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 Why is change so hard?
We made it! The end of January 2022. We are 1 month into our New Year’s Resolutions. How did we do?
If you are like most people, at some point in January, you would have dropped the ball on your New Year’s Resolutions.
Why is change so hard?
First, we have to understand our construct which requires us to ask ourselves some pretty hard questions. We’ll likely find answers we aren’t super proud of. This first step is about seeing your reality and being honest with yourself. If you do not actually see the reality you are in, you cannot change. You will be optimizing on top of something you truly do not understand and that is dangerous. Without first understanding yourself deeply, you may actually end up doing things that get you further down the rabbit hole you are in.
The second thing we have to do is tear down the existing fabric of our mind; this means questioning what we know and thinking through what alternatives may look like. This is also very difficult because the systems that are built up in our minds and their foundations have been built over many years at a time when you had little to no control, such as when you were a kid and were largely influenced by your parents and surroundings.
The third step is then to actually change, which also requires you to make decisions and carry out things in the real world, i.e. outside of your mind and engage with external forces in a way that you haven’t before. Not only is the last stage challenging for yourself, but you’ll likely get a lot of pressure from external forces that question what the heck are you doing now. The natural pressure from them will be to stall your growth and question your decisions, which then leads you to question your conclusions and insights from the first two stages.
The first stage of seeing reality requires you to admit you’ve lived a distorted reality.
The second stage requires you to deal with things you may not want to deal with (e.g. admitting you were wrong).
The third stage requires you to stand behind your new reality and engage with staunch defenders of the old reality.
The failure at each stage of this transformation reverts you back to your status quo.
This is why change is hard and this is why long term positive decisions are also hard to make on a sustained basis.
The person who can make these seismic shifts over a sustained period of time has to change themselves and their environment. And on top of that, you are never just changing one particular thing about yourself in a vacuum.
There are other forces at play. Those forces, both internal and external, are constantly reinforcing the thing you want to change and giving your status quo staying power.
Let’s use an example. Let’s say you’ve convinced yourself that you have a bad habit of being jealous of others.
One day you tell yourself, “I don’t want to be jealous of others anymore.” Well, it’s not like you are trying to break the cycle of this bad habit (jealously) in a vacuum. When you are trying to break the cycle of jealousy, know that the cycle of things like self-doubt and/or impostor syndrome, etc. are also spinning and growing in the background with each passing day. You have to change more than the one thing you set out to change … to actually change.
And even if you do all of this (change your jealousy, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome), can you then accept that one day in the future, in your newly found framework, you must also change again because nothing is immune from needing to change as your context and the world changes?
This is what makes change so hard: you don’t know what’s on the other side, and it seems like all the people and systems in your life are telling you to stay on this side (the status quo).
The status quo is safe. It's the devil you know. It gives you a sense of stability. The status quo is the easy way out and it looks pretty damn good.
So why change at all? Why go through all this pain? Why sacrifice all this psychological safety you have in the status quo?
Because on some level, we know the status quo doesn’t work for us. And because humans have this amazing ability to question things, somewhere in our minds we are asking: does it have to be this way though?
If the status quo doesn’t work, and it causes so much pain, why not try something new?
The new path will likely also cause a lot of pain: pain from trying the new and pain from shedding the old. And there is no promise of anything at the end of this journey.
The hope is that throughout the process of changing, you embrace some concept of freedom. Not freedom to do something but, freedom FROM all the things that you’ve been holding onto. Change allows you to let go. You wake up and begin to see reality for what it is, and live the life YOU truly want for yourself, unencumbered. You begin to feel lighter and more agile as you understand what the world really looks like. And when you wake up through this freedom and realize you have changed and are capable of change, you may wonder why you were ever on the other side at all.
That’s at least the hope ✌️