Why Change Is So Damned Difficult & What to Do About It

by Carol Hess on January 28, 2013

The day I knew I was going to quit smoking once and for all, I was pissed.  I didn’t want to stop.  I loved smoking.  But I stopped anyway.  Why?  Because I knew it was time for a change.

And guess what?  It wasn’t that difficult.  That change that I had always regarded as an almost insurmountable mountain to climb suddenly became, if not easily scaled, at least doable.

That’s the funny thing about change.  When you make that firm decision that’s the springboard for change, the change itself isn’t quite as difficult as you thought it was going to be.  It’s the damned commitment that’s the mountain to climb.

I should quit smoking.”

I wish I could stop being such a wimp.”

If only I didn’t get so worried about things.”

I want to lost weight.”

“I’m going to try not to yell at my husband so much.”

Look at the words I’ve emboldened.  Those are the words of wishful thinking.  They are not the words of decision.  They leave the back door wide open through which to run.  And run we do when the change starts to feel uncomfortable.

Carol’s Rule #1 for Change: 

Thou shalt make a firm commitment to change.  

You know what was the clincher that finally got me to quit smoking after 40 some years?  A friend told me that, as long as I allowed myself to run to the cigarette cave every time I felt uncomfortable, I would continue running to the food cave too.

Bingo!  That did it!  Apparently I wasn’t as concerned about what was happening to my lungs as I was about what was happening to my weight.  My anti-smoking crusader friend knew exactly what motivational button to push with me.  It worked.

(What’s that?  No, of course I didn’t lose weight when I quit smoking.  Get serious!  Turns out I’m a food cave runner whether I’m smoking or not.  But at least I no longer cough my brains out while I’m doing the running.)

Carol’s Rule #2 for Change:

Thou shalt find the most powerful motivational button thou has and push it hard. 

(Hint:  Making the change because someone else is nagging you is rarely sufficient motivation for change.  Naggers take note.)

Many, many, many times I have beaten myself up for not quitting smoking earlier in my life.  What was I thinking?  That I somehow had the get out of lung cancer free card?  And how could I spend all that money and stink up the house and myself with such a nasty habit?  Was I nuts?  No, just addicted.

A couple of years ago, I stopped beating myself up about smoking for so long.  There’s not a big incentive to change to more enlightened behavior, if you’re going to keep beating yourself up for less than enlightened behavior in the past.

Carol’s Rule #3 for Change:

Thou shalt not beat thyself up about what thou did or didn’t do in the past. 

The other day somebody said to me, “I can’t imagine you as a smoker.  I just can’t.”

I burst out laughing.  Most of the people in my life can’t imagine me not smoking.  Hell, I can’t imagine myself not smoking.  Surely the past seven non-smoking years are just an illusion, a mirage.  The mists will part, and there I’ll stand, puffing away on my beloved Tareyton.

The tagline for my favorite brand of cigarettes was, “We Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.”  Any of you who know me well aren’t the least bit surprised, are you?  I’m nothing if not stubborn.

But, you see, therein lies a problem – stubbornness.  If you want change to happen in your life, you’ve got to be willing to change your mind, change your priorities, change your values, change your actions.  That can be really, really hard for us stubborn types, especially if we’re women and used to getting criticized for changing our minds.  (That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.)

Carol’s Rule #4 for Change

Thou shalt change thy mind (and everything else it’s going to take to make the change happen). 

And there you have it – my four rules for making change happen.

Of course you and I know that change isn’t quite that straight forward or simple.  But you’ll be surprised how far these four little rules of the road can drive you down the path of change.

1.         Make a commitment.

2.         Discover your strongest motivator and use it.

3.         Don’t beat yourself up.

4.         Change your mind about who and what you can be.

(Hint:  Rule #4 is the secret to most successful change.) 

It’s your turn.  In the comments below, tell us how you changed your mind about who you were or what you could be.

by Carol Hess

14 comments

Categories Carol's Musings, Personal Empowerment, The Art of Star Polishing, The Mind Game

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Joanna Saunders January 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Great post, Carol. I am so ready to change. I will be hittng the button hard as I gear up to integrate myself back into my own life. I have been playing small for too long. I have been takng steps with the door wide open so I can run the moment it gets uncomfortable. And run I have. Again and Again and Again. Thank you Carol.

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avatar Carol Hess January 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

“I have been playing small for too long.” Those sound like the words of a woman who is ready to make a big change, Joanna. Go for it! I know you can do it.

