If Change is Good, Why Is It So Hard?

manleapingWe hear it all the time.  Change is good.  Growth is good.  In theory we can all agree on that.  It’s just that in practice can it be so difficult.  Even when we initiate the change it doesn’t always happen.  So what’s up with that?

The desire to make a change usually stems from one of two areas.  Either we don’t want what we have or we want what we don’t have.  Maybe we don’t like what we see in the mirror, or don’t like the numbers in our bank accounts.  Maybe we want to spend more time with the kids and less time with our co-workers.  It would seem that if we can identify what we want to change and the reasons we want to make the change, it should be easy to accomplish. Or not.

There are specific ways to make successful changes in life but here is one of the reasons it can be so difficult.  As a species we are wired to protect what we have and to maintain our safety.  We all have a comfort zone–a place that is comfortable and familiar.  Stepping outside of it can subject us to the unknown, and historically that can be bad.

Imagine the caveman venturing out of the cave to look for food.  Staying in the cave is safe but not practical if he wants to eat.  However, he doesn’t see the saber tooth tiger on the rock above him, looking for his own dinner.  Not a great situation.  After a few encounters like that the behavior of staying put becomes embedded in our DNA.  If you want to survive, don’t be too hasty to make changes in your environment.

Of course, that all makes sense but without change there is no growth.  I’ve run into this situation lately as I have been changing and upgrading my website.  I’ve never been very tech-savvy, so this is definitely outside of my comfort zone.  As I have been going through the exercise I often found myself questioning my reasons.  After all, I was happy with the old site.  It worked.  But I had to remind myself that it didn’t do everything I wanted, and if I wanted to grow and expand I had to push forward.  At times forgetting the whole thing and staying with my old site seemed a much more comfortable and attractive option.

One of the things that make any kind of a change easier is a great support network.  In this instance I have a great coach guiding me through part of it and a good tech support network to help with the rest.  Even with all that support it still isn’t a walk in the park.  I still encounter glitches and unexpected roadblocks.  However without the support I’m not sure that I would have had the courage to keep moving forward.

The same can be said of contemplating any kind of change.  Perhaps it is new job or new career.   Perhaps it is losing weight or becoming more conscious of healthy eating patterns.  They all sound like great ideas but without an action plan and a strong support network chances are they will just stay great ideas.   Genetically we believe it is safer and easier to stay in the cave and protect what we have, even if it isn’t exactly what we want.

Along with an action plan and a support network, the third key to making change happen is to recognize that we are not hardwired for it.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Recognizing that change goes against our inborn survival instincts can be a very liberating thing.   It doesn’t make change any easier, but it does make successful change that much sweeter.

Another great thing about the human condition is that we can adapt to our surroundings.  When faced with change, we may become uncomfortable and insecure but that is a temporary situation.  Leaving the familiar for uncharted territory is frightening but it won’t last.  The change will become familiar and no longer frightening.  It will replace the status quo.

And that is a very comforting thing to know.


How about you?  How do you accept or deal with change?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Chris Griffin

Chris Griffin is a executive coach with a passion for wellness. He helps executives and senior management enhance their performance and their lives by pinpointing and changing self-defeating behaviors.

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2 Responses to If Change is Good, Why Is It So Hard?

  1. Carolyn Hughes February 10, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    For me half the battle of change is accepting that it is going to take me out of my comfort zone and be prepared for that. And then as you so rightly point out, the change then becomes familiar and we feel comfortable again.

    • Chris Griffin February 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      I think leaving our comfort zones is always a huge step. When I left my career to pursue coaching, it was a huge, foreign, scary move, but now I can see it is the best thing I’ve done. I’m in familiar territory again. I just don’t want to get too comfortable! Cheers, Chris