Have you ever felt that trying to change the status quo always seems like an painfully frustrating effort?
That was how I felt as I made The Daily Stoic a habit. As this was my first exposure to the philosophy of Stoicism, I constantly dealt with thoughts that opposed my attempted shift in mindset. The fact that these were thoughts were so normal to me made it that much harder.
From minor incidents like being stuck in traffic to major ones like potentially having an investment deal fall through, I struggled with adjusting my thoughts to what the Stoics would say.
The change was a long and slow process. Even now, I wouldn’t say that I have completely changed from how I used to. That was more than a year ago.
You probably encountered a similar resistance whenever you tried to implement a change. Whether they are dealing with individual goals (fitness) or organizational shifts (new policies), people don’t like to change.
Why is that?
How The Mind & Body Are Connected
To look at why change can be so difficult, let’s go into the science of why you react the way you do.
Everything starts from a single thought. Biologically, your brain tells its neurotransmitters to send a specific message to certain neuropeptides. These then release chemical signals that release hormones, which trigger certain feelings in you.
That is why when you think you’re going into an argument, your body creates cortisol and adrenaline to get you pumped up for the upcoming “fight”.
Now what happens if you constantly have the same thoughts, which trigger the same feelings, again and again over the course of years, maybe even decades?
Your body starts to memorize those constant feelings. Those specific neural pathways and hormones become stronger to the point they become habit. You barely need to think anymore to trigger the same state of being anymore. By all means, you live on autopilot based what you are used to feeling like.
Now imagine trying to change 20 or 30 years of how you are used to feeling.
What happens when you do try to change? Because your body is so used to how it normally feels, it rejects any change. The crazy part is that this is on a neural and chemical level.
When you feel different, your body sends out signals and chemicals that influence your thought pattern. Regardless of what you originally wanted, your body is telling your mind to think like how you usually do. Why put yourself through all of this? Is feeling like this really worth it?
If you ever found yourself making excuses for not following through, this is why. Your body is actually working against you. This actually isn’t too far off from how addiction works.
Scary, isn’t it?
When There’s A Will, There’s A Way
So whenever you try to put yourself or others through a change, you’re potentially going against years of memorized states of being. Given this, it should actually be more surprising if you DON’T encounter resistance to change.
But even if you now understand why change can be so difficult to deal with, what are you to do the next time you have to push for a change?
The first step is awareness. If you have been reading my other articles, this might sound like I’m beating a dead horse but bear with me here. The reason why the first step is awareness is because this is the HARDEST step.
If you work on being aware of how you normally are, you are asking yourself to go beyond your default perspectives and biases. This is not easy to do because these memorized thoughts and feelings have become so automatic and unconscious that you see them as completely normal. Why would you question them?
To help with this, look for other perspectives. If you are making a specific change, say for your health or your business, look for an expert in that field.
For example, an experienced personal trainer will recognize why you feel the way you do with a lifestyle change and will help you come up with ways to stay consistent with your regimen. A business coach helps you generate insights into how you’re holding yourself back.
Once you become aware of how you might be sabotaging yourself, then you can catch yourself in those moments. You can reprogram yourself to be more aligned with your goals.
How to Help Others Deal with Change
The key step here is still awareness. But in regards to others, this is called empathy.
One of the hallmarks of emotional intelligence, empathy will get you to recognize how others might feel about a change and why. You understand how different they are and why they are that way. Even if you can’t relate, you can still acknowledge why they feel the way they do.
This might not come naturally. After all, if you never had the chance to understand the ones who are resisting your change, how could you empathize?
If you’re a leader or business owner, why not make it a priority to find out why your staff feel the way they do? If you think they might not be honest because they’re afraid, check out this blog post on creating the right kind of environment for this.
What’s the benefit of having more empathy? If you can acknowledge others’ difficulties with your proposed change, they may accept even if they don’t agree. If someone feels heard, they are far more likely to be open to what’s happening than if they felt like their voice didn’t matter.
There are so many different ways out there to deal with change. Regardless of how valid they are, they can take your focus off what’s really important. And that is being able to deal with emotions.
If that feels wishy-washy, I don’t blame you. However 80% of top performers in a work environment score high in the EQ department. This translates over to entrepreneurs and leadership as well.
Being able to effectively work with your emotions and others is how you can make change as smooth of a transition as possible.
So what are you going to do the next time you deal with resistance?