The reason we don’t change is pretty simple when you think about it. Habits, beliefs, thoughts, and “paradigms” all have a lot to do with it, but before we jump right in, let’s recap exactly how our belief system works:
- Whatever we practice becomes a habit (or belief).
- Habits (Beliefs) are rooted in our subconscious, where they function without our awareness or our permission.
- Since habits (beliefs) are alive, they will, like anything living, fight to stay alive.
- We have learned to feel certain ways, out of habit (belief).
It may not seem fair, but what was created as habit years and years ago, still remains within the psyche today. Insisting on dessert after every meal, running late to work most days, drinking coffee in the morning, sitting in traffic on the expressway on the way to work (instead of taking the train), fighting with the spouse about money, feeling sad during the holidays – all habits! I could go on and on…
Habits are at work in all of us right now, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. And because habits are so cunning and commanding, they get in the way of any positive life developments that are being made.
Three Ways We Avoid Change
When new information conflicts with our old habits, it throws us for a loop! We tend to opt for “outs” so we don’t have to embrace the new idea. Earnie Larsen, in his book, Stage II Recovery, explains three ways we use our “outs” to our detriment.
Out 1. We discredit the information
After reading or hearing something new, our instinct might be to think, “This is ridiculous! Who would ever believe this?” The new thoughts are challenging the old thoughts, and it doesn’t “feel” right. Â New information heard becomes “untrue” simply because we can’t process something within our brain’s old way of thinking and believing.
Out 2. We discredit the source
When hearing or reading something not previously heard, and that something is not within our present way of thinking, we can quickly weaken the source that brought us this new thought. “That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If he were walking in my shoes, he wouldn’t say such a stupid thing!”
The reality is, the source of information can be questioned almost anytime it’s presented. However, when what is heard doesn’t fit into our current way of thinking (our belief), it’s easy to discount the presenter almost without question or further inquiry and research.
Out 3. We remove ourselves from the source of the conflicting information
In other words, we remove ourselves from the group that is giving the information that we don’t like. The tendency is to say, “I’ll never go back to that group! None of them has their head on straight!”
As a Psychotherapist and Life Coach, these “outs” are rampant in the consulting room and it is the number one reason that clients quit. “Quit” is such a harsh word to use; however, only 10% of those who begin therapy actually end therapy because they feel they’ve received what they needed. Ending feels like the natural (and desired) transition. The other 90% quit because they just aren’t able to fit the new information into their old way of thinking and believing (yet!).
Often, clients go to therapist after therapist or coach after was searching for one who is less confrontive and more in alignment with their line of thinking.
If a client hears something from Therapist X that they don’t like (it doesn’t fit into their current belief system), they’ll move along to Therapist Y. When the going gets rough there, and they hear something that again doesn’t fit their current way of thinking (their current belief system), they’ll move on to Therapist Z.
Along the way, the client who can’t seem to fit the new information into their old way of thinking will use Out #1 by discrediting the new information given to them, Out #2 by discrediting the person who told them the new information and, finally, Out #3 when they say, “I’m out of here. This is quackery!” They move on to yet another new therapist or coach. And, probably, the cycle repeat.
Don’t Be a Cop Out
Embracing the idea that whatever we do over and over and over again, ad-nauseum, becomes habit, will make us aware that every single thing we do, say and feel is, in fact, a habit! Even this idea may be a new one for you, but don’t “out” it yet…
The reality is, if someone has been depressed for a very long time, the depression is now a habit – it’s engrained in the belief system. If we haven’t slept in the same bed with our spouse in 5 years, the behavior is now a habit – it’s just part of the pattern and life that is now engrained. When our physician tells us we now have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, then we still don’t start to work out or change our eating habits, it is because of what is engrained in us. These are our habits. These are our beliefs.
And, of course, we can use the excuse, “This is the way I am and I can’t change.” Not so! This is merely removing yourself from the source of the conflicting information (Out #3) by being in denial of a new (and challenging) reality.
What you DO is not the same as who you ARE. Simply saying, “This is the way I am and I can’t change” is a copout.
Old habits die hard, but they simply must die if any real change is going to occur. The power of persuasion is huge and there is a constant battle between what WAS and what WILL BE. In the middle is habit.
As Alan Deutschman reminds us in Change or Die, we are more likely to die than to change. But if we are to be one of those 10% who really WILL change, we must embrace, know and believe, no matter what, that the three ‘outs’ given above are real and true.