I work with a lot of people who say they want to change. I think at the end of the day, we all want something to change, but may not always follow through on the actions required to make that change happen. Often, we’ll even take the steps to start making a change but we don’t get very far for a variety of reasons. Or, we get to part of the change and find out it won’t last.
So, I started thinking about some of the common themes I see in some of my clients over the years. We are taught to believe that change is hard, but with that brings some other falsehoods about the change process. If we really want to change something, I believe we should be relentless in the pursuit of our change. Being willing to do what it takes to achieve it and be flexible about the process it takes to get to the end. There may be some discomfort for you and those around you, but that may be necessary. What is the gain that comes from that experience? Here are 5 reasons I’ve seen that prevent people from getting the change they really want.
The goal isn't clear. If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve arrived? Think about what would happen if you logged into your GPS and just clicked go in a general direction. You may get to a new place, but where? Would it benefit or harm you? This is kind of what it’s like when we set out to achieve a goal, but haven’t defined what the goal actually is. With a clear goal, you know exactly what it is and how it will look when it’s accomplished. Losing 10lbs, shaving 30 seconds off your course time, completing all assignments for a class with a passing grade are all clear goals. Taking it a step further, you can indicate how you will achieve that goal - this is commonly described as a SMART goal. In this you further define what you are going to do to achieve the goal. With this framework, you have a clear goal and are able to articulate specifically what it will take to make the goal a reality. It’s clear where you start and where you end. And then you can celebrate!
The "why" isn't clear. When we are unclear as to why we’re doing something, it can make the journey to achieve that thing difficult. Clarity of intent is key with anything in life. You hear about people living with intention or being deliberate in their actions living more full, rewarding lives. Why is this? Well, they know where they are headed and why. Being clear with your why makes the tough times easier, and serves as a source of strength and motivation. When starting the change process, many don’t have a clear indication why they’re making the change, so the incentive for staying the course isn’t strong. When there isn’t any incentive, what’s the point? Whether it’s your children, feeling more comfortable in your clothes (and skin), so others don’t have a hard journey or increased vitality for life...these are all solid whys behind change.
They aren't REALLY ready. One of the foundational principles of behavior change is meeting a client where they are. This is difficult when you can see where a client is, but they are unwilling to recognize it. To maximize success, an honest look at your starting point and history is required. Once this is clear, your goal and steps to meet the goal can be discussed for a plan based on your readiness for change. And when this is clear you can take action on the baby steps to prove to yourself you can do it. When you have proof of completion, you’re more equipped to take on bigger goals with more confidence long-term. For some, this can be hard to accept because we want what we want...now. We live in a culture of instant gratification, so the pace of change can be different than what we expect. Pacing ourselves and being realistic with where we’re starting as compared to our goals helps us set expectations appropriately and maximizes the likelihood of success and sustained change in the end.
Underestimating the effort. We often set out to achieve a goal without full understanding of what it’s going to take to actually do it. That’s fine, but this sets us up for disappointment because we don’t begin with stable footing and then end up not following through. I see this a lot with New Year’s resolutions because we can say we want to lose 50lbs or train for a marathon or finally get my life in order, but what does that really mean? What is the plan to get you to that goal? I used to see this with organizations who wanted large-scale transformation. The timeline, cost, and people to make the change happen was always underestimated. What I helped leaders do is get clear on their why, their goal, assess their readiness for change, build and ultimately execute their plan to improve odds of success. Whether it’s an organization of thousands or an individual improving their health, the same steps and principles apply. We have to be ready to dedicate the time and effort to meet our goal, and be flexible when we’ve underestimated what it will take to get to done.
Beliefs and expectations get in the way. Before working with a client, a coach often will ask if the person is “coachable.” This means they are willing to try new things, shift their mindset/behavior patterns, and get uncomfortable. Are they willing to enjoy the transformation and healing process without judgement of themselves or the process? Are they willing to be flexible and pivot when their body or life requires won’t do what they want? When we have beliefs about the benefits of a specific action, instead of doing it and being open for the ride, we slow the change process. This also applies to expectations. We set out for change because we don’t like what we have, right? So to get something different, we need to do something different. It really is that simple. Being willing to drop our current story and move past our limitations is where the magic is. We limit ourselves when...we have preconceived notions about how the journey should look/feel, we restrict the actions we’re willing to take to achieve our goal, we are unwilling to have an open mind about the journey because we’re fixated on the goal.
If you found these reasons helpful, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your experience with any of these five reasons and if you have others you’d add to the list. If you are working through your own change, whether at the beginning or in the middle, and would like some help getting to the end, I’d love to help work through that process with you. Click here to schedule a Discovery call and to uncover your next best steps.