Why is it SO hard to change?

Change is hard, frustration
© Reuben Stanton

I was chatting to a friend the other day. His dad has just been diagnosed with prostate cancer and we were talking about his options.

I told him 4 or 5 lifestyle changes to put into place immediately as well as how to research treatment options.

“Not a hope in hell of him doing that,” my friend said. I wasn’t shocked or offended. Many people would rather die than change their ways. And then he naturally asked “Why is it SO hard to change?”

“I HATE change”

The truth is that everything’s against us when it comes to change. That’s why I wasn’t even the slightest bit shocked or hurt by the response I got to my suggestions. I even overheard someone say recently “I HATE change!” with a passion that would surprise you.

There are a few big reasons why change is so hard. And they conspire together to make sure that it’s virtually impossible for some people to make the changes needed to be happy and healthy.

  1. Change = pain, discomfort or hard work that’s not sustainable. It may be withdrawal symptoms, cravings, urges, detoxification or just the discomfort of new exercise say.
  2. Association: Over time, we begin to associate change with all this pain and discomfort. The association gets stronger and stronger and stronger. Over the years, every time we try to change — more pain. We quickly learn that change is painful. Eventually, even the thought of making a change is a big obstacle to overcome, never mind the pain of seeing it through. We end up with a big resistance even to the idea of change because of what we learned — the simple plain cause and effect. Change = pain.
  3. No mental map. It’s the great unknown. Anything new is stressful if we don’t know what to expect. The old way is comfortable and it’s amazing how much suffering we’ll endure as long as we know what to expect. “Better the devil you know” as the saying goes.
  4. Wanting it too much, wanting it NOW. It’s like when your car is stuck in mud, you have very strong desire to get out. But that strong desire is working against you because you’re just spinning the wheels and creating an even deeper hole that’s even harder to get out of. That’s why successful change is about steps, starting with a step you can DO, to get some traction, get moving. Being STUCK + massive desire = big stress. If there were less desire, it wouldn’t be so painful. But when you REALLY want something but are stuck: FRUSTRATION.

The power of habit

And finally, the biggie… HABIT. Habit is very closely related to numbers 2 and 3 because habit is the deepest law!

“Association” can easily harden into a thought habit… a belief structure that you identify with and “the devil you know” is also a habit — actually a whole bunch of habits that you know and feel comfortable with.

A habit is a learned and automatic reaction. It’s an invisible and most often not even noticed force that compels us to REPEAT. Like the moth to the flame we repeat our bad behavior and eventually feel hopeless against its power.

I just can’t do it!

With all these obstacles, many folks reach a point of acceptance, resigned to the inevitable fact that they just CANNOT DO IT. They can’t change — even faced with death they are resigned! Strong words I know but I’ve seen it over and over again.

And these aren’t even the whole story… We have cultural conditioning, disempowering beliefs and identities to contend with. We even begin to tell ourselves things like “I’m not the sort of person who…”

More baggage. So, the pitfalls and obstacles are deep and high. And that’s why the success rate for any lifestyle change is abysmal! Look into the statistics and you will see!

HOW to change

All the health information out there isn’t working. It cannot, because nearly everyone is focused on telling people what they must do, instead of what they really need — which is how to do it.

All these obstacles can be overcome, all of them. Not an easy task you may wonder. But, with the right information, you can overcome them all and be motivated and excited by the possibilities for yourself.

Then you’ll begin to believe that it is possible to change easily, that it is possible to overcome all these challenges and be effortlessly happy and healthy.

Free chapter

Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

Read Chapter 1 “The Happiness Secret”
Or get the paperback…

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8 thoughts on “Why is it SO hard to change?

    1. Hi S, meditation is one part of the picture. The best thing to do is follow the advice in the book. It’s all there and it all works as a whole. Everything affects everything else. :-)


  1. I’ve certainly smartened up after reading Happy Guide, and as a result my efforts to change have born fruit. Life is good, and there’s so much out there to enjoy. Everyone can attain these rewards.


    1. Hi Justin,

      There’s lots of pitfalls in modern life that turn bouncy happy kids into stressed and miserable grown-ups. My tip is to read Happy Guide. Read it, do it and stay playful and energetic your whole life. It has all the tips you need to do it.


  2. Thank you. Thank you. and Thank you, for this and many of your other posts. You have helped me remember that I am over investing myself emotionally in my habits and that it is ok to become accustomed to the idea that healthy is a state that takes dedication and persistent maintenance.


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