Changing a behavior is supposed to favor improvements of people. There are mechanisms that can help the achievement of healthy goals. However, our brain is dominated by unconscious patterns that hinder the integration of new habits.
Research from the University of Vermont, for example, highlights an important point. Changing a behavior is a complex and very unstable process, that is, there are relapses, steps backwards and abandonments. Not being able to maintain these new behaviors or attitudes in a sustained way can revert to physical and mental health. Therefore, it cannot be underestimated.
Sometimes the difficulty does not lie in the lack of will or discipline. There are underlying psychological processes that we drag on for years and that we should detect to deactivate.
Your limiting beliefs
Limiting beliefs are negative opinions or perceptions that we have of ourselves and that condition us. It is essential to know that a good part of them is gestated in childhood and education. Often, we incorporate completely invalidating messages from the outside that diminish our values, virtues, and strengths.
Believing that we are not capable of something, that we are incompetent are important obstacles to the process of changing behavior.
An excess of negative emotions
Imagine that you are bad in your relationship, and that you are very unhappy. You know you have to take the plunge and leave that bond but doing so scares you. If you wonder why it costs so much to change and move forward, you will find out that there is anguish, anxiety, guilt, sadness and even shame.
That accumulation of sensations fills your mind with adverse and even fatalistic ideas. You fear failure or regret, or fear of the unknown. What will happen after you have changed?
Imposter syndrome and low self-esteem
Taking a step forward, more than effort, requires commitment and full self-confidence. If the latter fails, everything collapses. In this way, it is very common, for example, that people with imposter syndrome (those who believe that they are not intelligent and that they never live up to almost anything) find it difficult to establish new habits.
When you don’t tune into your own values and you show low self-esteem, it is difficult to promote long-term change.
It’s hard to change because of your cognitive dissonances and self-deception
Cognitive dissonances are mechanisms that allow us to rationalize our own inconsistencies to avoid psychological suffering.
Given this, if you wonder why it takes you so much to change, it is recommended that you analyze some of your self-deception. You may be very aware that you need to take new steps in your life, but they scare you. And to avoid that anguish, you opt into very artificial reasonings that justify that you are still in your comfort zone.
You underestimate the process
Changing behavior doesn’t happen overnight. Promoting it requires meticulous craftsmanship that demands emotional, behavioral, and cognitive elements. Ignoring those components will cause us to fail in that attempt. Also, in each step back, self-image and self-esteem collapse.
Successful changes are the result of multiple interconnected steps that require commitment, purpose, and a healthy dose of enthusiasm. However, sometimes, due to lack of awareness and tools to understand these processes, you may get it wrong.
Strategies for effective changing behavior
Science has always been concerned with change. A study by the University of Helsinki and Ireland, for example, highlights something striking. The potential for human change integrates social, emotional, and biological factors.
To achieve it, you must work from motivational, behavioral, and educational aspects, to review many of the beliefs that are integrated into your psychological universe. It is time to reflect on those tools that will facilitate this process.
1. To awaken your motivation, remember why you want to change
You don’t always find motivation when you need it. If you need to initiate a change, you need to clarify your purpose and why you want to take that step.
When starting a new habit or establishing a transformation, it is necessary to define an action plan. It is not good to improvise, the ideal is to design the steps to follow and then evaluate that process. Is this useful to you? Should you modify anything? Every plan must be flexible to adapt to each challenge and circumstance.
3. Manage stress
It is necessary to integrate stress management resources into your day to day. After all, every change places you in new scenarios that make you stagger or accumulate negative emotions. Don’t hesitate to practice sport, relaxation techniques or meditation.
4. Boost your self-efficacy: you are skilled and competent
Self-efficacy is the confidence you have in your abilities to achieve what you want. This is the most decisive psychological aspect when integrating a change into life. It is knowing that you have the resources to achieve it, that you are skilled and that those skills will help you to succeed.
5. Small everyday achievements: less is always more
In the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear, he tells us about the power of small everyday achievements. Sometimes big changes require a tiny daily progress, and focus on your purpose. Therefore, remember that it is not good to rush or make too many changes at once.
Discipline is one of the most decisive factor that comes into play. You shall be disciplined and understand that establishing new habits requires commitment, action, and repetition.
7. Resistance to frustration
Who hasn’t been frustrated when they see how difficult it is to change? Nothing is as common as taking a step back, failing, falling apart for a few days, and then moving forward again. No change is linear, there are always ups and downs and you shall know how to resist and accept them.
Commitment to change
If you are wondering why it is so difficult to change, know that this is a shared experience. You’re not alone. It’s worth reminding yourself that you have extraordinary potential to achieve this. You can do it.
Are you ready to commit yourself to these steps for an important change in your life?