Advertising
Advertising

Published on February 5, 2019

How to Overcome Your Resistance to Change to Live a Better Life

How to Overcome Your Resistance to Change to Live a Better Life

As you navigate the journey to change your life, you have probably noticed things are not always easy. It can feel as though you are fighting yourself every step along the way. This can cause your transformation to feel draining and impossible to accomplish.

If you have felt this way and you are ready to change your life for the better, you are going to need to overcome your resistance to change.

Why Do People Resist Change?

Most people want to change their life, but are discouraged by the fears and self-doubt their false beliefs create. Even though you understand the benefits of changing your life, there is still the small fact that you are trying something new.

The toughest part about “new” experiences are the uncertainty surrounding your results. New experiences can transform your life in the most astounding of ways. However, there is also the possibility your new experiences can cause the quality of your life to drastically deteriorate.

As a result, your mind is left with a difficult decision. It can encourage your transformation and accept the fact that things may not go as planned. Or your mind can obstruct your effort to change your life and do everything in its power to maintain status quo.

If you have experienced resistance when attempting to change your life, you already know your mind prefers status quo over change. In your mind’s defense, it just wants to make sure you are safe. That is your minds number one objective every single day.

Your mind does not believe your goals are worth the possibility of you suffering a severe injury. Even if your current habits may be destructive, your mind considers those “safe” risks. They are deemed “safe” because you are still alive.

This helps explain why many people struggle with eating healthy. They understand the risks of unhealthy eating, but they are facing so much resistance every time they try to change their diet. For many, they do not successfully change their diet until they have a heart attack or diagnosed with cancer.

You can probably guess why. It is because their mind truly understands that continuing with the “same ole” is actually a life-threatening choice.

The Benefits of Changing Your Life

To help lower your mind’s initial resistance to change, you are going to need to do a little homework. A good place to start is by outlining the benefits of changing your life. If you are attempting to find a new job, list the benefits of your new job.

Advertising

Make sure you go deeper than, “to make more money”. Why do you want to make more money? Is it because you want to provide for your family? Maybe you want to purchase your first home or pay off your debt?

If you want to provide for your family, list the reason this goal is so important to you. Explore what would happen if you were unable to provide for your family and why you cannot allow that to happen.

If you want to pay off your debt, outline the stress and anxiety you feel because of your debt. Then research some of the side-effects of stress and the benefits of managing your stress levels.[1]

You want to make it as real as you can for your mind because you want your mind to see the benefit of change and the danger of inaction.

This article will help you understand more about the importance of change:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

How to Overcome Your Resistance to Change

1. Adopt a Growth Mindset

Another reason you may find yourself resisting change is because you do not believe you will get the desired result. You may have noticed, there are plenty of people who no longer believe they change their life for the better.

They dread every Monday they have to go to work, and pray that every tomorrow is Saturday. They feel powerless to change their life and believe things will always be the way they are.

If you want to overcome your resistance to change, you must believe change is possible. No one like wasting their time and your mind is no different. If it believes you are not going to succeed, it is going to try to stop you before you start.

One of the best ways to overcome this issue is to adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that you can learn and develop the skills necessary to better your life.[2]

Advertising

By empowering yourself with a growth mindset, you will no-longer be restrained by your self-doubt and fear of failure. Your fears and self-doubt cause you to procrastinate on changing your life. Think about it, who wants to waste their time doing something they know is going to fail?

2. Understand That Failure Is Not Guaranteed

The mindset hack is to help your mind understand that failure is not guaranteed. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to expose your mind to new possibilities. You do this by reading, listening, and watching people in similar situations talk about their journey to success.

As you listen to people talk about their successes and their failures, you start to realize two things:

First, the path to success is not as straight as people would have you think. You live in a social media world where everyone is sharing only the best parts of their life. People rarely share the difficulties, which can create a false feeling of failure because your life is not as perfect as theirs. The truth is their life is not perfect either. They are simply not sharing their struggles.

The second thing you will realize is failure is a part of success. Think of success and failure as two-halves of the same coin. You will be hard-pressed to find someone who has experienced success without experiencing opposition.

