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Why it is so difficult to change

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Why it is so difficult to change

Scott Miker

Have you ever wanted to change something so bad that you couldn’t imagine wanting that change more than you do right now?  You felt passionate, motivated and invincible.  But then over time you slowly fell back into your old habits and routines and the drive for change slowly evaporated. 

Most people that I know rarely change.  They remain relatively the same throughout their lives. 

Their bodies might change due to aging and they may gain more experience in their chosen field, but when talking to them after years of not seeing them you think to yourself, “you haven’t changed a bit.”

The reality is that change is difficult.  We are wired to continue to do, think and feel similarly throughout our lives.  We do change but many times it isn’t due to our desire to improve a certain area and feels more gradual and random. 

For many people this isn’t a problem.  They don’t feel the need to change and don’t have a desire to do things differently than they currently do them.

But what if you want to change?  What if you see areas that you want to improve and that means addressing them and changing them?

One observation that I have had over the years is that failures don’t feel good and successes feel great.  This basic discovery isn’t really a discovery. I don’t know many people that haven’t realized that. 

But because these failures include discomfort, we tend to do everything we can do in order to avoid that feeling.  Because the sting of failure can be so strong, we avoid areas that might give us a greater chance at making mistakes. 

But all we are doing is trying to protect our ego.  We work hard to do everything we can so that we don’t come up with a kink in the armor.  We want to look as though we are always right and never make mistakes. 

This fear of failure then becomes our life’s mantra.  We work really hard to never mess up and when we do we immediately point to external factors to justify our mistake. 

While this may protect our ego, it cripples our ability to change.  In order to change, we have to be willing to step outside of our comfort zone AND learn from the mistakes and failures that we are bound to make.  Take either element away and improvement will cease. 

In How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, the author tackles this head on by explaining complex brain functions.  The sentence that really jumped out at me and emphasizes this point is, “When the mind is denied the emotional sting of losing, it never figures out how to win.”

Much of the book explains that learning, improving, changing, winning, etc. is only possible when we can fail over and over again and keep learning from those failures. 

This is a point emphasized in Dave Ramsey’s book, EntreLeadership.  He says, “We made so many errors and miscalculations there aren’t enough pages to recount them.  I am sure our gleaming mountain of success is actually a pile of garbage, a pile of mistakes and missteps, only we are standing on it rather than lying buried under it.  If you are standing on mistakes you are a success.”

But if our ego prevents us from going outside our comfort zone and does everything just to avoid mistakes, we never actually get to learn anything.  We can’t improve because we are too busy trying to justify all of our mistakes and shift blame to others.

So if you want to improve, if you want to change some aspect of your life, you have to be different.  You have to understand the value of mistakes and the value in admitting mistakes and learning from them. 

This is the key to change.  This is the part that too often gets missed by motivational talks or inspirational stories.  We miss the important part where mistakes are made and addressed over and over again.  Do this in a systematic way and you will suddenly see change and improvement that never before was possible.