Does this phrase sound familiar? I surely have heard it in many contexts throughout my life. It is often used by people who, quite unfortunately, view change as a sort of attack on their identity. Any suggestion of improvement or an idea of reading a self help book sounds to their ears like they are not being accepted just the way they are. Because, in the end, others should accept us just the way we are, isn’t that so? But is there, in the end, a person in this world who never changes through their entire life?
If you think about it, change is something that is happening to us every single day. Our experiences and the challenges we face, the people we meet on our way, the things we watch, read or hear, all influence us in one way or the other, making us gradually evolve.
Since life is not constant and evolution is a natural process we are subject to throughout the years, I believe that intentional change in the form of self improvement is something to be proud of. Whether it is the improvement in personal relationships, learning how to work more efficiently, studying techniques to control our moods or developing habits to help us reach our goals successfully, we can consciously choose to change certain aspects of ourselves and our behavior that eventually make our lives easier and more satisfying. Why, then, are we so stubborn and fearful of change?
Perhaps changing is unsettling because it means entering an unknown territory. We don’t trust the things that are unfamiliar to us as, in the end, we are not sure about the result they will bring. After years of being stuck in the same habits and patterns of thinking, our subconscious is fearfully fighting off any attempts of breaking the comfortable (even if, in the long run, detrimental) routine.
How does one break this cycle? It can only be done through a conscious decision to change something. This is probably the biggest reason why trying to change another person hardly ever works. It is hard enough to change ourselves, now imagine how difficult, compared to that, must be trying to change someone else! More often than not, their self-preservation mechanism kicks in and they will instinctively fight any of your attempts to “improve” them.
In the end, in order for anyone to change, they have to truly want it and make that decision on their own. Once they do, what they need is to find and apply the right, science-backed tools to implement those meaningful changes.
Another, probably more common way is to learn from experiences – reflect on the things that went wrong in the past and instead of repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different result, analyze what can be done differently in the future.
I think it is a truly mature and impressive thing to see in another person that they know they are not perfect (in the end, none of us will ever be) and that they are continuously working on making their life and, automatically, the life of the people they interact with, a little better one conscious step at a time.