The key take-away from these two realizations is the fact what we call “failure”, the successful speak of as their “moment of clarity”. If you want to overcome your resistance to change, you must see failure the same way. Failure is not something to avoid, nor is it always a sign that something is impossible. Failure is simply an opportunity for improvement.

3. Build Your Confidence in Yourself

We already touched on the uncertainty surrounding changing your life for the better. Now, you are going to discover the antidote to any apprehension surrounding uncertainty. If you want ensure you are not paralyzed by uncertainty, you need to build certainty (simple, right?).

Your natural question is, “how do I build certainty”? The truth is when it comes to change you can never remove all uncertainty. However, you can remove most of it if you prepare ahead of time.

Consider if you are nervous about buying your first home, what can you do to ease the tension?

If your resistance is based on whether you can afford the mortgage, then sitting down and creating a budget is a great way to ease your concern.

Advertising

There could also be apprehension because you have never purchased a home before. If that is the case, you will benefit from researching the process to buy your first home. You could also be worried that you will end up paying too much for the home. In this situation, there are several resources you can utilize to pinpoint the value of almost any home in any neighborhood.

As you spend time planning and understanding the change you want to make in your life, you will slowly remove the uncertainty. As you discover more, you will be more confident in your ability to navigate the rough terrain of changing your life.

4. Keep a Success Journal

In addition to improving your perception of the process, you want to improve your perception of yourself.

In order to overcome your resistance to change, you are going to need to trust and believe in yourself.

When you face a new situation, you will wonder if you have what it takes to successfully change your life. To quickly overcome this obstacle and maintain a positive perception of yourself, you need to keep a success journal.

In your success journal, write down all, and I do mean all of your successes. Your successes do not need to be about any particular aspect of your life. You are simply going to fill the pages with all of your triumphs.

Your successes could be you applying for your first job, asking that special someone out on a date, or setting up a retirement account. You will notice each of these successes are focused on you taking action. You can write down your successful outcomes as well, but I have found focusing on what you can control is more important.

For example, if you focused on attaining the job, you were allowing the decision of another person to play a role in your perception of yourself.

There will be times that you apply for a job that was already assigned to someone. The company simply posted the position because they are required to do so by law. It had little to do with you being qualified or not, they just already had their person.

The same holds true for asking that special someone on a date. Who cares if they said yes or no? You should be proud of yourself for simply asking. Asking someone on a date is what you can control, and if you keep asking the people you like, you will get a yes.

Advertising

Now there is a place for you to share the encouragement of others in your success journal as well. If you help someone and they show their appreciation with a kind note or a few words of encouragement, write them in your journal.

Then as you find yourself doubting your ability to successfully change your life, read a few pages out of journal. You will quickly regain the proper perspective and realize you have what it takes to achieve your goals.

5. Appeal to Your Emotional Side

According to the book Dual-Process Theories in Social Psychology, while the left side of your brain appreciates facts and figures, your right side will appreciate vivid imagery in the form of metaphors and personal stories.

Your success journal is a plea to the right side of your brain. By allowing yourself to relive your stories of success, you are empowering your mind to visualize your life post-transformation.

Your mind naturally looks for the negative result because it is focused on keeping you alive. This causes your mind to be on the lookout for danger. That is why your local news will start with twenty minutes of their most dangerous stories. It is hard for your mind to allow you to turn the channel as you begin to worry about your safety.

To help shift your focus, it will be beneficial for you to include things you are grateful for you in your success journal.

A good rule of thumb is to write one thing you are grateful for, each time you find yourself reflecting on something you do not like. By being intentional with your actions, you can train your mind to look for the good.

Read and write in your success journal on a daily basis and you will quickly realize you have already accomplished so much in your life.

Final Thoughts

Overcoming your resistance to change starts in the mind. If you want to change your life for the better, you must believe it is possible and in your best interest to do so. Otherwise, you will find yourself giving into your resistant mind’s call to maintain status quo.

More Resources About Making Changes

Featured photo credit: Ani Kolleshi via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Undre Griggs

Coaching To Help Professionals And Organizations Change Their Beliefs So They Can Get Results.

