Why is ‘Change’ so hard?

Why is it so hard to change? After all you’ve made your mind up to do something… so why aren’t you doing it?

Before being too hard on ourselves, it’s probably worth stepping back and looking at change for a minute or two.

Fig.1: Trans-Theoretical Model of Change

Change isn’t merely the act of doing something differently. If it were, then it would be fairly easy to instigate, not only for ourselves but for groups of people and whole organisations.

Rather change is a process. A series of interrelated considerations and actions that each require understanding.

A theory of change that I use to frame the process is:

The Trans-Theoretical Model of Change. (See Fig 1.)

This model describes the five stages of change, understanding that individuals can enter the process at any point depending on their experience. And importantly it highlights from the outset that relapses or setbacks are a natural part of the change process and can can impact the individual at any point of the process.

With regards to my marathon attempt this change model has looked a little like this:

The Pre-Contemplation Stage

This is the stage I refer to as being blissfully unaware. For me it accounts for my time when running a marathon was not even on my radar. When you’re at a professional training day learning about the latest approaches this accounts for your colleagues back at work!

The Contemplation Stage

This is the stage when you start to consider making the change. It’s worth pointing out that it is in this stage where individuals perform a cost/benefit/risk assessment – ie. What am I doing now, and do I need to change? And for the most part our initial (seemingly natural) reaction is “No, I don’t need to change.” Followed by the realisation that actually we probably could do with changing… and this is where things get interesting…

When confronted with the need to change, it’s not unusual to be loved by anyone for individuals to continue do confidently do the wrong thing than risk feeling inadequate in changing to do the new thing. Think about any change you’ve seen in your workplace – I bet you’ll have seen this.

In the case of my training, I’ve long battled with the idea that I should stop training the way I’ve always trained since my rugby league days (high intensity, heavy weight). I’m good at training like that. I can hold my own in the gym. Now you’re telling me I need to do more long distance, endurance style training… erm not so sure about that.

The Preparation Stage

This stage follows the period of contemplation, and may well include more thinking about what is required and putting specific things in place. For me it involved researching various running events in order to give myself a timeline. It also involved my mentioning it to others, as well as committing to blogging about the process. Each in their small way, they help motivate me in this attempt.

The Action Stage

This is where you start walking the walk. You do stuff. For me this stage has involved some specific actions:

  • Consuming no alcohol during the week
  • Changing some of my less healthy dietary choices and reducing breads and other carbs – not eradicating them entirely but I did eat a heck of a lot of carbs!
  • Ensuring that I train on 4 or 5 days of the week with an increased focus on cardiovascular fitness as opposed to muscle building.

I haven’t actually done any running yet for the reasons I mentioned in this post. 

The Maintenance Stage

This is the point at which you know longer need to contemplate, prepare or take any first steps. You’re into it and it’s becoming a habit, or at least a fundamental part of your schedule – I’m not at this stage yet. Three weeks in and I’m still very conscious of the changes I’ve made and the behaviours I need to exhibit in order to make these changes stick.

Understanding Relapse/Setbacks

Image result for just didn't do itIt’s critical to understand that setbacks are an integral part of any change process. This can impact at ANY point of the process. IN my case it could strike in the form of injury, self doubt, hectic travel schedules. By recognising that it is an essential part of the change process, when it occurs we can prepared to react to it in a fashion that moves us towards making change, rather than further away. Many people when faced with a setback, or a relapse can be tempted to give up.

That’s why so many of us have gym memberships that we don’t use.

To date the only real setback I’ve had is that after my initial first week weight loss of nearly 2kg, I’ve only lost further 1kg in the last two weeks. That was a little disappointing but because I was prepared for setbacks, and being able to look at the bigger picture, I can appreciate that 3kg in 3 weeks is pretty good and is well on track for my 10kg before Xmas.

So this week, it’s back to the gym, a few more judicious choices at the dinner table and let’s see what this week brings! 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *