Why is Change So Hard?

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Many people resist or have a difficult time with change.  How often have you heard yourself or others say, “I’m not good with change?”

Because this is true for many people, I thought it would be helpful to discuss some of the reasons why change is so hard and also some strategies to be more comfortable with change.

One thing I do want to make sure to mention is that there are those of us who have experienced different kinds of traumas and can have difficulties with change as a trauma response.

In these cases, it can be helpful to consult with a therapist or counsellor to get a better understanding of the deeper impact of trauma. What we’re discussing today are more generalized difficulties many of us have with change.

Many people can find it comforting to know that change is the one constant when forced to face hard times. And that even when things are feeling stuck and unchanging, things will eventually shift in some way.

But when it comes to actively making changes, this can be more challenging for so many of us. Why is that we have such a hard time with making changes?

Some Reasons Why Making Changes Can be Challenging

  • Making changes is uncomfortable and the outcome can be uncertain. As human beings, we’re wired for safety and survival, not to be going outside of our comfort zone.
  • Current situation is “good enough” or not painful enough to motivate changes. What you’re doing currently is already working, sort of. We’re often more likely to stick with what we know and not necessarily to risk something when the outcome is uncertain.
  • There have been previous attempts to change that haven’t worked out. Most of us don’t like to feel that we weren’t successful at something, or to feel as though we’ve failed. For those of us who might have a predisposition toward shame, we can find ourselves identifying with the feeling that we are a failure, versus thinking that we were involved in a situation that didn’t work out.

How to be More Comfortable Making Changes

  • Know that change is possible and to know that change can have a positive outcome. Think about all the things that have worked out as a result of change. Especially ones where you took a risk to make something happen. We can bias ourselves to remember the things that didn’t feel good, which is our brain’s way of trying to save us from experiencing discomfort.
  • Start small. Think about incremental changes or how something can be different by 1% a day. Meditating for two minutes each day is easier than starting with 60 minutes. We’ve talked about this previously but, I would highly recommend the book, Atomic Habits to help start making incremental changes.
  • Discomfort isn’t always a bad thing, even though our primitive brains are wired to want to stay away from discomfort. However, as human beings we have the ability to work through an emotion, especially if we can reason that the feeling of discomfort is not directly connected to a threat. After all, anxiety and excitement can feel very much like the same thing.
  • Expect setbacks. Rather than to have the expectation that you’ll be hitting it out of the park all the time, start with the expectation that things are not going to go smoothly. There will be setback and challenges along the way, but if they are expected from the get-go, they can be easier to manage and perhaps not feel so devastating.

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