We’ve all heard it: “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always gotten.” Deciding to change your habits in favor of something that is beneficial-or at least less damaging-is about as easy as it gets. It’s actually changing that is tough.
You can read all the self-help books and magazines you want, but if you don’t act then all that reading didn’t matter.
You can make all the New Year’s resolutions and other self-promises you want, but if you don’t act then they were in vain.
You can set as many goals and targets as you can imagine, but if you don’t act then the thought was wasted.
The only way to change is to actually get out there, wherever your “there” is, and do it. Nike’s well known ad campaign from years ago was simple but on point: “Just Do It.” That’s a bit blunt. I prefer what Yoda told Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back: Do or do not. There is no try.” And if you need help to “do”, by all means ask for it. We are all in this together.
I like listening to classical music when I’m driving or very early in the morning after my first workout. I find the lack of lyrics to process, or just useless chatter on talk radio, soothes my mind. So it was very discouraging to me when southern Maine’s only over-the-air, publicly held classical station with decent range abruptly ceased broadcasting earlier this week.
At home I can stream Maine Public Classical easily enough. But MPC’s nearest broadcasting location to me, both at work and at home, is just barely within broadcast range. I can’t get them in my office, and while I can get them in my truck the reception is poor and variable. I’m confident that sooner or later, another station will step up or MPC will increase their coverage. In the meantime, there isn’t much I can do about this change.
And there’s the rub. I’ve been impacted by a change over which I have no control. I frankly don’t like that. I like to be in control of as much of my life as possible. Some would say that such control is an illusion, and I can’t entirely disagree. Even so, I will continue to exercise control over my life to the greatest extent possible. Sometimes, it’s something innocuous like choosing to get up an hour earlier and exercising or choosing to read instead of watch TV. You know what? I’ll take those little victories and if necessary the illusion of control.
Why are we so resistant to change? What is it about our natures that makes us want to maintain the status quo even when it is obvious to us that a change would do us good? Here are three possible answers. I don’t think that any one is more “right” than the others, they are just what I’ve observed and tried to reconcile with my own views.
The risk of changing to something unknown is scary compared to staying still with something familiar. Maybe that is why it’s so hard for some people to make a decision to embrace the unknown, or to take a leap of faith if you want. We like our habits, our routines, and our nice safe places. It can be very intimidating to risk losing our safety zone even if the potential for good is very high.
It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed and over-burdened in the modern context of endless information bombardment and never ending expectations. When we are maxed out in our personal and professional schedules it can be mentally and physically fatiguing to even consider something new. So we don’t.
Sometimes it is just plain tough to reconcile what we want to do with what we see around us. Take weight for example. When mass media portrays the ideal of beauty as being rail thin and airbrushed to the Nth degree, it is not easy to get motivated to start working out because an unrealistic expectation has been set.
I personally think much resistance to change can be overcome by taking a mental step back and assessing the problem from a distance. Once you see what the nature of the problem really is, you can work on a solution.