People Don’t Change: Is Personal Change Possible?
People don’t change. We have all heard this statement before – perhaps said with resignation, or bewilderment, or conviction. But is it true? Can personal change be achieved? Can a transformation last?
Yes, you can change your life (learn more with this course).
Our fates, our behaviors, and our everyday life is something that is left entirely up to us. We are limited only by our own determination. Personal change, however, is not a quick or easy process. So then, how does it happen?
The great boxer Muhammad Ali once said, “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” Time and experience are a definite way in which people change. The foolhardiness and risk-taking of youth can give way to caution in one’s later years. A bad experience or a health scare can transform your behavior in a significant way. For instance, someone could have a heart attack; that one incident leads to a major overhaul in diet, exercise habits, and outlook on life.
But what about less drastic changes – are they possible? What about major transformations – can they last?
Yes, it is possible for people to change, but it requires several major steps. Lasting transformations – real personal change on a long-term level – is not possible without hard work.
The first step to any kind of change – in your circumstances, in your behavior, or in your body – first requires awareness. This path to health and healing is a great place to start.
As playwright and Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” A mental adjustment is the first step!
You must be aware of a problem or situation that you want to change. Acknowledging this lack or deficiency is the first step to changing it for the better. This awareness could come from a significant scare – like a literal or proverbial heart attack. Or, it could be as simple as a hurtful comment that makes you want to change yourself.
Russian author Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Prove Tolstoy wrong! Change your thinking. Achieve the first step of awareness and you are on the path to lasting personal change. Knowing why you want to change is vital to know – you can reflect on your reasons as you face setbacks and challenges in tackling the problem.
That is because, after expressing an awareness of the problem, you need commitment to stick with the work required. Changing yourself will require discipline and hard work to strive towards the new goal and resist the old behavior pattern.
Commitment Over Time
The late poet and writer Maya Angelou said this about personal change:
What you’re supposed to do
when you don’t like a thing is change it.
If you can’t change it,
change the way you think about it
To make the task of personal change more manageable and realistic, you should work only on changing one thing at a time. Trying to do too much – like conquering a whole laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions in January – can be near impossible and simply set you on a path to defeat and disappointment. Once you experience a setback, you may get discouraged and give up!
And do not put time limits on yourself. Lasting change happens slowly. It happens when the new habit is reinforced daily. It never happens swiftly, overnight, or with little effort. If you rely too much on a rapid transformation then the odds are increased that the personal change will not last.
Understanding the Challenges
Your current behaviors are easy, comfortable, or preferable for some reason. Understanding why the behavior you want to change still has utility helps you renew your commitment. Eating junk food is easier than planning ahead and making a healthy meal, for instance. (Healthy eating is difficult when you are busy, but this course can help.)
If you realize that you will be able to view setbacks not as a massive failure, or a cancellation of the self-improvement plan, but as an easier path that you know well. You need to travel a new path, but falling back on an old one is not a massive defeat.
As another great Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” Fear of change is the biggest obstacle to personal growth and transformation. Old ways are comfortable and secure. They have worked for you in the past and you know what happens when you behave in this way. Likewise, a new pattern of being is scary and uncertain.
Perhaps you are worried about a new exercise regimen. You know how you feel each day – how you sleep each night – and how much free time you have every day. Taking up jogging or going to the gym might possibly change all that. Perhaps you will be exhausted – or in pain – or too busy for other things you enjoy. But the fear of the unknown should not hold you back; it is simply part of the awareness you need to have.
Eating the Elephant, One Bite at a Time
Breaking your task down into smaller steps make it easier to accomplish. Do not try to revamp your entire diet in a day. Try first by changing one element – give up one bad food, add one good one, start taking a supplement. Each discrete step is something you can do and be aware of on a daily basis. You will build your confidence and sense of accomplishment with the achievement of each new goal.
Positive thinking, as you can learn in this course,will help keep you on the path toward personal change. Implementing healthy practices is not easy – it will not happen in a day – but it is something you can do with perseverance and renewed focus on your goal.
Personal change is possible with your awareness, determination, and commitment.
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