I have read a lot of things about how to change, what to change, advice about change, and the benefits of change. But there isn’t much out there about WHY IT IS SO HARD TO CHANGE.
If there was, I think it would make us all feel a bit better. Many of us go along thinking there is something wrong with us because we can’t embrace something new, like those New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps even worse, we figure it’s about willpower. And clearly, we don’t have enough of it. That’s why we fail again and again at, for instance, going on a diet. And it’s our fault.
There are countless examples of great ideas that don’t catch on because we just don’t like to do something different.
I recently read a Podcast transcript from Randy Cassingham, author of a book about the Dvorak configuration of the common typewriter keyboard. The keyboard was finalized in 1982 and completely changed the “normal” location of keys on the typewriter to something more intuitive, at least for the English language. This change makes for much faster typing. MUCH faster. And yet it remains in obscurity. Perhaps because of the nuisance of making a wholesale change to it. The transition would be painful. Imagine the potential for getting your mind boggled by having the “normal” keyboard at home, and then having to transition to the Dvorak one at work. Yoiks!
This is clearly a case where doing something different has fairly global implications. Sort of like getting the United States to switch to the metric system. Or when President Ford decided to lower the national speed limit to save on gas. He succeeded in doing that, but it cost a ton of money to change all those speed limit signs, never mind the labor involved.
What has this got to do with dieting you might ask? I am trying to get you to consider that making a change in your diet or health habits is not global at all. It will not even cost you millions of dollars. And yet, that doesn’t matter. It’s still just as hard as changing to a new keyboard or measurement system.
For one thing, you have to figure out how to do it pretty much by yourself. No one is going to demand that you change over or force you. After all, would you reduce how fast you drive without being told? No! Losing weight is something you have to own. It’s yours alone.
Here you might be saying, “but what if I join a group that prescribes meals for me, or I go with using diet drinks? They are telling me what to do. What not do that? Simply put, if you outsource your health to someone else, you are not really changing. You are following. Once you decide to stop following, or it becomes too difficult, your alleged change is over.
Another thing: If you know you SHOULD, that doesn’t work either. Like the Dvorak keyboard, you know there are clear advantages. But there’s an effort involved. Where do you start? How long is it going to take to switch? What if you are the only one doing it?
That last sentence brings me to the last point (for today). You WILL be the only one doing it! Others will be doing whatever they are doing. That’s why change can be a lonely thing. You may be going against what you have learned, what your family does, what others are doing. To give a simple example, you will need to learn this phrase: “No, thank you.” Over and over again. Here’s the good news about that though. Once you get used to it, you can do it more easily, even with gusto, and not feel obligated.
This is where it starts. You can then figure out what you want to say YES to that fits in with your new goals and your new vision of who you want to be. You can begin to learn about what gives you health and what doesn’t. Learning something new that fits in with what you want for yourself and what your life is like is the beginning of real change. That’s when you begin to own it.
PS. More about habit change in my upcoming new book, Lose Weight? Exercise More? I
Don’t Think So! Check out the introduction and first chapter here.
All the best,
© 2019-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.