Wayne Ergle
on
August 13, 2023

Why is Change so Hard: 15 Real Reasons with Pro Tips to Overcome Them

Listen up! You’re here because there’s something you want to change in your life, but it feels like moving a mountain. I’m here to tell you two things: First, you’re not alone, and second if you arm yourself with knowledge and the right attitude, you can move that damn mountain. Why is change so hard? Let’s start by understanding why change feels like such a beast.

Why is Change so Hard: Key Takeaways

  • Brain vs. Change: Our brain, while incredible, is naturally resistant to change. This isn’t a flaw; it’s a protective mechanism. Understand this, and you’re already a step ahead.
  • Duality of Mind: The desire to change and the impulse to stay the same coexist. Recognizing this internal tug-of-war is crucial to make change easier.
  • Reasons Galore: From fearing the unknown to societal pressures, there are numerous reasons why change is a challenge. But each has a counter-strategy waiting to be deployed.
  • Break and Conquer: The most overwhelming tasks become manageable when broken down. Divide and conquer should be your mantra toward change.
  • Surrounding Influences Matter: The environment, including people and societal norms, can hinder and support. Choose your surroundings wisely.
  • Power of Habit: We are creatures of habit, but they aren’t unchangeable. Replace rather than resist for best results.
  • Deep Motivations: Superficial reasons for change might not endure. Dig deep, find your “why,” and let it drive you.
  • Action Over Analysis: Overthinking can be an anchor. Sometimes, taking the plunge and adjusting along the way is better.
  • Cherish Small Wins: In the journey of change, every step counts. Celebrate minor milestones; they pave the path for significant transformations.
  • Stay True, Stay You: Amidst all the changes, don’t lose your essence. Change should be a tool for enhancement, not a loss of authenticity.

Academic Insights: Reasons Why Is Change So Hard

Your brain is a magnificent, complex machine. It’s hardwired to keep you safe and alive, and it doesn’t want to make a change. That cozy comfort zone you’ve set up? It’s your brain’s paradise. Any whiff of change sounds alarms, interpreting it as a potential threat. This primal instinct is as old as our caveman ancestors, who needed to stick to the known paths to avoid lurking dangers.

Why is Change so HardThe Neuroscience of Comfort and Survival

A mesmerizing digital art representation of "neuroscience": an abstract network of interconnected neurons and synapses, illuminated by pulses of vibrant energy.

Why is change so hard? It is a battle, and it’s not just against external factors but against your brain. Let’s break this down:

The Two-Faced Brain

Imagine your brain as a boardroom with two members: the primal brain (the ancient part) and the logical brain (the modern, sophisticated part).

  • The primal brain, rooted in the amygdala, is all about survival. It remembers the pleasure of that first sip of alcohol or the comfort of any habit, and it craves it. This part doesn’t care about the long-term consequences; it wants the quick dopamine hit.
  • The logical brain, centered around the prefrontal cortex, is your voice of reason. It understands the importance of long-term benefits over short-term rewards. This part tells you to stay sober, exercise, or choose a salad over a burger.

Habit Loops and the Basal Ganglia

Here’s the tricky part. Good or bad habits get ingrained in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia. It’s like your brain’s auto-pilot mode. When you repeat an action, like drinking alcohol or biting your nails, your brain starts recognizing the pattern and shifts it to this region to free up cognitive resources. Over time, this becomes a deeply embedded loop: cue, routine, and reward. It’s efficient, yes, but breaking out of these loops? That’s where the challenge lies and one of the reasons why change is so hard.

The Role of Neuroplasticity

Before you throw in the towel thinking your brain’s set in its ways, here’s the silver lining: Neuroplasticity. It’s a fancy word that means your brain can change and rewire itself. It’s malleable. Every time you resist a drink, choose to meditate, or practice a new habit, you’re carving out new neural pathways opening the door to behavior change. It takes time, but the brain can be trained with consistent effort.

Embrace the Duality

You can show yourself some grace when you understand that your brain has these conflicting entities. That internal struggle you feel when trying to change? It’s natural. It’s the primal and logical brains duking it out. Recognizing this can help you appreciate the depth of the challenge and bolster your resolve to navigate it.

Why is Change so HardCognitive Biases that Hold You Back

Understanding the intricacies of your brain’s hardware (its structure and processes) is just one piece of the puzzle that make change difficult. The software, the cognitive biases, and the patterns your brain operates under can also be a roadblock.

Emotion Over Logic

Even when the logical part of your brain knows what’s right, emotions can overpower you, and this is another reason why change is so hard. You’ve probably felt it. The euphoria of a short-term pleasure or the pang of fear when contemplating a significant change. Emotions, both good and bad, are powerful motivators. They often stem from the primal brain, aiming to keep you in a perceived state of safety and comfort.

