Change is never easy. Most of the time, it is YOU who decides that a change is required - you want to have more "free time" in the New Year, you have a weight loss goal that you've been putting off, or an educational vocation that you can finally afford to embark on! When it is you who has decided that the change is necessary, it does not make your goal easier, but because it is YOU that has invoked the idea of change, your mindset and perspective is more apt to be positive and better prepared to take the needed steps to achieve your goal.
But what if it wasn't you that decided your life needed to change. What if, due to circumstances beyond your control - a death, a financial loss, or a job termination forced you to re-evaluate your current life situation. In cases like these, our mindset tends to do the opposite, it fights tooth and nail to hold on to the past and the way things were which makes the imposed change even more arduous. According to researchers at Harvard University(1) there are several reasons why we oppose imposed change, lets discuss the three of them and what to do to foster the change needed:
1) Focus: We see what we expect to see. (1)
The more attention a task demands, the less attention we pay to other things in our field of vision. So, if for example, you've toyed with the idea of obtaining your Master's degree but your job keeps you so busy that you cannot even imagine finding the time to embark on such an endeavor, chances are, if ever you were given the opportunity, your mind is so FOCUSED on your day to day job and what it entails that it may set you up to decline the offer due to "lack of time". What can you do about it? Since we are discussing imposed change, the factor that may be eliciting the change may be a financial loss. In such a case, it is recommended that (1) you build your capability of sensing, even predicting, the future. This would require you to really sit down with yourself and if need be, chart out "what if" scenerios with back up plans and alternate options and choices that allow you the time you need to focus on your Master's Degree. These plans and options may involve your significant other to participate and/or contribute time/energy/finances, in which case, an open dialogue is always warranted.
2) Belief: We are destined to be biased. (1)
According to psychologist Leon Festinger and his cognitive dissonance theory, we all have a set of values and beliefs of which we are incredibly protective of (2). For example, even though I as a nutritionist that has found that a whole food plant-based lifestyle really agrees well with me, I am very cautious as to who I recommend such a lifestyle to if the goal is weight loss. First and foremost, I am very selective in choosing to use the word "lifestyle" versus "diet". Secondly, when it comes to weight loss there are so many strategies that are available that don't even include changing the foods we eat (exercise, portion control, more sleep, less stress, more water). The solution to such an issue would be to stay flexible and open to choices you have available to you. In the case of weight loss, instead of bracing yourself for your nutritionist to recommend a vegan diet (worst case scenario), allow yourself to creatively think of ways to prepare your meals so that even though the ingredients are the same, the way in which you cook them and how much you eat of it is what makes them healthier (grilling, air frying, baking vs deep frying). Try creating a win-win situation with your nutritionist versus an "all or none" circumstance.
3) Baggage: Experience isn't always a good thing. (1)
I am always reminded of Einsteins memorable quote "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." For example, everyone would like to have more free time to relax, to sleep, to spend more time with loved ones. But where do we "find" it? Well, we don't, we MAKE it! Yes, we actually have to ACTIVELY MAKE TIME for ourselves, otherwise, it will be taken from us (literally). The way we go about our daily tasks may be well within our comfort level but are we doing them as efficiently as we can in order "create" the free time we need. For example, your morning routine may include picking up a Starbucks on the way to work . Maybe you do it for the sheer enjoyment of having someone else make your coffee (I get it!) But when you see it for what it really is, an expensive time consumer, that could have been more productively spent at home with your loved ones enjoying a cup of java that you (or they) made for the both of you - does this not seem like the clearly better choice? The suggestion, when faced with switching up your routine, pause and seek the opinions of others. Ask the advise of others and remember just because you've been doing something the same way for 20 years, doesn't make it right - things have changed significantly over 20 years - keep up with the changes as the occur as it will make it easier to adapt and thrive. “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”(Einstein)
"It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It's the one that is most adaptable to change. Understanding what's holding us back is the first step in moving forward. This is a journey that we must all undertake if we have any chance of remaining relevant." (Darwin) Embrace change, be open to trying new things, and make sure that you feel "uncomfortable". (1)
1. Dominguez, Carlos. Everyone Knows Change Is Hard -- Here Are 3 Things Holding You Back. https://www.inc.com/carlos-dominguez/3-reasons-why-its-so-difficult-to-change-ourselves.html. (2017, Feb 15)
2. McLeod, S. A. (2018, Feb 05). Cognitive dissonance. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html