Dealing With Our Own Sabotage in Changing

Everyone realises that change is endemic to living, but none of us likes change being foisted on us.  Ironically however, we often resist changes we want to make ourselves.  Oh yes, we find ways to sabotage, resist and stall change, EVEN WHERE WE INSIST WE NEED CHANGE, AND SEE IT AS BENEFICIAL!

In this article, I will try to deal with the following questions:

Question 1 – How do we sabotage change?

We all have our own unique strategies to resist change.  Here are some popular resistance strategies. You might recognise them as ones that you deploy when faced with change.

More information needed – I see that change could be beneficial.  However, I must have more information first, to make certain.  The request for more information is a continuous procedure, and a superb way to delay change.

It’s not as grim – Things aren’t as bad as I first anticipated, so maybe I don’t need to make a change. This is more commonly referred to as the ‘flight to health’, and famously kicks in with married couples who are in trouble and reluctantly go to marriage counselling. Then, when they arrive to therapy, they decide their relationship isn’t as bad after all!

This right time – I can’t start this diet right now – I have a birthday party to attend next week.  Of course, there is always a reason why this isn’t the appropriate time.  I am wholeheartedly committed, but not yet!

The intellectual type – The intellectual has lots of time to discuss ideas behind proposed change, but never gets round to any practicalities of making a shift.  In other words, they never move from talk to action.

It’s the others! – I’m ready to make a change, and if it wasn’t for that lot we could move forward.  It’s their problem, not mine.

Question 2 – Why do we sabotage making a change?

Change threatens our ideas of control and security, which leaves us vulnerable.  Loss of control, vulnerability, and insecurity are emotional responses.  But in preference to admitting our feelings, we put up resistance to the change in our own unique way, using rationality to explain ourselves both to ourselves and to other people.

All of us resist change using one approach or another. The risk is that, in utilising our rational (left-side) brain to explain our emotional resistance leaves our resistance submerged, from ourselves|in our subconscious}. So the step of learning to identify our own resistance, when it kicks in, can be rather helpful – especially when the change we’re talking about is one we say we desire. Once we’ve identified our own resistance, what steps can we take?

Question 3 – What can we do about our own resistance?

Here are six strategies for working on our own resistance, based on my experience of change, with business clients and in my own life.

Work up your vision – Call it mission, vision, goals, or whatever.  Decide where you want to head in your work and personal life.  Once you have this direction, formulate some goals – that way, you have a timescale for action, and not just a woolly intention to do something ‘sometime’.  You should remember that, if you have no sense of direction, all change is bad!

Understand your values – Your values are what’s important to you, your moral compass.  Get clear on what they are.  Examples of values are achievement, authenticity, integrity, decisiveness, and friendship.  Being clear on your own values will help you to plot a course for change, and overcome your resistance where required.

The ought / should trap – Do you personally desire a change, or is it something you ‘ought’ or ‘should’ do?  If it’s ought or should, look at why you view it this way.  Are you pondering change just to get a thumbs up from others?  If you don’t want to change for your own personal reasons, dump the change.

Commit publicly – When you decide to publicise your intention to change, two things occur.  First, things can start to move in a way that facilitates making the change.  It might be coincidence, or it might be an unseen hand in the ether.  But whatever causes it, great numbers of people who embark on changes successfully say that ‘declaring your intent to change’ leads to momentum being gained.  Second, the people you’ve told will give you a bad time if you don’t follow through on your declared aims, resulting in embarrassment.  Risk of embarrassment is a major motivator to action!

Think through your beliefs – We all have beliefs on ourselves, e.g. ‘I’m no good in presentations’, or ‘I am risk averse’.  These beliefs evolve in our heads, often from our early days, or from events where things went wrong in some way.  It’s worth critically re-examining beliefs that hold you down.  Beliefs are not true or false.  They are just your beliefs, and they can be changed.  If you believe your beliefs are true, then think about the anorexic who thinks they are overweight.  Anorexics really do believe this.

Cut yourself some slack! – Perhaps most importantly, don’t go too self-critical on this.  It is natural to resist change – we need some stability in the world after all.  As human beings, we generally attempt to do the best we can.  While we can all improve, it doesn’t make us bad now.  So take it easy on yourself.

In finishing this article, I’ll leave you with one final thought.  If you want to take off to a brilliant future, all you need to do is to stop braking!  Reduce your own resistance, and you can achieve anything you want.

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