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Why You Resist Change and What to Do About It

October 29, 2022

Life guarantees that you’re always changing inside and out. KEY POINTS We can evolve within our lifetime to become more flexible and aligned with our deepest motivations and values. When […]

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Diana Hill, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, international trainer, and sought-out speaker on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and compassion

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Life guarantees that you’re always changing inside and out.

KEY POINTS

  • We can evolve within our lifetime to become more flexible and aligned with our deepest motivations and values.
  • When you hold onto control at all costs, your attempts to control change end up controlling you.
  • Growing pains can feel good when you lean into them and learn to embrace them.

Whether you like it or not, you are always changing–inside and out. Your emotions, thoughts, body, and circumstances are in constant flux.

In a recent conversation with ACT researcher Joseph Ciarrocchi, we explored how to adapt and evolve with change instead of resisting it. When you can harness change for the good, you grow more flexible and stronger over time.

Why Do You Resist Change?

In his book What Makes You Stronger, Dr. Ciarrochi writes about 4 main reasons. Do any of these fit you?

  1. You are avoiding uncertainty. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to have things stay the same because you know what to expect! You don’t change a job, leave a relationship, cut your hair or try a new social media platform because it’s more comfortable. When we stick with what we have, even when it’s no longer working for us, we miss the opportunity of calling in something better. Avoiding uncertainty can prevent your learning and growth.
  2. You don’t want to feel incompetent. Often change involves going back to square one. Our egos can keep us stuck when we expect ourselves to be experts or gauge our worth based on our performance. Being a beginner requires vulnerability but most of us resist that emotion as it can feel challenging. . To evolve and adapt to changing times, you need to allow for variability, mistakes, and new beginnings.
  3. You don’t like feeling like others are controlling you. When it’s not your choice to change, you might battle it because you feel out of control. Maybe you feel forced to change your position at work, end a relationship, or stay up to date with changing technology. Sometimes pushing back on changes like these only end up hurting you more.
  4. Change is uncomfortable and takes effort. It takes energy to adapt and mental effort to learn new things. As children, we are constantly in a state of effortful growth but as we grow older, we become less flexible and more fixed in our ways. Learning how to be comfortable with discomfort is a skill that needs practice, especially as we age.

4 Ways To Welcome Change

Process-based models of therapy offer a new way of looking at change. You can face these barriers to change by changing how you relate to your thoughts, self-story, emotions, and behavior. Not only have humans evolved over thousands of years, but we can also evolve within our lifetime, to become more flexible and aligned with our deepest motivations and values.

  1. Ride the wave of uncertainty. Uncertainty is doubt, unpredictability, and hesitancy about the future. You can best ride these waves in the present. You don’t know what will happen next, but can you handle what is happening right now? When you notice your mind wandering to worry, orient your attention back to the wave you are on, not the next one coming. Can you find balance in this moment?
  2. Choose incompetence. The best thing for your ego is to lose it! Try new things, be a beginner and skillfully fumble. You can start small. Try cooking a new dish, take a different exercise class, or go bowling. Focus your attention on making progress over being an expert.
  3. Let go of control. When you hold on to control at all costs, your attempts to control change end up controlling you. You can practice letting go and willingness with your mind, body, and behavior. Imagine yourself welcoming change with open hands and a willing heart.
  4. Enjoy the discomfort of growth. Remember those Jane Fonda exercise videos where she said, “feel the burn?” Growing pains can feel good when you lean into them and embrace them. Feel the burn of change and enjoy making progress, taking action toward your values, and learning from your mistakes. It will only make you stronger.

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