Last week, I had a talk with a good friend that asked me, Lucretia, why are some people always complaining about their lives, but they refuse to make a change for the better? I admit, I’ve been taken by surprise by her question, as nothing from our little chit-chat was pointing to it, but it also made me smile.
Truth is, even if all kinds of words have all kinds of powers, one has the particular power of scaring people more than everything. Its name is Change. Of course, we’re told that change is good, that we need to look for it and embrace it with all our being, but the truth be told, for most of us, change ain’t pretty at all.
Change is not frightening by itself, as most people understand that it is nothing to be endlessly avoided. What makes it frightening, though, is its complexity and, even more often than that, its costs.
Because change is, before anything else, a process. A long-term process, involving being put in front of your own mistakes and flaws, and asked Do you like what you see? The real answer is, usually, no. And this is where the fun begins. Choosing to change is the first step, and the easiest to take, even if it doesn’t feel easy at all. The root of change, however, of noticeable change, is giving up. You give up whatever you notice that is holding you back- beliefs, habits, relationships. You might even have to give up on perspectives, and that’s a tough one to be done, I admit.
If you think about this, the existence of people who fear changes becomes understandable. No one likes the process of changing, but we all want the results of it. It sounds foolish and naïve, but it’s called being human. Evolutionary talking, change was never something good, or something to be hyped about. It meant loss, uncertainty, anxiety, maybe even danger. That’s how our brains got wired, during a long, long period, to resist change. That’s also the reason why we fear more social changes than we do fear the technical ones.
This is also why it takes so long for an individual to actually change something that bothers its life. It is, above everything else, an inner battle- a battle between your current dissatisfaction, and your amygdala, telling you that everything is fine just the way it is now, but it might not be as good if you’ll make changes. Maybe things will get worse, instead of getting better. That’s how your close ones dismissing changes think. This is how the change resistance sounds like.
It has never been about laziness or dreaming small dreams. It has never been about not wanting to be a better version of yourself, either, we all want that. It has, however, always been about fearing the process and the costs. Costs that are not small at all, if you give them a second thought. If you add to this some past traumatic events, the resistance to change is bigger than one could possibly expect. And, at some point in our lives, any changes, however big or small, involve the risks of new traumas. So, once put in front of this eventuality, the ordinary individual will make the safest choice, which is, usually, stagnation.
Because after the moment of deciding to make a change, confusion is coming. Ok, I have to change something, this is not what I want my life to be like. But…what should I actually change about my life? And this is how the whole process, anxiety generating and pretty painful, begins. There is a good reason behind the old saying the first steps are the hardest to take, and it applies the best when it comes to the trauma survivors faced with an urge for change.
This is something that personal development didn’t have the courage yet to tackle. Everyone tells you how wonderful the changing process is, and what a wonderful person you’re gonna be at the end of it. Somehow, nobody talks about the ugly fights that happen before one takes the decision to engage in a changing process.
About the self-monologues one has, that tells you to keep what’s working not as a way of seeing what could serve your purposes and what should be changed, but as a way to keep everything. And that also includes the things, beliefs, routines, and relationships that brought you up to that point, too.
Another reason why we have to battle our tendencies of resisting change is attachment. Yes, the good old emotional attachment. We have finally figured out a way of doing things that work (ok, ok, it could be improved, but it works out fine just like it is, too!), so we got attached to it. We like it. And you come and tell us that it should…change? For the sake of the better? The answer will be, most likely, a big no.
Because we like things as they are, and we want them to remain that way for as long as possible. We like our good evening routines and our good morning habits. We like having certain persons around us, even if we are aware that our lives would be way better without them around. This is how it works- we figure out something, we notice it working out in a decent way, we get to like it, and then we dismiss the guys that keep preaching change over and over again.
Yes, change is good. Sometimes, it is so, so needed. But the moment when an individual becomes aware of its need for change is something deeply personal. No book or workshop will ever teach you how to spot it, or how could you tell if somebody has reached that point. This is why most of the change missionaries tend to fail. Because there’s no outer clue to tell you if that the person in front of you needs a change in its way of lifestyle, or it is just your projection about it who’s talking.
So, whenever you feel the need to tell someone that they could just make a change take a deep breath and ask yourself which was the last remarkable change you have taken yourself. You might be surprised of the answer, and it might just as well remind you that every person has its very own life map, with changes and all the milestones marked accordingly. Learn to see the differences between their maps, and yours, as it is the only right way to choose for evolution.