Bringing change to life - and how we resist it

We all know that change is inevitable in life, but none of us likes change being imposed. Amazingly though, we often resist changes we want to make. Oh yes, we find ways to sabotage, resist and undermine change, EVEN WHERE WE SAY WE WANT IT, AND SEE IT AS GOOD!

In this article, I will attempt to answer three questions:

Question 1 - How do we resist change?

We each have our own unique ways of resisting change. Here are a few popular resistance strategies. You may recognise them as ones that you use when faced with change.

More detail - I see that change could be good. However, I need more information first, just to be sure. The need for more detail is a continuous process, and a great way to procrastinate.

It's not so bad - Things aren't as bad as I first thought, so maybe I don't need to change. This is more popularly known as the 'flight to health', and famously kicks in with married couples who are in difficulty and reluctantly go to marriage counselling. Then, when they get there, they decide their relationship aint so bad after all!

This isn't the right time - I can't start this diet right now - I have a party to go to next weekend. Of course, there will always be a reason why now isn't the right time. I am wholeheartedly committed, but not yet!

The intellectual - The intellectual has plenty of time to discuss and debate the ideas behind proposed change, but fails to get round to the practicalities of change. In other words, we never move from thought to action.

It's them! - I'm ready to change, and if it wasn't for that lot we could go ahead. It's their problem, not mine.

Question 2 - Why do we resist change?

Change undermines our sense of control and security, which leaves us vulnerable. Control loss, vulnerability, and insecurity are all feelings. But rather than admit our feelings, we resist the change in our own way, using rationality to justify ourselves to ourselves and others.

We all resist change using one strategy or another. The danger is that, in using our rational (left-side) brain to justify our emotional resistance leaves this resistance hidden, even from ourselves. So even learning to identify our own resistance, when it occurs, can be really helpful - particularly when the change in question is something we say we want. Once we've identified our own resistance, what can we do about it?

Question 3 - What can we do about our own resistance?

Here are some strategies for dealing with our own resistance, based on my experience of change, with clients and in my own life.

Set yourself a vision - Call it mission, vision, direction, whatever. Decide where you want to go in your work and life. Once you have this direction, set some goals - that way, you have a timescale for action, and not just a vague intention to do something 'sometime'. Always remember that, if you have no sense of direction, every change is bad!

Understand your values - Your values are what's important to you, your moral compass. Get clear on what they are. Examples of values include achievement, honesty, integrity, decisiveness, and loyalty. Being clear on your values will help you to navigate change, and work through your resistance when you need to.

The ought / should trap - Do you really want change, or is it something you 'ought' or 'should' do? If it's ought or should, look at why you see it this way. Are you considering change merely to get approval from others? If you don't really want to change for your own reasons, dump it.

Commit publicly - When you go public on your intention to change, two things happen. First, things can start moving in a way that makes it easier to make the change. It may be coincidence, or it may be an unseen hand in the universe. But whatever it is, many people who make changes successfully say that 'declaring your intention to change' leads to momentum being generated. Second, whoever you've told will give you a hard time if you don't follow through on your declaration, causing you embarrassment. Risk of embarrassment is a major motivator to action!

Consider your beliefs - We all have beliefs about ourselves, e.g. 'I'm no good in presentations', or 'I am risk averse'. These beliefs evolve in our heads, often from childhood, or 'bad experiences'. It's worth critically re-examining beliefs that hold you back. Beliefs are not true or false. They are merely your beliefs, and they can be changed. If you think beliefs are true, just consider the anorexic who thinks they are fat. They really do believe that.

Cut yourself some slack! - Perhaps most importantly, don't beat yourself up. It is natural to resist change - we need some stability in the world after all. We're all human, we generally try to do our best. While we can all improve, it doesn't make us bad now. So go easy on yourself.

In closing this article, I'll leave you with one final thought. If you want to accelerate to a brilliant future, all you need to do is to stop braking! Reduce your own resistors, and you can be anything you want.

Mark Eyre

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