stuck in yesterday: why is change so hard?

“You can’t get to who you’re meant to be tomorrow clinging to who you were yesterday.” ~ Robin Sharma (@_robin_sharma)

We want different results. We want to be a better leader, better networker, better at communication, better at managing our time, better, better , better. So we take classes and we read books and we get excited about the possibilities. It all sounds like it could really work and we can’t wait to get started.

And then…

We don’t. We don’t change. We wonder what’s wrong with ourselves. Why can’t we do this? Why is change so difficult?

Lots of reasons, really. Two of the biggest barriers are simply habit and our routines.

We have spent a lifetime building the habits that support our status quo. Twenty, thirty, forty plus years of habit rarely change after a class or a book. It rarely changes after a week of intense focused effort. It takes much more time and effort to truly replace one habit with another to the point where the new habit is completely reflexive.

We have also completely and entirely set up our lives to support us EXACTLY as we are right now. Our routines, processes, physical environment, etc. are all perfectly designed to maintain things just as they are. As an example, something as simple as eating healthier would probably require shopping differently – buying different food from different sections of the store, maybe even shopping a different store. Then it would likely require changing your routine so you had time to plan and prepare a day’s worth of food and snacks. Do you do it the night before, get up earlier, spend most of Sunday making meals for the week? And so on. None of it is impossible – it’s all pretty simple stuff – but if we don’t plan for it and realize that we need to change the routines that support our habits then pretty soon we’re eating fast food and snacking out of the vending machines again.

Or, if I truly want to become a better leader or better in my job, then I’ll need to create time to study, plan, think, reflect. I’ll need to seek feedback, evaluate it, and modify my plans accordingly. I’ll need to either invent extra time during the day (time is finite, so what am I going to give up?) or get better at time management or change my priorities and focus. It’s all completely possible and may not even be that hard, but it will require changing up routines and habits.

Personal change isn’t as easy as the infomercials suggest, but recognizing the difficulties and preparing for them makes it that much easier to avoid staying stuck in yesterday.

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2 comments

  1. I think routine can be positive, especially if we are trying to make change. Creating a plan, a new routine helps reinforce new habits. The challenge is when that routine becomes so ingrained that we stop looking for new learning and new opportunities and we become stuck, demotivated and dare I say it, bored?

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  2. Thanks for sharing a great way to look at it: routines can help us change. Different results require different routines. That sounds really obvious, but it is so easy to overlook. I really like your point that a routine can also become so ingrained that we forget we can even imagine a different way.

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