How to Find Your Inner Strength and Let It Shine How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Stop Feeling Stagnant at Work The Real Reason Why You Hate Working (And How to Turn It Around) How to Practice Guided Meditation for Sleep to Calm the Mind How to Raise Your Self Worth and Trust Yourself More

Trending in Mental Strength

1 Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason 2 How to Use a 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness 3 How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) 4 Nothing Makes You Happy: Here’s Why and What to Do 5 How to Not Be Sad When It Feels Like Everything Is Going Wrong

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 12, 2019

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

In our diverse world, where everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and has their own opinions just about everything, there is a rather universal idea we all – regardless of age, race, location, gender — embrace…

We all want to be happy.

We want to feel that we matter, are loved, appreciated, problem-free, care-free, and financially secure. And this has become one of the most obsessive quests of our society—to be happy, at all cost, by all means.

Happiness has undisputed benefits—supported by countless studies—to about pretty much everything in our lives—from our mental or physical state, to careers, relationships, finances.

Although the self-help industry is still having a sunshine moment with its advice on how to get to this coveted state, no one (that I’m aware of) has come up with The Magic Potion—that one thing or action or thought—that can make us all content and whole for good.

Of course, we also all are knowledgeable enough to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And that it’s often a combination of things that each one of us should intentionally do daily in order to reach that enchanted place where everything is intensely bright and upbeat.

The reason that there are multiple antidotes to feeling gloomy is that there may be a million different explanations and their nuances of why someone is unhappy. It’s pretty much a different cause, path and experience for everyone.

Top this with the “hedonic treadmill” phenomenon[1] —and you end up with an incessant (and rather tiring) pursuit of something that, quite frankly, no one has been able to define in concreate measurable terms.

The second problem with happiness is that all of us become so hung up on the goal itself—that utopian state that we want to get to “one day.”

Naturally, you can spend your whole life waiting for happiness to finally come knocking on your door, hoping, anticipating, existing in perpetual discontent—and the moment may never come.

And then, looking back, you may ask yourself—was I truly that miserable or did I fall a victim of the happiness craze?

That is—how can you know if you are really unhappy, if happiness means different things for everyone, it’s impossible to measure directly, and it’s rather fleeting?

So, let’s start from the beginning— and examine the cause of why you’re unhappy, the symptoms and the treatment.

Symptoms of Unhappiness

According to the wellness site Mind Body Green, some of the most common manifestations you are not happy are:[2]

  • Feeling like you’re not as good as other people
  • Feeling like a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control
  • Feeling like your daily life is meaningless and task-driven
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic
  • Protecting your heart with steel walls
  • Trying to fit in and belong, but rarely feel like you do
  • Feeling beaten down by the challenges you face in life
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or chronically worried
  • Feeling like you’re not appreciated enough

If this sounds like you, on a regular day, then you are not a happy fella, my friend.

Reasons for Feeling Unhappy

The most important indication that things are not great (at least in your mind) is the sense of “something missing.” You may not know what it is, but you feel hollow, incomplete. And you are aware that something needs to happen to make you come alive again.

Of course, finding the reason for your woes is vital to prescribing (to yourself) the right steps to make it all better.

Advertising

So, here are some of the most common reasons why you may feel heavy-hearted, or “like the joy has been sucked out of my life.”

Lack of Meaning

Everyone who’s someone in the happiness-advice trade will tell you that this is one of the main causes (of not THE biggest) of feeling blah. Especially relevant for our professional lives, lack of significance can be a dream-downer.

An excellent piece in the New York Times talks about Harvard graduates who make $1.2 million a year in salary, but still feeling miserable and trapped in what they describe as “wasting my life” existence.[3]

Simply put—you may feel unhappy because you need the “Why” in your life, as I also wrote in a previous post How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life.

Happiness Disruptors

Even perceived problems can feel quite real to many of us. Undeniably, though, any personal, financial, career, physical complications can make your happiness aspirations plummet.

The constellation of all the issues or walls you can run into can be quite vast. For instance, you don’t like the way you look, you don’t make enough money, don’t have any friends or significant other, your health is fragile.

All these can be serious impediments to an undisturbed-joyfulness type of life.

Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

Few years ago (2003), a paper by the psychologist Roy Baumeister rocked the science world. Titled “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” it presented the idea (supported by research) that self-esteem and happiness are linked.[4]

Specifically, high self-esteem leads to greater happiness.

In addition, according to the famous American author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, the main reason people are unhappy is because they lack self-respect—that is, they value others’ opinions above their own. Of course, it makes sense—and surely, it rings true with many of us too.

Personality

Linked to the above is another hindrance to becoming relentlessly upbeat, which may prove slightly challenging to overcome, if even possible—your personality.

Of course, not per the self-help industry which thrives on the assumption that you can, with your own willpower, become a different person altogether. Namely—a much better version of the current you.

But what the Wise Men also tell us is that you are either born to be a silver-lining kind of person or you are not.

You can, of course, work on yourself to start seeing the glass half-full (vs half-empty). But you may never reach the gregariousness of someone who is just born with a more care-free temperament.

Unreasonably High Expectations

Having high expectations of yourself can be beneficial, according to research.[5] It leads to higher performance—a phenomenon called the Pygmalion effect.

Having too high expectations of yourself, though, may be counter-productive. You can run into all slew of mental health issues—depression, self-sabotaging, self-punishment, etc. And it can spill over all areas of your life.

It’s certainly a case for future investigation.

Advertising

Social Trends

It will take perhaps at least few articles to list all the reasons why we can feel unhappy (a book even!).

So, some of the other causes of being disgruntled with your life can be: long hours at work, “always-on” culture bread by the internet, increased screen time,[6] or boredom with one’s life (i.e. lack of excitement).

Addiction to Unhappiness

Apparently, you can also develop an addiction to unhappiness[7] —that is, some people like negative feelings and are “happy to be unhappy.” Rather disturbing, indeed.

Unexplainable Reasons

Or, sometimes, you just can’t put your finger on one thing, or on anything, for this matter—you don’t know for sure what makes you feel unhappy, nor what will make you happy. It feels like it’s everything—your whole life is a mess.

But that’s not the end of the story. The most important questions you should be asking yourself are:

Why? What’s the cause of my unhappiness?

Because you can’t fix it when you don’t know what’s broken, right?

5 Steps You Can Take to Figure Out The Why

So, if you tick most of the symptoms above, it’s very likely that you are not living in Dream-land right now.

Here is my advice on how to find your lumps in the batter.

1. Mull over What “Happy” Means to You

Happiness can take different shapes—hedonic pleasure, life satisfaction, desire fulfillment.[8] All of these—separately or together—can deliver to us sprinkles of joy.

And because our lives are so diverse, the above will translate into different pursuits for each one of us.

For instance, my hedonic weekend happiness means reading a book or writing, while for someone else—it’s socializing, taking a walk, or going on a shopping spree at the mall.

Or, my life satisfaction can be to have a big family and leave a mark in the world this way. For others, it may be going after fame and fortunes. But either way, don’t fall for the society’s “narrative traps”[9]—that a bigger pay check, house, a certain job, person, etc. will give you a never-ending stream of bliss. It won’t, science confirms over and over.

So, once you know what your happiness vision board looks like, you will have a better idea of what’s “missing” in your life.

2. Re-Visit Your Expectations

As I already mentioned, unreasonable expectations you or others have set for yourself can be deterring you from feeling gleeful.

For one thing, aspirations often can become outdated. What you wanted ten or five years ago (or even six months ago) may not be relevant to your situation today and will need to be filed into a mental cabinet.

Another issue is that our culture is putting an exponential pressure on all of us to perform more and better, to try and stretch the 24-hours a day into 30, to chase kudos and recognition. Any outcome that has earned less than the gold is punishable by exclusion for the cool crowd, by receiving less in perks, bonuses, and appreciation even.

Advertising

As a result, anxiety, depression and all their dark friends start creeping into our minds and tint everything else that may be giving us joy and satisfaction.

So, taking periodic audit of your expectations—their validity and importance place on your happiness list, is pivotal to stopping unhappiness spread into your life.

