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07 Mar

The Top 10 Psychological Reasons People Have Trouble Making Changes

Motivation No Response

Most people seek out therapy or coaching because there is something in their world they want to change. Making that call or sending that email is a great first step. Change can be really tough. Whether you are trying to make a relationship work, working on having a more positive outlook, or attempting another seemingly huge lifestyle change, it is rarely an easy feat. Based on my work with people trying to make positive changes in their lives, I’ve compiled a list of why it’s so difficult…

10. Habits are hard to break. You are set in your ways. You know what you like and what you hate. If you have been doing the same thing, every day, for the last 10 years, it’s going to feel impossible to change that habit. Mind you, it’s not impossible, but it takes actual work to break the old, bad habits. In fact, sometimes we have habits that we don’t even know are habits until we stop doing them. That’s why making small changes at first often leads to greater success.

9. You are not yet convinced it will make life better. Even if your gut is telling you to leave an abusive relationship or try to change careers, until you see some results it’s tough to convince yourself that the change will make life better. Maybe you have tried therapy before, and it has not worked yet. It’s tough to muster up the strength to try again if there is no guarantee it will work out. Sometimes you need a little bit of faith until changes become apparent. If you don’t take that leap of faith, you’ll never know.

8. Feeling sorry for yourself. You feel awful. You’re depressed. You can’t deal with your kid. You hate your job. It is so easy to wallow in feeling crappy about yourself. There’s almost a comfort in the devil you already know. It’s not easy to get out of that rut, especially when it becomes a habit ( see #10). But feeling sorry for yourself is almost like digging yourself into a deep hole. It may be nice and cool, and it protects you from the outside world, but it’s near impossible to get out of, and no one wants to follow you down.

7. It’s Hard. And it takes time. There are very few lifestyle changes that produce results overnight. You have to show up. The feelings that come up aren’t always pleasant. Facing yourself is not easy.  They say anything worth doing is going to be hard, and I agree. You know what makes anything easier? Company. That brings me to #6.

6. You are doing it alone. Trying to make a big change alone makes it even more difficult. You might already be feeling isolated because of whatever your life has thrown at you. You are already in the hole we discussed in #8, and you probably feel alone. The last thing you need is to attempt something difficult all by yourself. Have friends join you, or at least cheer you on. Find a kick ass therapist who will run into the fire WITHyou. Do a fitness challenge with your best friend. Join an online community. Find a parenting group. Do anything to find some support in this change.

5. Fear of Failure. This is a tough one because most people are, deep down, afraid to fail. Your inner voice might be saying, “Hey, if you try and fail, you are a failure. You don’t wanna be a failure now do you?” The thing is if you don’t give it your all, you’ll never know. And yes, you can walk away thinking that you didn’t fail, but your problem will still be there. I know I’d rather fail and try again than be afraid to even give it a go.

4.You don’t know another way. This one is similar to #10 regarding habits, but it’s a little more ingrained in who you are as a person. You’ve been raised a certain way, taught things implicitly and explicitly by your parents, and as a result you behave in a certain manner. The way you were treated in your formative years has so much to do with who you eventually become. It’s almost like your upbringing puts blinders on your eyes. A different option may have never even crossed your mind. Imagine a Dad who was allowed to cry himself to sleep when he was an infant because his parents did not want to “spoil him.” Now, this Dad might have difficulty making the change to soothe his child because letting the baby cry is just what you do. No one taught him another way.

3. Secondary Benefits. This one is a bit controversial. This is a disclaimer for anyone who might be offended by this. There are secondary benefits to many problems and most people are not consciously aware of them. I am not saying that people want to have issues to get secondary benefits, but that the benefits come naturally. For example, imagine a Mom is having such a hard time with her daughter because she tantrums violently. Because of this, her husband who works late hours comes home early to help her calm the daughter down. The Mom is therefore happy that her husband is home, and something inside her knows that if she was to stop the tantrums, her husband would continue to work late.

2. Avoidance. The problem you are having might remind you of something bad that happened to you, and the natural response would be to avoid thinking about it. It could be anything from a rude comment about your body in the 6th grade or something like abuse or neglect. Avoidance is a symptom of trauma related disorders, but can impact you even if you have not suffered a major trauma. Avoidance keeps you from visiting a therapist and deciding to change your lifestyle. It stops you from listening to your instincts and changing careers. It can even stop you from being the kind of parent you want to be.

1. It’s a Defense. Getting hurt sucks. Sometimes it sucks so much that we use our problematic behavior as a defense. The walls people built to protect themselves are strong and sturdy. They are built so well, that making any kind of change is so scary that it feels almost impossible. The walls don’t let the bad stuff in, and they protect you, sort of, but they don’t let the good in either. This means that when anyone tries to remove a brick from the wall (a well-meaning friend, a fitness coach, a therapist), the defense needs to get stronger in order not to change and risk getting hurt. The defense can be the inner voice inside our heads telling us we cannot do it, or that we do not deserve it, or it can seem like it’s protecting you by saying, “Stay inside, or you will get hurt again.” A very sad example would be a woman who was sexually abused as a child and therefore has gained so much weight to make sure no one would invade her space and hurt her again. In that case, losing the weight could be terrifying, and I would strongly recommend seeing a therapist to help guide such a big change.

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