|Tool #10: Understanding why change is hard,
and what it takes to make changes
People often struggle to change. That's true even when
they want to change badly, and know exactly what they
want or need to do. It's important to see why change is
hard, and what it takes to make changes. Without such
knowledge, it's easy to become frustrated and ready to give
Part of the reason it's hard to change is that what people
say and do serves a purpose in their lives. They're getting
something out of what they do. It's satisfying some
"mistaken" goal they have. That's true regardless of how
unhealthy, self-defeating the behave might be.
Another part of the answer is brain physiology. It can work
for us or against us. Get off to a good start in life, and it's a
blessing. Get off to a rough start in some ways, and it can
be a curse.
Everything we think, feel, say and do is the product of
connections made between nerve cells in our brains.
That's why we are able to do more and more things as we
go from being children to teenagers,
and finally adults. Do some physical damage to the brain
(i.e. stroke, head trauma) and those connections might get
destroyed. We might lose the ability to remember, think,
feel, say or do what we did before.
These connections are much like establishing pathways
across a yard or field. If we keep walking the same way,
the pathway becomes well-worn and easy to find. If we
want to get across that yard or field in a hurry in the future,
we're more likely to take the obvious path than to establish
a new one. If we keep using a particular pathway, it might
even become a RUT. When people travel dirt roads, it's
easy to slip into old ruts that are there from previous travel
Here's the important point. Once we create such RUTS,
we can't get rid of them. That's what makes it hard to
change. We can only make new ones.
To change, we need to:
1) First make a new connection for thinking, feeling,
saying and doing things differently.
2) Then we need to use that new connection over
and over again until IT becomes a RUT and can
compete with our old ones.
down those roads. It's hard to stay out of them, and get
out of them once you're in one.
Likewise, If we use a connection or pathway we make in
our brains over and over again, we are more likely to take
it than create a new one. When a RUT forms, it's hard to
stay out of it, or get out of it once we slip into it. It
becomes automatic to think, feel, say or do something.
That could be a good or bad thing. Got a great golf swing
from much practice, you certainly wouldn't want to lose it in
between rounds of golf. You want to be able to plug into
the RUT for that great swing without thinking about it.
However, if we create a RUT that leads to some
dysfunctional thought, feeling or behavior, it can be a
curse. It can make changing very tough. Brain physiology
can work for us, or against us at times. Like so many other
things in life, brain physiology can be a double-edged
RUTS are why people recreate their past, and why their
history becomes their destiny. That could be good or bad
We all bring pre-existing cognitive, emotional and
behavioral RUTS into any endeavor we begin or
relationship we enter into. Some of those will make some
of us "naturals" at whatever the endeavor might be, or
relationship might entail. Other RUTS might cause some
of us to make mistakes and fail miserably. Many people
are what Abraham Maslow called "unconsciously
incompetent". They have a lot of dysfunctional cognitive,
emotional and behavioral RUTS and don't even realize
how those are hurting them. Teachers and parents are
often "unconsciously incompetent" when dealing with their
children and students.
However, we can always slip back into our old RUTS at
any time, and often will. It's part of being human to do so.
Remembering this can help us have both USA or
Unconditional Self-Acceptance for ourselves, and UOA or
Unconditional Other Accpetance for others.