You think you want to change but you don’t. Not at all. It’s the absolute last thing you want to happen because it costs too much. It’s a cost so deep to bear the vast majority of people don’t do it. If people really wanted to change, the self-help industry would vanish. Hell, we’d all be better off for it too.
Ok, we do want to change kind sorta. But, we want a bunch of other things much more than we want to change.
And staying the same has a ton of benefits. In many ways, it feels good to be a loser. The best chance we have at change is understanding that it’s not even close to our primary motivation. Changing your life is the epitome of ‘things will get worse before they get better.’
So, before we get to the list, just think about it for a second and think about it deeply for a while. Do you actually want to change? Is it worth it to you? I won’t judge you for either answer, honestly.
If you do want to change, you’ll have to start with the premise that fundamentally, you don’t want to change. Then, you have to stop doing all the things you do that keep you from changing, like the ones I’m about to list.
After a while, you get pegged as a certain type of person. This happens through the interactions you have with people over time and the label you learn to give yourself based on that feedback. Your parents do it to you. So do your friends, peers, and colleagues. Society does it to you.
As Robert Greene once said:
The world wants to assign you a role and once you accept that role you’re doomed
Once you accept your role, you’re doomed. And the problem? You want to defer to that role. Once others see a you certain way, you have a tendency to want to lean into it, even if you know that being this way isn’t going to help you live the life you want.
If people as shy, you want to defer to extroverts instead of learning to speak up and lead. If people see you as the lovable screwup, you’ll be afraid to lose that love if you decide to start taking life more seriously.
When society itself sees you as the cog in its machine, and everywhere you look there are people who see themselves as cogs, you’ll have to fight pretty much the entire nature of your social circles to rise above the crowd.
So, what’s the answer? Break people’s expectations of you on the path to getting what you want and let the chips fall where they may. Change your behavior even if it seems unnatural at first. Stop playing the role assigned to you.
Tim Ferris has an interesting process called fear setting. Instead of setting goals, he chooses the things he’s most afraid to do, lists out the possible consequences of doing them, and then does them.
Here’s the step by step process:
This approach is the opposite of what most people do. Most people try to create a scenario in their minds where they change, but they experience no psychological pain. They get what they want without any rejection, heartache, embarrassment, or setbacks. You probably play this game in your mind, too.
It might not even be on a conscious level, but you’re trying to weasel your way into changing instead of just doing it There will be a ‘pain period.’ This is the part of the process where nothing you do really works that well. You still suck at the new skills you want to adopt. The effort you put into your projects yields little to no effort. People will respond to you negatively and judge you.
Accept the negative upfront and realize that it won’t kill you. Also, look at the tremendous upside vs the downside that probably isn’t as bad as you thought. Then act.
Animals are born and they know exactly what to do. No manual needed. They have a behavior script in their DNA that tells them how to live. Humans are more complex, but that doesn’t mean we don’t run on scripts and programs ourselves.
You have a script. There are certain behavioral patterns you get into over time. And these scripts are really hard to break. If you want to change, you have to somehow stop repeating a pattern you’ve repeated a bunch of times in your life.
Your script causes you to self-sabotage. It causes you to do the things you know you shouldn’t be doing, but end up doing anyway. It helps to know what your scripts are. It’s mostly a process of deep self-reflection and brutal honesty. And you have to try to break your patterns by noticing when they start to emerge.
This all comes back to acting in ways that are unnatural to you. I used to have a script that caused me to quit in the middle of projects when things got difficult. I have no fancy answer other than I gritted my teeth to make it through the tedious parts of building my writing career.
Your script might cause you to hesitate when you’re afraid. You might have to change it to taking action when you’re afraid. Your script might tell you that you must end up in certain relationships with certain types of people. You have to catch yourself when you’re starting to develop one of those types of relationships. It might tell you that you’re only worthy of a certain station in life. You have to rise above it.
Again, all of these strategies only bring you to the water. You still have to drink. But, having a higher level of self-awareness can help instead of just wondering why you’re stuck.
Everybody has a different answer to this question, but it’s important to ask yourself, what do you currently want more than you want to change?
Every time I bump into problems and hesitate, it’s because I want to feel smart. I hate feeling dumb. And anything that challenges my intelligence is a threat. It bothers me if I don’t know how to do something instantly. But any time I run into something I want to accomplish that I don’t yet know how to do, I have to admit my ignorance and humble myself a bit to learn the steps.
Usually whatever you want more than change is one of a few things. You want to avoid public failure, anything that challenges your identity, and tedious hard work. You want to stay in whatever shell you’ve built for yourself, even if it’s a miserable existence. That shell can get really comfortable after a while.
Resignation feels good because at least you no longer have hope that things are going to get better. Hope, without positive results, over a long period of time is psychologically damaging. Continue to get your hopes up without making any real changes and you’re going to drive yourself insane. There’s an argument to be made for resignation. Why twist yourself into knots all the time if you know you’re not going to do anything about it?
Even though there’s an argument for it, I don’t advise it. What do I advise? Similar to some of the other points above, try to get an understanding of what you’re missing out on just because you want positive short-term emotions. The thing about stepping out of your bubble? It’s only painful for a relatively short period of time. After that, fear doesn’t totally go away, but you’re comfortable with being afraid. Fear isn’t bad. The fear of fear is bad.
Stop wanting to not be afraid. It’s impossible.