Why We Hate Change

September 12, 2013
Reading time: 5 minutes


Do you want something in your life to change?

If you asked a thousand people that question and even one person said, “No,” I would be shocked. Flabbergasted even!

We all want to make changes, to improve our quality of life and expand the breadth of our experiences. In order to improve our circumstances we know we must first change our behavior. We may clearly see the goal, visualizing what we want, and even have a clear understanding of the steps necessary to achieve our goals.

So why aren’t we all rich, successful, in love and perfectly fit?

Did you giggle at the above statement? Did it strike you as ridiculous and surreal, imagining yourself and everyone you know transformed into affluent, happy, skinny people with great relationships? WHY?! The only thing standing between you and that world is… you. You and your inherent aversion to change. “But I don’t hate change!”, you protest. “I WANT things in my life to change.” It is one thing to want change and it is another thing to pursue and create change. Often in life we replace talk for action. Look critically at the changes that you want in your life. Change, by definition, means to make the form, nature, content or future course of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. You must be an active participant in change! Are you actively pursuing change, or are you sitting on your couch hoping the UPS guy will deliver it to your door? 

There is a very apt saying, “Change occurs when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing.” That is how most change ultimately occurs, only when you have become unbearably uncomfortable with the status quo. Do you have to wait until you’re so fed up with your old life that you can’t stand another minute of it? No. You can decide to welcome the discomfort of change now.

What do you want to change?

  • Get a better job
  • Make a career change
  • Find love
  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Write a book
  • Get a degree
  • Start a family

All of these lofty goals are reachable and begin with changing your consciousness and then matching that with changed actions. It will be uncomfortable, and here are a few of the reasons why we are seemingly so allergic to change.

Change is uncomfortable, an aversion to change is deep-seated in human nature. A 2010 study conducted at the University of Arkansas found that people overwhelmingly found older or more traditional objects or behaviors to be preferable. In a chocolate taste test one group was told the chocolate company had been producing the bar for 3 years, the other group was told 73 years. Overwhelmingly, the group that thought the chocolate recipe was 73 years old rated the chocolate much better tasting than the group who thought the recipe was new. We have a built-in rating system that says change = bad. Being aware of this response is a good way to stay on track with the new habits you’re trying to build.

Another reason that people don’t make changes is that subconsciously they fear that if they change one thing then they may end up worse off than they are now. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t. For instance, I know an overweight couple. They both describe themselves as very happily married and I have never seen any behavior to think otherwise. However, about twice a year he decides to go on a diet. He is very motivated and disciplined for a couple of weeks and just as he starts to see results his wife becomes difficult. I don’t know how aware of the cause and effect either of them is, but his change makes her very uncomfortable and she begins to act in ways that are atypical of her character. This tension in their relationship is the catalyst for him abandoning his diet, and as the pounds add back on, their relationship returns to the status quo. On a subconscious level he has a belief that if he changes his weight that could endanger his marriage. It’s an insidious deal he has struck with himself. I think that his case is not unique, that many people avoid making changes that they deeply want to make because those changes would upset the balance of their relationships in a negative way. Change is an uncomfortable process and not just for us, in all honesty it’s uncomfortable for others. People don’t really want others to change and for many reasons. Some will be resentful and jealous, others will worry they may no longer have a place or a role in your life and others believe that the change will ultimately change who you are at your core. In essence, we fear not only the uncomfortable process of the change, but the effect the change will have once it’s made. It’s fear on two levels!

We can talk ourselves into or out of just about anything we want. We do that using a couple different methods, one is convincing ourselves that we’re happy with the way things are. ‘This isn’t really the relationship I wanted, but he’s a nice guy and he loves me.’ ‘This isn’t the job I really wanted but I am lucky to have it.’ ‘Everything is FINE. Why do things have to change?’ Even though we KNOW we aren’t happy, we tell ourselves that we are happy enough. Sadly, settling isn’t the path to any kind of fulfillment, it’s the road to that place we mentioned before, that place where we finally become so outrageously unhappy that we are forced to change. Save yourself that future pain and don’t compromise. Whenever you compromise you always give up more than you expected.

You can change.
Say it with me,

I can change!

Did you mean it? One of the greatest tragedies of any life to my thinking isn’t one of the obvious ones like illness or accidents or divorce, it’s the slow, silent death of dreams, which really comes down to a lack of desire. Why didn’t you try to write the next great American novel? Why didn’t you pursue your dream of opening a custom cabinetry shop? Why didn’t you go to medical school? Is it because you didn’t think you could do it? Maybe you wouldn’t have been successful on the first attempt, or perhaps even the fifth, but odds are with all the practice you were getting with early failures you would have set yourself up for a huge win at some point.

There you have it, we hate change. But ultimately what are you going to hate more? I would say that the pain of regret is far worse than the discomfort of change. The bottom line is: change is uncomfortable. But do you really have any other option?

Thought into Action
Think critically about what you want to change in your life. Are you just wishing for change or are you taking real steps to create that change? Take one step toward change today.


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