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avatar Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce January 28, 2013 at 6:43 pm

All super important ‘commandments’! The last one really rings the bell for me. Why do I want to dig my heels in so stubbornly to cling to all the parts of myself I didn’t really like that much to begin with??!! Just because it’s ‘the way I’ve always been’? WTF? Who made the law that if we’ve ‘always’ handled ourselves a certain way (read playing small) we have to continue this forever after? It’s allowed. Change!! Who knew?? And hooray!

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avatar Carol Hess January 28, 2013 at 8:35 pm

It’s mind boggling to consider that we can actually change our behavior and thought patterns if they no longer serve us, isn’t it, Sarah? Downright liberating! I’ll join you in a hooray to that!

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avatar Sandi Amorim January 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Oy, number 3 is the hardest for me and number 4 ain’t no picnic either. For some reason, once I’ve made my up mind I don’t give myself a lot of room to change it, even when it might be the best thing to do.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear it was a Seth Godin quote that freed me up! He said, “Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff.” and suddenly, I did :)

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avatar Carol Hess January 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Good old Seth. The man is so wise it’s scary. Sometimes it’s a good thing to change our minds, and sometimes it’s not such a good thing. The trick comes in knowing when to do which! 😉

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avatar Ellen January 28, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I love this because it’s true. A little more than a year ago, I decided to lose weight, and so I did. I’d “tried” before. I’d even lost before. But what was different this time was it was a decision based in helping me feel good in my body. I already knew what to do, it was just the commitment that was lacking.

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avatar Carol Hess January 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Commitment is such a powerful force for change, isn’t it, Ellen? I’m not exactly sure what happens to create the commitment. It seems almost magical to me. One day it’s not there, and the next day it is. But I’m very glad when it appears on my horizon.

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avatar Lynn Hess January 29, 2013 at 12:17 am

“I’m not exactly sure what happens to create the commitment. It seems almost magical to me. One day it’s not there, and the next day it is. But I’m very glad when it appears on my horizon.”

This is absolutely true for me, too! Until I am damn good and ready to change something, I’m just not gonna do it, no matter how compelling the evidence. Then, at some point, a switch flips. I’m sure all the precontemplation, pondering, wishing, and everything that comes prior to that is instrumental in flipping it….but until it flips, the rebel in me will NOT change.

But, funny enough, once the switch DOES flip, change becomes pretty darn easy. Almost effortless. Because I’ve changed my self-concept to the point where the old behavior no longer makes sense.

You know what this means to me? That I can trust myself. I don’t have to beat myself up or tell myself I’m “doing it wrong” or “should” be doing anything other than what I’m doing. I’ll change when I’m ready, and when it’s the right time. I can be trusted.

Great article, Carol!!

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avatar Carol Hess January 29, 2013 at 5:40 am

“I’ll change when I’m ready, and when it’s the right time. I can be trusted.” Amen to that, Lynn!

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avatar San D January 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I am so set in my ways, and particulary set in who I project myself to be, that change is always a challenge on many levels. But I will change although I might have to be convinced while I kick and scream along the path. Recently we moved to Florida thinking we would snow bird back and forth to NJ. All of my friends were concerned about my relocation because I am a city girl, museums, theater, etc and they all worried about my sanity in the land of palm trees. I found a house that I love, and now 3 months later am in love with the sunshine, wildlife, people. I am reading more, knittting and sewing more, and taking time to smell those proverbial roses. I dread snowbirding, and we are talking about a permanent move. But this change was not anticipated, nor planned for. So sometimes change happens when you least expect it. We had been to this area before, but with the housing market so depressed the next thing you know we were buying a house…and well the rest is history. My point? Be OPEN to change!

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avatar Carol Hess January 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm

An excellent point to make, San D. Let’s make that Rule #5, shall we? I’m so glad you are enjoying what is a VERY big change on many levels.

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avatar Marjorie Perrier February 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Hi Carol,
I love how you are writing about change and writing about it from all different directions. It is as if you are unlocking change by uncovering all its aspects.
A wonderful task itself as well as unwinding and/or affecting that which has not been allowed to change. Makes me smile because I love it although I know it can be very hard and disconcerting for sure, but definitely a good thing. I am seeing this a lot now where writing is unlocking unlocking unlocking!!!
Much love,
Margie

Had to add dismantling all the myths. Love it!

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avatar Carol Hess February 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I love the concept of writing being a key to unlock a concept and uncover all its aspects. Thank you for that insight, Margie! As for change, yes, it can definitely be challenging and disconcerting and downright painful. But I suspect the end result makes it all worthwhile. At least I hope so! Stay tuned — I’ll let you know whether it is. :)

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