Why You Might Find Change Difficult

You may be aware that you need to make a change in your life. Perhaps you are looking at career options, or you are struggling in relationships with family and friends. The common denominator in all of your circumstances is you. We often lose sight of that fact when we evaluate our situations and desires and try to make decisions involving the direction our lives should take. When we remain stagnate, we wonder why? Maybe, the problem is that we aren’t taking enough ownership of our experience within our current life circumstances. Aside from what I can not control outside of me, I am in control of my belief system, self-awareness development, and the perspective lens through which I view the world. I am in control of my expectations, which, in equation with reality, is equaling my disappointment.

Reality Check Equation: Expectations + Reality = Level of Satisfaction

What if I am missing something in that equation? What if my expectations are out of line with who I am? What if I do not even know who I am enough to measure my expectations accurately? Many people lost themselves a long time ago trying to please hard-to-please parents. They then transferred that compulsion into their adult life and have only identified themselves in light of whether other people are happy. All the while, forgetting their true identity and character development along the way.

We need to be curious about the question of self-awareness. Everyone likes to think they are self-aware and self-directing their lives, including even their opinions, but this is simply not true. Most people are identifying with a persona that protects a fragile ego in their subconscious drive to self protect. This self-protection system, which is designed to keep threats away, is also preventing our “Real Selves” from engaging in the world and connecting in the meaningful way we are desiring.

There are several gurus out there professing steps to take towards happiness. We follow their posts and YouTube videos to see what they are doing. We try to understand what they have done to achieve what they profess to be a success. The tangible nature of a to-do list is alluring because we can see it, but somehow we do not follow the steps and actually have them work out. Why? Because the steps were applied to someone else’s level of self-awareness and, therefore, were driven by someone else’s level of implicit motivation based off of that self-awareness.

When we are genuinely vulnerable and self-aware, we will see that the path to success always goes through the wounded parts of us, or the need to change. We must change ourselves, and along the way, we will find success. We can not start any real change in an action stage, or it won’t stick, it won’t amount to anything. To improve ourselves, we must be honest with the fact that there is a person inside of us that indeed needs to change. If we do this, we can take some self-directed action in our lives.

We can better understand change and our place in the process by looking at The Transtheoretical Model, better known as Stages of Change Model, developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s. This is a widely used model for understanding behavioral changes. For instance, it is foundational in substance abuse treatment for understanding where a patient is in their change process. It helps us identify the motivational level of an individual and apply appropriate interventions. It helps us to implement proper “Stage-Based” interventions because misplaced interventions do not work.

The stages are as follows:

Precontemplation — In this stage, people are often unaware that their behavior is problematic or produces negative consequences. They may be aware of their frustrations, but they are often in real denial, or completely unaware that their behavior is causing negative feedback in their lives.
Contemplation — This stage is often known to be marked by ambivalence. People see a behavior that needs to change, i.e., lose weight, meal prep, quit smoking, etc. But even with this recognition, people may still be unmotivated to make the necessary adjustments. They tend to give themselves excuses to justify the usual behavior or make half-hearted efforts to change. Although they are aware of the problem, the need is not tied to an innate internal need yet.
Preparation (Determination) — This is also known as the Planning stage of change. This is where a person is thinking about how the change could actually take place. They are gathering information, seeing how it could be applied. They are more determined in their desire to change and formulating a path.
Action — In this stage, people are taking actual steps to change their behavior. They are executing and tweaking their plan. People may struggle to get the behavior to stick and maybe in a trial and error fluctuation. They may vacillate between Preparation and Action. They are still determined, and effort is evident and tied to a meaningful purpose in their life.
Maintenance — In this stage, people have kept up with their desired behavior changes, typically more than six months. In this stage, the new switch has become more habitual and better integrated into their lifestyle. The change has become the new norm, and although there may be a relapse, people are better protected and can take action quickly to get back on track.

It should be noted that people can be at different stages of change for different behaviors. The model is best applied to specific behaviors and not wholistic transformation, as that is too subjective and difficult to measure. As it pertains to transformation, it is best to break it down to specific behaviors or objectives that will contribute to a conversion.

Raising Conscious Awareness

Many people will ask, “What did you do?” or “What was your secret?” Although they will get answers such as, “Be persistent,” “It takes discipline,” and other will power type active steps, these action steps rarely take hold because the foundation of self-awareness and motivation is not fully established. This crucial step of raising conscious awareness takes place in the Pre-Contemplative and Contemplative Stage. This part of the process often goes unnoticed or undeclared if you listen to coaches, gurus, and motivational speakers.

People tend to measure change at the point that observable action begins to equal a new habit, extinguishing of behavior, or gaining of a reward. What we need to be aware of is that change begins to take place far earlier than it is noticeable on the surface. Moving out of a rut in life may require us to acknowledge and address that we might be in a Pre-contemplative or Contemplative Stage of Change. If this is true for you, then checking your level of self-awareness might be the key.

Self-Awareness and other introspective work is painful because you will need to vulnerably put yourself out there in front of an objective second or third party. You will need relationships with people or a person who can help reflect some of the parts of your self that are hidden in your behavior in order to raise your conscious awareness. This level of hard work is necessary for us to evaluate our place in the cycles we persist in so that we can see the path(plan) we are to take steps(action) on.

Facing our fear of failure and persistent trial and error can teach you many things and wake up that awareness. Still, for most people, it seems to be a cause for giving up or reinforcing negative thinking and pessimistic outlooks. These become part of a self-sabotaging cycle of defeat and time wasted. However, when we start to look at what we are missing in regards to ourselves and our individual responsibility, we increase our ability to interpret our environment, and the action steps we need to take to achieve our goals become more evident.

Reality Check

We choose how we see the world. We are making this choice passively or actively by how much self-awareness we are willing to dive into and develop. To take responsibility for how we feel and react in our relationships and the world as a whole requires humble vulnerability. It will sting a little, but we need to flip the script on the internal responses and feelings we experience. They are telling us a little more about ourselves then they are about the person, place, or thing we are facing. In accepting that knowledge of ourselves, we can set better expectations and stop hitting our heads against the wall of reality. So if you are struggling with motivation or find yourself in a cycle of failed trials and errors, it may be time to get inside yourself and take on a challenge. It might be time to invest in raising your conscious awareness of your self — the only real thing you can control anyway.

This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.


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