Why is Change So Hard – even when we are motivated?
There is an old saying: “ A leopard never changes its spots”. Though it is not fully true, it is true for most people. Despite wanting to change all sorts of things, most people never succeed. Whether it is a bad habit such as smoking, the wish to feel more positive and peaceful and less anxious, to make more money or to be more successful at work, most people have the experience that changes are short lived and require huge effort.
Why is that?
We can understand it from two perspectives:
The mind understanding: We could describe the mind being made up of our conscious functioning self – the part of us that feels as if it is present and has control over our life, decisions and actions (this turns out not to be so true) and our sub-conscious and unconscious self – the part of our self that is below the surface and probably makes up more than 90% of our functioning.
During the first 7 years of our life, we are like sponges – absorbing learning and information about how the world works and how to interact with it. This lays down a fundamental programme which becomes automated, functions throughout the rest of our life and via its belief systems, largely determines how well or not our life will go. In other words, the subconscious rules our life!
Worse still is when you consciously try to override your subconscious programming, there is a danger that you will create a conflict and make it worse.
So simply wanting and trying to make change happen, is largely doomed to failure. Of course, the most obvious example is weight loss, where people may lose weight through effort, and then it all piles back on again or worse!
Equally, I have seen competent and well motivated business owners, initially succeed through hard work, only to fail time and time again. They literally need a Change of Mind.
The Neuroscience Understanding: All of behavoiurs, beliefs and dynamics exist within the 100 billion brain cell network as neuro-pathways. For a long time, it was believed they were hardwired and impossible to change. Every time you tried to change, your brain just keeps returning to the same pathway. Very frustrating! During the last 20 years, a lot of understanding has emerged about neuro-plasticity – the possibility of changing what is happening within the brain. But to do so, requires a lot of understanding of how to bring about neural change – key to this is repetition and an understanding of “neurons that fire together wire together”.
So what becomes abundantly clear, is simply being motivated to change and the conscious effort that goes with change , is largely not going to work. A deeper understanding of how the mind and brain works is required.
But in essence, we could sum up a successful change process as:
- Awareness of fundamental patterns, beliefs and dynamics
- Awareness of underlying drivers (what drives our thinking and behaviour)
- Stepping out of the programmed self
- Reprogramming and repatterning the subconscious mind
- And in many cases, shifting our sense of identity and possibility