Why is change so difficult?

To change, you might need to put away your old records, and play yourself some new ones. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I wanted to look a bit more closely at what we mean when we set an intention to get more time for ourselves, or balance our lives better.  The reason I want to look at it more closely, because I think we often shoot ourselves in the foot.  We say we want all this time, and then we immediately fill it up with the same old stuff.

Two things strike me about the rebalancing process, and each one might be expressed in a sentence:

  1. When you change, try to listen more to the new you than to the old you.
  2. Don’t assume that, because change is difficult, it is impossible.

Firstly, imagine that you are a balance of different voices.  When you seek change, you are, in a way, trying to give extra volume to voices inside yourself that have been ignored for too long.  It may be a part of you that wants to feel valued for more than just achievement, but finds it hard to feel justified.  It may be a part of you that wants to relate better to your family, without shouting at it or complaining, but finds it hard to let go of control.  It may be a part of you that wants to say no, and wants to get past its guilt at saying no.

Think of the voices you would need to encourage.  The one that wants to be accepted as you are.  The one that wants to be able to let go of the controls.  The one that wants to do its own thing without feeling guilty.

Guess what?  The new voices are quiet voices, that have not yet learned to speak as loudly as your other voices.  They need time and space to breathe, to express themselves, to find themselves in among the other things you do.  The reason they have been quiet voices, is because they have been drowned out by the other ones: achievement self, shouty self, guilty self.

To create the appropriate conditions for change, you may have to listen more to new you than old you.  And to do that, you may have to show a bit of positive discrimination, for a while, to correct the imbalance of voices.

So, whenever you feel an argument brewing between new you and old you, maybe ask ‘old you’ to be quiet while you listen to the new, little voice trying to grow in confidence.  The new voice might have something valuable to say.


Secondly, don’t be discouraged by the fallbacks that inevitably occur.

When you make a change, your sense of comfort is threatened.  The way we humans are built, we often express a preference, however bizarre, for the life we know, however much we are suffering.  We like our habits, even if they are damaging.  Your sense of comfort will fight back by trying to dislodge the new you.  It will try to tell you that you were silly ever to think you could change.  It will point you to your old habits, your usual routines, and offer them to you with renewed vigour.

Additionally, when you start changing, your old self starts to feel starved of its usual rewards.  Achievement self will start fearing the loss of its status.  Shouty self will start fearing the loss of control.  The self that is addicted to saying yes to others will start fearing the loss of goodwill.

You are beginning to experience what it is to change.  And to realise that change means the loss of old things.  How can you rebalance away from achievement without losing achievement?  How can you rebalance away from control without losing control?  How can you rebalance away from saying yes too much, without losing the comfortable win of placating others?

Just because it is difficult, it does not mean change is impossible.  It just means you may have to take time to allow your body and mind to change their habits.   They have been at it a long time, convincing you that the old things were so important.  Now you are asking them to make space for development, don’t think they will take it easily.  They will probably try to emotionally blackmail you.  But your job is to hold fast, and gently insist that you are also listening to other voices now.  The balance will shift.  Some battles you will win, some you may lose.  But it’s the gentle war you are interested in… your own development.



Often, we set out to change, but end up in the same old ruts.

To combat this, firstly make sure you give the new you an opportunity to express itself in your life.  Give it language, time, space.  Ask the old you to park itself for a while.  Secondly, focus on the long term effort to change, and don’t be discouraged by temporary setbacks.

Remember, if there is a new voice in yourself that you want to encourage, it may be a voice that, in the past, was shouted down or ignored.  That’s why it’s so quiet.  Give it the time and space it’s always wanted to speak its truth.  You may be rewarded with some lovely moments, and a little more wisdom.