? Reframe the situation to see and seize the benefits. You have the power to choose a positive or negative perspective.
What if you started looking at the benefits of the transformation instead of the perceived disadvantages of having to make adjustments? What if you made your values the primary focus of your conversations about the change that you would like to make instead of your fears? In doing so, you’re approaching change from a place of empowerment, and, that can make a big difference.
There are three types of changes in life. They include personal change such as creating a new habit or eliminating an old one, physical changes like those that occur in the human body and external changes such as world or global transitions, corporate or work-related ones, cultural and social adjustments, and, something everyone is reeling about right now, political reform in one way or another.
For example, in politics, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) delivered a powerful response to Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla) on the House floor after he aggressively confronted her outside the Capitol, then upheld his behavior. She reiterated changes that need to happen inside and outside of the political arena noting the unacceptable level of acceptance of “violence and violent language against women.”
That’s a type of external change, but, why is personal change so hard? One reason is due to all of the questions that people have when facing change. Questions like:
Why is the change happening at this time?
What are the risks involved with the transition?
What is the big hurry?
If I give it enough time, won’t the change just disappear or do I have to handle it right now?
How will the change affect me?
What are my options?
What are the advantages of embracing the change?
What if I don’t like the change?
All of these questions are typical and often times asked when an individual is struggling with initiating change. The following are four ways to move through the phases of change:
1. Get Beyond Thinking About It
At this stage, you may be aware of a habit that you would like to change or a behavioral adjustment that needs to be made; however, you haven’t made a commitment to making changes. Many times this is caused by not having a full understanding of the issue and its effects. You could also be stuck in this phase due to previous unfruitful attempts to alter a habit or behavior which caused a loss of hope in even trying.
Rekindle the fire in your efforts to change by evaluating what worked the first time you tried and what didn’t. Use what worked as stepping stones and take small steps towards change every day.
2. Active Thinking
You recognize the problem, acknowledge the need for change, and start thinking about all of the reasons you haven’t made a commitment to doing it. This is one of the most challenging phases of change because of so many unknown factors. The big question you may be asking yourself is what if?
You can overcome this obstacle to change by asking yourself this: What is my why? When change is not linked to a strong answer to why it’s necessary, it’s a setup for procrastination and failure. Your answer to this question helps you connect with purpose and that motivates you to move forward. See the experience as an opportunity to discover information or knowledge that you would not otherwise get.
During this phase, you begin to prepare for the transformation mentally by making a commitment to start on the day that you’ve written down in your journal or calendared. You’ve assessed the pros and cons of the change and have decided that the positives exceed the negatives.
You can successfully move through this phase by having an accountability partner. A life coach, good friend, licensed professional or respected loved one who is also good at giving tough love are good options for making sure that you stick with your commitment. Fully accept the process and understand that change is almost never easy. You can expect a certain amount of instability.
4. Take Action
If you’re at this stage, you’ve put your plans into action and made significant behavioral changes within the past one to six months. You’ve probably noticed remarkable changes in other areas of your life too like personal and work-related relationships as well as your schedule.
Allow yourself time to fully embrace change. Create a physical journal and be creative with the design since it will be your go-to for pressing through the tough phases of your transformation. Use it to write down the gains that you have experienced as a direct result of changes as you make them.
If you’re still struggling with change, another good question to ask yourself is: Where will my life be in six, twelve or 24 months if I keep doing what I am doing now? Self-questioning in this way nudges you to think about your life, assess what’s good, what’s working, and the areas of dissatisfaction. The areas that you aren’t satisfied with are where goals and plans of action are needed. This question also helps you stop putting off until tomorrow what needs attention today.
There are few things that surpass the process of personal change. Group change is harder! Change is a big deal because one habit or issue is related to so many other areas of your life. You have to break it down into bite-size steps. Keep in mind that even if you fall short of your goals to change the first time or two, you’ve still gained knowledge and experience about what works and what doesn’t. You still gained, and, that knowledge puts you yet another step closer to permanent change.
From what I’ve seen in my strong lives coaching and the masterclasses that I teach, setting realistic expectations about the desired change from the beginning gives you the best chance at success. Change begins with an assessment of your current situation, goal setting, planning, and daily action. Enroll in a free workshop at Strong Lives Today.