3. Examine Your Way of Thinking

At the heart of the so-called Rational Emotive Behavior Theory (REBT),[10] which was established by the American psychologist Albert Ellis in 1956, is the idea that it’s never the actual event that upsets us.It’s our interpretation and thoughts about it. By inference, changing our thoughts will reduce (and hopefully remove altogether) our anxiety.

Let’s take this a stretch further. Positive (not delusional) thinking has been long proclaimed to be a winner when it comes to mental health. If you find yourself going down the spiral of negative inner dialogue, you must stop yourself immediately. It’s unhappiness trap.

But it’s not easy-breezy, of course, to do such conscious policing all the time. It can become a habit, though, psychologists tell us. We can teach ourselves to quell negativity, and there are many things that can be done: How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

And don’t forget to be grateful. It’s the best happiness shot there is.

4. The Good Old Pros and Cons

Although it may appear to be a less fascinating way to figure out whether you are unhappy or not, the pros-and-cons list has been around for a long time—and it’s still an excellent tool to let you examine things closely, evaluate alternatives and come to satisfactory answers.[11]

Interestingly, as history tells us, this invention is credited to Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Notorious for his productivity, he applied the pros-cons exercise to almost everything in his life.

The beauty of the method lies in its simplicity too. So, go back to the drawing board and start penciling down the things that you like and don’t like (make you unhappy) about your life, and the things that you know with certainty to make you happy today.

Of the “things-that-make me-unhappy-about-my-life” subset, have a think what you can do to move these along the continuum—to the brighter side.

You may be surprised to discover that you have much greater say in the building of your own happiness than chance, circumstances or others.

5. Mental Cleansing

Mental health is in the limelight quite often these days. And rightly so.

The way we care about our bodies and minds directly links to many of our life outcomes.

Mental clutter can become a well-being stumbling block. Overthinking, old grudges, past events, can all make it very challenging to feel elevated and content.

Doing a mental cleanse once a month can be the remedy to set yourself on the path to happiness recovery.

Pay a visit to the past to confront your fears, get rid of the people who bring you down, free yourself from any emotional baggage. It will help you silence the bully in your head.

Take a periodic stock of all the things that make you anxious and declutter. Why hold on to the things that you know to bring you grief anyway?

Advertising

Unless you are one of those unhappiness addicts I mentioned above (which calls for a more radical intervention), carrying emotional baggage without doing anything to unload it, is a anti-glee behavior.

Bonus Advice

Finding our Achilles’ heel of happiness can sometimes be a tall order. It takes time, conscious efforts and an honest desire to make it better. It also alludes that we are ready to take the plunge into the self-help territory and take actual steps to improve our situation.

But it’s not a lost cause, the research tells us. It’s possible to make yourself happy on a consistent basis.

Here are few universal suggestions:

One of the things you can do is to inject some meaning back in your life. And the best way to go about this is to flip the narrative. Case in point—the story of John F Kennedy’s visit to NASA in 1962. He ran into a janitor and when asked him what he was doing, he replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

The happiness guru Gretchen Rubin tells us that there are two major path that lead a more fulfilling life:[12]

One way is through our relationships—having strong bonds and feeling that we belong.

The other route is through developing better self-knowledge—i.e. what things make us us, or glad, or sad. And base our way of living on our own values and goals, not others’.

The feeling that we are not making progress is a definite joy crusher. We should compare wisely, find our passions, and diversify our experiences. These are not magic pills but more so opportunities to make our time here worthwhile and fulfilling.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is notoriously hard to pin down.

There is no one definition of contentment, nor one way to ‘fix’ it. It’s one of those things that you can’t quantify and it’s idiosyncratic.

More and more we hear a murmur from the science world that perhaps the best way to happiness is acceptance—of your failings and shortcomings, of the fact that life is imperfect.

Knowing what makes us disgruntled is, of course, needed to find the right remedy for each one of us. Feeling constantly unhappy is not good and necessitates closer examination.

Finally, beware of the narrative trap that if you are unhappy, there is something wrong with you. It may be normal, for a while at least. Otherwise, how would you appreciate the highlight moments of your life if you don’t see them against the backdrop of the gloomy times?

Or, as the great singer Leonard Cohen tells us:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

More About Staying Happy

Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next