Sometimes we resist making changes that we know would be good for us. For example, the person who struggles with substance abuse continues to drink despite experiencing multiple consequences. The business executive who feels overwhelmed by work repeats her pattern of neglecting self-care and rest. The young adult avoids breaking up with their significant other, although the relationship clearly is not working out. Our stories come with unique challenges, but resistance to change is a common thread that runs through many of our struggles. So, why is change so hard for us?
One aspect of our resistance to change has to do with self-preservation. As Lori Gottlieb writes in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, “We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.” Change involves losing what we know in exchange for something we do not yet know. Richard Rohr expresses a similar idea in Breathing Underwater: “Surrender will always feel like dying, and yet it is the necessary path to liberation.” We often prefer to remain on the path we know in order to maintain a sense a safety and control, even when that path does not lead to the destination that we actually want for ourselves.
As with any adventure into unknown and uncomfortable territory, we need to truly believe that the path of change is better than the more familiar path of stagnation and comfortability. Highlighting the benefits of making the change as well as the consequences of not doing so can increase our motivation to actually carry it out. Also much like journeys into foreign lands, our efforts to change are enhanced by the company, support, and accountability of others. By more clearly seeing our need for change and opening ourselves up to the support of others, we are much more likely to make and maintain important changes that allow us to live lives that more closely align with our values. We can make those difficult changes, even when it is hard.