Why is Change Such a Challenge?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
For many, the recommendations and suggestions our doctors and other health professionals make are not new. However, their suggestions are different from the way that most of us live our day to day lives. We know candy from the vending machine adds empty calories to our diet and can be harmful to our teeth. Yet, it tastes delicious, is readily available when we hit a weak spot in the day, and finding anything else to eat requires a good bit of effort. So, we keep on snacking. We also certainly know that exercise and a well balanced meal do more for us than any pill or powder, but we can hardly squeeze in a workout after a long work day let alone eat three squares. And since we never have enough time or energy to do what we need to do feed the kids, clean up the house and handle the bills how can we possibly get to bed any earlier, make that appointment to see a therapist or get in for a check up? Yes, we know what we should be doing, but doing it? Well, that's another story altogether.

Why? Because it's difficult. That's the plain truth. Any behavior change that challenges old behaviors will cause anxiety, not only for us, but for those around us too. So, there you have it: change is both hard and scary. Therefore, when we decide to make changes in our lives it forces us to examine how serious we are about the change, because the next step is taking action. We can't just decide to make a change and then keep doing the same thing. Can we?

Of course not. It's time to do something different. It's time to examine the old behavior, understand how and why it worked for a time, and then explore new ways of thinking, feeling, eating, living. No more zoning out. No more going to the vending machine at 3:30 when we hit that afternoon slump. We have to plan a snack, maybe bring it from home, you know, think about it beforehand. In fact, it might also mean that in order get the results we want, we'll have to make several changes, get some support to stay with it, and then keep working. We might even make others uncomfortable while we're changing. We can't predict what will happen. That's why it's so scary, and so difficult.

The wonderful news about developing a healthy lifestyle is that it is not an all or nothing, win or fail deal. It's cumulative. Choose one thing at a time and gradually incorporate incremental changes. Start small. Schedule an appointment, get to the gym, do something you enjoy, and be willing to remain engaged and committed to the process. Stay open and active and with any luck the results will follow.

Written by Stefanie C. Barthmare, M.Ed., LPC