Why is Some Change so Hard?


Happy 2017!  I love the New Year.  It’s a natural time to take stock of the past and look hopefully into the future.  And, in addition to the cold temperatures and over-packed fitness classes, the New Year also brings those dreaded resolutions!  I say dreaded not because I don’t believe in making commitments and declarations, I do (!), but because for so many of us resolutions create intentions that we fail to follow through on.  And that leaves many of us feeling stuck, disappointed, unhappy, and unkind to ourselves.

Why is some change so hard?  What is that one BIG thing that you have been declaring to change forever, and yet you’ve made no progress?  Maybe you want to get healthier, become a better listener, take more risks, or better manage your piling commitments?  Regardless of what IT is, any goal we have comes with a set of tips, steps, best practices and associated actions.  Want to lose weight? Eat less, exercise more!  Simple, right? But it isn’t… 
There are 2 important ways we process change:

Way 1: The Tactical Change – In this case, creating a change is as simple for you as learning and applying some new information, skill or competency, and putting it into action.  This change is something you don’t have any baggage or hang ups about.  There’s no underlying resistance to trying and adopting the change.  When my tennis forehand needed improvement, I followed my coach’s instructions – “Stay sideways, Katrina.  Watch the ball hit the strings!  Follow all the way through!”  I did, and the forehand got better.

Way 2: The Transformational Change – This is the category for those failed intentions.  It’s the case when you know what goals you have, but even after you learn the skills and steps, you don’t do them or stick with them.  Why?  More than likely, you are resisting the change because of underlying, competing commitments and assumptions you hold dear, of which you may not even be aware. 

Through our experiences and evolution as people, we develop organizing principles to understand the world around us.  Think of it as your internal operating system or worldview.  Through your unique lens, you use your way of knowing your experiences to make decisions, judgments and sense of the world around you.  Where you’ve had traumas or negative experiences, you create shields of protection to ensure safety in the future.  Know this – we all have a field of vision, and we all have blind spots.  And, outside that field of vision is a new world of possibilities and ways of being and doing. 
Here’s a 5-step discovery process to support transformational change – set aside some time to consider and write down:

  1. Identify your most important 2017 goal or commitment that you have been stuck on or unsuccessful achieving for some time.
  2. List what you do and don’t do that doesn’t support your goal.
  3. What are your hidden competing commitments and worries that stand in the way of you achieving your goal?
  4. Go deeper now – what are your underlying personal assessments and assumptions that stand in the way of you achieving your goal?
  5. Dispute your assumptions through real-life experiments.  Create a plan to test a new way of being, doing and thinking that opposes your assumptions and supports your goals.  Take note of the data you receive, and use it to broaden your field of vision.

Here’s an example to bring this to life:

Immunity to Change Table.png

In the above example, a Step 5 disputation experiment could be to commit to proactively sharing an expert opinion in a situation where the contribution is different than what is being offered by the group.  Through at-bats like this, it may be realized that diverse contributions are valued, and that bringing alternative points of view does not lead to dissention – breaking the connection between sharing as a pathway to disapproval, conflict and likeability.  Eventually, a stronger leader will emerge, who steps up to add more value, and is seen as an advisor in the organization. 

Often, we don’t change because we haven’t uncovered and faced the column 4 forces – the underlying assessments and assumptions – that are keeping us stuck.  Surfacing them can feel scary, risky and vulnerable.  What do you have to gain by facing those fears?  You have the possibility to free yourself from their hold, achieve new heights, and continue to learn and grow.  Transformational change requires courage and commitment, and it leads you to becoming a more fully realized version of your best self. 

Test it for yourself, and send me a note to share your experiences! Don’t go it alone!  Tell the people close to you what you’re working on, and ask them for support.  Involving others gives you buoyancy, help and accountability in the process. 

My coaching practice is designed to support and accelerate transformational change.      Please contact me to set up a complimentary coaching session to begin your discovery.

Here’s to your journey in 2017!  May you let nothing hold you back! 
Happy New Year, Katrina

Reference: This article was inspired by and adapted from Immunity to Change, by Kegan & Lahey.