why change is hard

Part 1: Walking Through Mud: Why Change Is Hard And How To Make It Suck Less

This article is part 1 in a 2 part series. Once you’ve read this article and have done the work, pop over to part 2.

Change can be easy. If you’re like the many people who don’t even bother attempting a change because (cue whiny voice):

“Change is hard.”

“People don’t change.”

“Change sucks.”

When you’re working on changing, whether it’s drinking less wine, implementing an exercise routine or tracking your spending habits, every time you dig into all the reasons why you want to change, and what actions flow out of your existing beliefs, thoughts, and emotions, you’re forcing your brain to create new neural connections.

This is where the magic happens. When we teach our brain to forge new connections, it gets stronger and our minds end up being an invisible cheerleader and bodyguard—helping us get the results we want.

Making change on purpose is like walking through mud

You see, the thing is, change can feel like walking through a pool of mud.

Imagine you’re stepping into the shallow end. Here, you’re just beginning the process, it’s still relatively easy to walk, and you’re still very much attached to what you know—much like a security blanket.

As you approach the deep end, you look around and realize you’re in the thick of it. Everything feels hard. This is a critical point—you could turn around and go back to where you know it’s safe or continue pressing forward, knowing it’s going to get harder before it gets easier, or before you get your hands on that sweet reward.

At some point, you find your stride. Suddenly you realize you’ve been walking through the mud easily, and you’ve made real headway. The change—while still relatively new, is now integrated at an unconscious level. At this point, the place where you started and where you were headed, no longer exists. The trajectory will be different because you made a real change.

The journey now includes new resources and has more options available because of the change you’ve integrated into your unconscious mind where it feels like a new part of you.

Nothing changes unless you do, and walking through the mud is just one way to make it happen.

Change is harder for grown-ups

Because change involves our brains, once we hit our mid-20s, we’re fighting the already established neural connections that know the easiest and quickest route from point A to point B, without taking into account how well this well-traversed route serves us.

This is why focus, sticking to our goal, practicing the change (over and over) and finding ways to stay motivated is so important. When we keep practicing, we strengthen those new neuropathways—something we can’t see or feel, until one day we wake up and realize, “Holy moly, look how much I’ve changed!”

Three types of change

There are three types of change. Chances are you’ve experienced all three:

1. Suddenly through a life-changing event: Winning the lottery, marriage, divorce, birth, or death often lead to change happening quickly.

2. Organic: A change that happens over time without forcing it. Like eventually growing tired of late nights and bar-hopping when you find a partner.

3. Intentional: An intentional change to make our life better such as switching to a vegetarian diet. Giving up bacon sucks at first, but the payoff is enticing. This kind of change is usually the most tedious, and that’s why I’m giving you all these tools—to unsuck the change!

Practice patience and trust the process

When you decide to change a behavior, it’s deliberate. You’re consciously choosing to take different actions and think different thoughts to change on the inside. It’s intentionally pushing against your own neurology. Especially in the beginning, it’s sometimes difficult to see that you’re actually making progress while in the thick of it, doing the work, yet you’re definitely integrating those changes into the whole of who you are.

Real Change happens only when that behavior, belief or value becomes unconscious

All learning, behavior, and change happen unconsciously. Only then can you experience it as “you.” While you’re in the midst of working to make a deliberate change, your unconscious mind is supporting you in the background by doing all this invisible work in your brain, behind the scenes that you’re unaware of at first. And by the time you see and feel the evidence of change (loving your greens instead of curly fries), your unconscious mind would be like, “Duh. What do you think I’ve been working on all this time?”

The more you work with your unconscious mind to make changes, the easier changing will be over time. This is why we need to repeat, repeat, repeat.

Imagine you’re working on creating a new habit of going to the gym after five years of couch-surfing. You’re simply not going to be able to run as fast and lift as much weight as you did during your last workout. Or you will and you’re just going to land yourself in the emergency room, but that’s another story altogether.

You have to be willing to stay with it to see results.

I’ve created a free worksheet for you to help you do this. Download it here.

This worksheet will also help you uncover some of your core values and is also designed to help you start with your values, or what you want to value and align your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Change it up: Change through deliberate action

Use this free worksheet when you’ve identified an action or a bunch of actions that aren’t aligned with how you want to live.

In the worksheet, you’ll find these instructions as well. I’m breaking it down here with an example to help make it easy for you.

In the example, we’re going to explore the action of eating too much chocolate. Keep in mind that I’m not telling you that “chocolate is bad.” For someone considering this undesirable behavior, these are the potential thoughts, emotions, and values that may go along with the action of eating too much chocolate.

How to use the worksheet with an example

actions and values chart

Here’s another example, using the questions to start a new running habit instead of trying to stop a habit:

actions and values

Here’s one last example, using the questions and the worksheet to consider whether an action or behavior is one that will support us and our values:

actions and values

Now it’s your turn!

1. Download the free worksheet if you haven’t already.

2. Fill in your responses, only filling out what’s necessary for you to get to your answer. Meaning, there’s no need to complete all the boxes.

As you do this work, you might go back and forth for a while. The value you want to change may show itself along with everything attached (beliefs, thoughts, emotions and the behavior).

Remember, that both this work and you are a work in progress. Acknowledge this, and then remember that perfection is an illusion. Take it easy on yourself as you go back to reinforce all the components of your desired value  

You may also enjoy working the other way. That is, starting with your value or desired value, and following the path to actions that will support that value. You can read more about how to do in part 2 of this article here.

I'm Brenda Terry. I'm a personal development trainer and master coach who works with go-getters like you who want to achieve big results in your business and personal life.

If you're excited and ready to play bigger in business and kill it in life, I help you identify and change beliefs, patterns, and behaviors that aren't supporting your goals so you can make more money, find more joy, better manage relationships, and communicate more effectively.
I'm here to help you make the powerful, effective shifts you're craving- faster than you ever thought possible.

Learn how we can work together here.


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