Status Quo Bias & Loss Aversion

Do you know that familiar, cozy blanket of habits? That’s where the status quo bias thrives. Your brain inherently resists change, fearing loss more than valuing gain. And as mentioned earlier, we feel losses more potently than we celebrate improvements. This makes the journey toward change feel heavier and more daunting. Remember those habit loops from the basal ganglia? They’re a classic example. The brain doesn’t want to break what it thinks isn’t broken, even if logic argues otherwise.

Overcoming Biases

Awareness is your weapon here. Recognizing these biases in action can reduce their power. When you feel a pull towards an old habit or resistance to a new, beneficial change, pause. Reflect on what’s driving that feeling. Is it a genuine concern or a cognitive bias playing tricks? This mindfulness can help you navigate the treacherous waters of change more clearly and convincingly.

Journeying Through the Stages of Change: Prochaska’s Insightful Roadmap

A surrealistic depiction of the stages of change: a towering tree with branches that transform into winding staircases, each leading to a different realm.

Change is no mere whim; it’s a series of deliberate steps. James O. Prochaska, a psychology game-changer, gave us a roadmap for this arduous journey. Let’s delve into these stages:

Pre-contemplation & Contemplation

Before you even lace up those metaphorical boots for the trek of change, you’re hit with a storm of denial (pre-contemplation) or the daunting fog of weighing pros and cons (contemplation). These aren’t just casual pauses but pivotal points where you grapple with your existing state. Embracing the discomfort of introspection and harnessing some good ol’ grit will help you pierce through.

Preparation

Salute to you for deciding to trek onward! But hold your horses! Instead of just charging forward, set up camp, and strategize. There’s a whirlwind ahead, with conflicts from the outside and the battle between your primal and logical brain from within. Forge your armor with realistic goals, gather allies in the form of resources and social support, and get ready for the climb.

Action & Maintenance

An artistic representation of take action: A vivid painting capturing the essence of seizing the moment showing an individual with arms stretched wide. Style is abstract expressionism.

It’s showtime! Every step you take, every old habit you kick to the curb, you’re fortifying your mind’s pathways. You remember the neuroscience behind this. Keep the momentum, but remember: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Celebrate those small victories, but stay sharp. Old habits? They’re sneaky little gremlins that sometimes try to creep back. Check out our article How to Take Action in Life: 19 Simple Steps to Get Your Ass in Gear for easy action steps.

Relapse

There might be times when you stumble, when the old ways, like sirens, lure you back. This isn’t defeat; it’s a plot twist. With your newfound understanding of the brain’s intricacies, instead of a facepalm moment, treat this as a reconnaissance mission. Identify the enemy, be it a cognitive bias or a tug from your emotional strings. Recalibrate, re-arm, and return to the frontlines.

Check out this article to learn more about Prochaska’s transtheoretical model.

Why is Change so HardGrowth vs. Fixed Mindset

A minimalistic representation of "growth vs fixed mindset": Two simple silhouettes, one on the left and the other on the right, against a clean background. The left silhouette embodies growth. The right silhouette embodies a fixed mindset.

If there’s one thing to take away from this deep dive into the brain’s workings, it’s this: adaptability. Remember neuroplasticity? Your brain can adapt. But for that to happen, your mind plays a crucial role.

Dump the Fixed Mindset

“I can’t change.” “It’s just who I am.” These statements reek of a fixed mindset. It’s a belief that you’re stuck with the cards you’re dealt. But life isn’t a predetermined game.

Embrace Growth

Every challenge and every change is an opportunity. With effort, perseverance, and the right strategies, growth is not just possible; it’s inevitable. See setbacks as lessons, not failures. Embrace the journey of becoming, of evolving. Change is growth. And growth is life.

Why Is Change So Hard: 15 Reasons – And How to Overcome Them

1. Fear of the Unknown
Reason: Our brains are wired for predictability. New situations can trigger anxiety, making us naturally avoidant.

Tip: Research and plan. Knowledge can demystify the unknown and reduce the anxiety associated with it.

2. Overwhelm
Reason: Big changes can seem impossible, causing decision paralysis. 

Tip: Break the change into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate minor milestones.

3. Loss Aversion
Reason: We fear losing what we have more than we value gaining something new.

Tip: Focus on the benefits of the change, and remind yourself of the potential gains over losses.

4. Past Failures
Reason: Failed attempts can scar our confidence and make us hesitant.

Tip: Re-contextualize failures as lessons. Analyze what went wrong and adjust your approach.

5. Peer Pressure
Reason: We are influenced by those around us, sometimes to our detriment.

Tip: Surround yourself with supportive people who encourage your change journey.

6. Complacency

A minimalistic depiction of "complacency": An elegant composition featuring a solitary chair placed against a plain wall. The chair is unoccupied, and the scene is devoid of any extraneous details.

