Why Can't I Change?

some thoughts on change

It’s in our human psychology to keep the status quo: we prefer going the route we were going all along. The opposite of the status quo is change. Humans are very bad in initiating change. Change means that you have to put effort, it’s unpredictable, creates risk, and worst of all: means that we were wrong before.

Changes are often wanted to improve a current situation. At a certain point you have to decide to change while the option to continue is still open. Visualize this as a crossroad where you can continue, but also change, and turn. Wanting to change rarely succeeds.

Most changes made in our lives are forced changes:

  • Forced into change: at some point you are at a “T” intersection, forced to make a decision because continuing is no option. The change is often postponed as long as possible.
  • Gradually change: at some point you are at a “Y” intersection, where continuing straight on is no option, but a decisions (thus change) has to be made.
Our day-to-day decisions are made unconsciously through use of heuristics. It’s too complicated for our brains to think everything over. Change has to be initiated by our conscious mind because our unconsciousness will prefer status quo and heuristics. These separated parts of our brain don’t work well together. And the old heuristics conflict with the change wanted by our consciousness.

E.g. smoking
Although all signs and information are indicating that people should stop smoking because it makes them sick, of all the millions of people that smoke, around 70% of them want to stop. To quit smoking is one of those changes you have to decide upon, put effort into, and you would have to do on your own. But only few (6% actually succeeds) are able to succeed to change (stop) without having to have a doctor telling them that it is quit or die (“T” intersection).

Think about it:What have you ever consciously changed in your life?

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