Why are we resistant to change, even when we know fresh approaches are necessary for better health, a new job, greater productivity or more harmonious relationships?
This past week I seem to have been caught in a repetitious cycle with several clients and friends that illustrated resistance to making personal change. In a nutshell, here is a description of the circumstances:
- Each of these people had planned to try something new in order to gain forward momentum towards a goal that they wanted to achieve.
- Not one person had taken steps towards their planned actions. In some cases, the correlation between the lack of action and the lack of forward movement hadn’t consciously registered… they wanted to maintain what they were doing yet hoped something would change anyways. Some were caught in blaming other people or circumstances for their lack of action, while still others were caught in a cycle of self-loathing for what they hadn’t yet done.
- The common theme was that everyone was frustrated with the lack of progress towards their goal, whether it was personal or professional. And in all these conversations, we ended up discussing the fact that progress can’t happen unless we change what we are doing.
Positive change involves letting go of something that is familiar. I’ve noticed one of the hardest things for most of us to release is our regular habits and typical approaches. Yet if we want to move forward, we have to accept discomfort and be willing to let go of at least some aspects of what has made us feel comfortable.
I have found that often the best way to start making change is with smaller steps. Incremental change can have a profound impact. Here are three shifts that can help create progress:
- If you are struggling with making as deep a change as you have planned, try reducing the quantity of action. For example, start by exercising 2 or 3 days weekly versus shooting for 5 days out of the gate. If you haven’t been exercising at all, those few times a week will have impact more quickly than you’d think!
- Start with something that is easier for you. I was recently talking to a client in transition who knows she needs to network but gets nervous just thinking about meeting new people. We started with her locating former colleagues on LinkedIn, reaching out to them by email, and then placing phone calls to those who were more responsive. By starting from the comfort of her home, with people from her past, she developed her muscle for reaching out to others gradually and much more comfortably than going to a networking event with strangers.
- Acknowledge your progress versus getting caught up in how much more you could have done. Instead of creating self-loathing for what you have not done, celebrate what you have accomplished. Having recently had a long list of projects for a stay-cation, I was chastising myself for what I didn’t accomplish until one of my friends told me she’d been exhausted just reading my Facebook updates about what I had done all week!
Making changes in our life can be more challenging than we anticipate. Even though the change may bring advantages we desire, we can still feel more comfortable maintaining the status quo. So the next time you feel resistant to change, try making the change in small increments – one little bit at a time.