Reason: Being comfortable can make us resistant to disrupting the status quo.

Tip: Regularly reassess your goals and challenge yourself. Don’t let comfort breed stagnation.

7. Cognitive Dissonance
Reason: Holding contradictory beliefs can create mental stress, deterring change.

Tip: Reflect on your core values and beliefs. Align your differences with them for better cohesion.

8. Lack of Immediate Rewards
Reason: We’re geared for instant gratification. Delayed rewards test our patience.

Tip: Create short-term rewards for long-term goals. Celebrate the journey, not just the destination.

9. Self-Doubt
Reason: Negative self-talk can be a significant barrier.

Tip: Foster a growth mindset. Believe in your capacity to learn, adapt, and grow.

10. Habits are Hardwired
Reason: The brain loves efficiency, making ingrained habits tough to break.

Tip: Replace bad habits with good ones rather than just trying to abstain. Leverage the power of habit loops in your favor.

11. Fear of Judgment
Reason: We often fear what others think or say about our changes. 

Tip: Prioritize your well-being over external opinions. Your journey is for you, not them.

12. Resource Constraints
Reason: Lack of time, money, or other resources can hinder change.

Tip: Be resourceful. Sometimes, the best changes are low-cost and only require a shift in perspective or approach.

13. Misaligned Motivation
Reason: If the reasons for change aren’t personal or deeply rooted, they may not stick.

Tip: Find your “why.” Deeply personal motivations are more compelling than superficial ones.

14. Overthinking
Reason: Analysis paralysis can halt us in our tracks.

Tip: Action often beats intention. Start small, iterate, and adjust as you learn.

15. Societal Norms and Expectations
Reason: Societal pressures can dissuade us from pursuing non-conventional paths.

Tip: Define success on your terms. Authenticity often leads to a more fulfilling change journey.

Conclusion: Why is Change So Hard

If there’s one truth in life, it’s this: change is hard. But understanding why is change so hard gives you a fighting chance. From the intricate workings of our brains to societal pressures, the deck is stacked against us. But, as they say in the fighting world, knowing your enemy is half the battle.

So, what’s the other half? The tenacity to push through, the clarity to understand your “why,” and the wisdom to adopt strategies make the change journey a little easier.

In 2023 and beyond, as the world continually shifts around us, the one thing we can control is our ability to adapt, grow, and evolve. The path to change is filled with obstacles, but with understanding and the right strategies, you can navigate it like a champ. So gear up, face the challenge head-on, and be the master of your destiny.

Why is Change So Hard FAQs

Why is having the right mindset crucial when attempting to change?

The mindset is the foundation of any change journey. Think of it as your internal compass. A growth mindset, one that embraces challenges and sees failures as learning opportunities, can greatly enhance your ability to adapt and evolve.

Why is change often perceived as difficult?

Change is challenging because it disrupts our routine and comfort. Our brains are wired to seek safety and predictability. Thus, change, which often introduces uncertainty, can be inherently difficult to navigate.

What are the stages of change I should be aware of?

The stages of change, as proposed by Prochaska, include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and sometimes relapse. Each stage represents a different mindset and readiness toward change.

Are there strategies to make change easier?

Absolutely! Knowledge, preparation, and support can make change feel less daunting. Breaking down change into manageable steps, seeking support from loved ones or professionals, and consistently reminding oneself of the end goal can ease the process.

What’s the difference between finding change hard and resisting change?

Finding change hard is a natural response to stepping out of one’s comfort zone. It’s the brain’s way of signaling unfamiliar territory. Resisting change, on the other hand, is a conscious or subconscious decision to avoid or push back against change, often due to fear, uncertainty, or past experiences.

How does self-control factor into the change equation?

Self-control acts as the rein that keeps our impulses and old habits in check. Especially during the action and maintenance stages of change, self-control can be the difference between staying on course or veering off the path.

Can biases impact my decision-making during the change process?

Certainly! Biases, like the status quo bias, can make us favor our current state, even if it’s not optimal. Being aware of such biases can help us make more informed decisions and stay committed to our change journey.

Any tips for better decision-making during transitions?

Reflect before you act. Weigh the pros and cons, anticipate potential challenges, and, if possible, seek feedback. Remember, every decision during a change process shapes the trajectory of your journey. Equip yourself with as much information and insight as possible.

Wayne Ergle

Wayne firmly believes that each of us possesses extraordinary gifts and talents, just waiting to be unleashed upon the world. But life's hurdles often obstruct our path to greatness. That's why he birthed Be Your Own Invention – to ignite the flames of motivation in everyone's transformation journey. Wayne’s transformation story includes conquering a 20-year battle with severe alcohol addiction, emerging triumphant and sober since 2018.