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Why Personal Change is so difficult

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

We’ve all had experience of setting goals for ourselves whether personal or professional, usually starting off with a clear vision of what we want to achieve, high levels of determination and motivation, and clearly articulated goals, only to find a few months down the track that these are often not enough to create the changes we desire. So we look to renew our determination and motivation, again only to find the change we want becoming more elusive and unattainable. Often we become discouraged and settle for a half achieved goal, or tell ourselves it was unrealistic in the first place.

So why is personal change so difficult?

Kurt Lewin, a psychologist, proposed that the status quo is maintained by two opposing forces, driving forces towards change, and resisting forces to the change. If these forces are both equal then the change we want won’t happen. Most of us continue to focus on increasing our ‘driving forces’ for change, assuming that if we spend more effort on these by increasing our determination and resources, this will to help us drive the change we want. By rights, putting more effort into the driving forces for change should make a difference and change the status quo. However, that is based on the assumption that the ‘resisting forces’ are static and will be overcome by the positive driving forces for change.

Instead of increasing our efforts to drive our desired changes, we need to focus more clearly on the resisting forces and eliminate or reduce these. In looking at any resisting forces for change, most people would consider only external resisting forces or barriers to change and attempt to deal with those. However, it’s our own internal, ‘resisting forces’ which are more powerful in stopping us from achieving positive

change. These ‘internal’ resisting forces include our automatic habits, limiting beliefs and negative thoughts which have a strong impact on sabotaging our change efforts. If these are subconscious, then how do we surface these in order to change them?

There are 3 key things you can do to reduce your ‘resisting forces’.

  1. Examine all your daily habits and ask yourself, how do these support or sabotage me in achieving my desired change? List those that you identify as sabotaging your change efforts and then write a list of new habits you can take to replace these and help you achieve your goal. Practice these new habits daily for at 30 days, as it takes at least that long for new habits to become automatic. Be vigilant to stop those old negative habits from creeping back in!

  2. What core beliefs do you have which may be in conflict with the change you want to achieve? The easiest way to do this is to imagine the change you want to create for yourself and then notice any limiting beliefs which might come up. These could include “ I’m not good enough’ or ‘that’s too risky’ etc. When you notice any of these beliefs, ask yourself why you believe that, what evidence you have for that belief, and notice if anything shifts for you in that interaction. Examining any limiting beliefs in detail can help you to shift your point of view about the belief and therefore reduce the impact of that belief.

  3. As you work towards the change you want to achieve, notice your thoughts, both positive and negative about what you’re doing, and write these down. Notice whether the majority of these are positive or negative. If you have more negative thoughts than positive try to eliminate these or turn them into positives. Saying the positive thoughts aloud is also helpful, it’s like coaching yourself.

While at first some of these practices may seem a bit strange or challenging, ask yourself what do I have to lose by trying them, and what do I have to gain? #goalsetting

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