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  • Ian Gregory

WHY CHANGE IS SO DIFFICULT


Embrace it or fear it, change is always coming! Leaders are charged with resolving that statement daily. Sometimes you are asked to be the catalyst and change is a choice. More often change is a requirement and must be mitigated. It seems the most difficult change for leaders, and for that matter everyone, is personal. So why does it cause us so much angst? What is it about change that we fight so hard against? There has been much research about the subject and the general consensus is that change has four parts to it. Suffering, Insight, Will and then Change itself. Suffering is at the basis of change or else why would we do it? Even when it comes to us in the form of friction, discomfort or even pain, we resist it. It is estimated that 80% of the national health care budget is consumed by our choices in 5 behavioral issues. Smoking, drinking, eating, stress and exercise. What they are saying is we are making ourselves sick and in spite of all the programs, education and help available, the problems are getting worse. Is it any wonder that we must undergo some form of suffering in order to even be open to change? Insight is the ability to look beyond yourself and recognize how what you do and who you are affects the world around you including your job, family, social life and spiritual life. It is this recognition that allows the suffering to take hold and make us aware that change is not only needed but may indeed ultimately makes things better. This insight must contain understanding of the need while at the same time holding hope for success. Will is the mental power or capability of choosing or deciding. It is personal and powerful and becomes the foundation and the catalyst for the actual changes to start taking place. It must be practiced daily and with attention to detail until the behaviors we are after start to become our default response, or what we call habit. Change will then begin to take place. It rarely happens overnight and it usually gets worse before it gets better. We are uncomfortable with new behaviors. They need daily attention to detail. It takes thought, practice and effort to move outside of our comfort zone and we so dearly want to be safe and comfortable. This daily routine must be broken down into small, achievable steps and made palatable with some innovation and creativity or most change is doomed to failure. So there is nothing new here is there? These steps are well documented and well known and yet we still struggle mightily. Well the reason may well be something else entirely that we fail to consider. Something else that causes us to work against ourselves and LIA knows what it is. WE HAVE THREE BRAINS! The first brain is the “reptilian” brain and consists of the cerebellum and brain stem. It is the instinctive part, the one in charge of breathing, heartbeat, and all other body functions outside our conscious control. It simply repeats behaviors over and over, never adapting, never learning. It’s only goal is to simply preserve life at all costs. The second brain is the limbic brain. This is our emotional brain, concerned with feelings, instincts, eating, fighting, and sexual behavior. This is also where we decide whether something is a good idea or not. This emotional brain isn’t all that smart though. It understands pleasure or pain and safety or danger. It tries to steer us towards pleasure and safety and away from those other two. If it senses one of the other two it sends the body into “fight or fight”. The third brain is the neocortex. This is the thinking brain and the one that distinguishes us from animals. This brain is capable of reasoning. It’s where abstraction, as well as spatial, artistic, verbal and musical ability reside. So what does all this have to do with change? Everything! The thinking brain is where we decide that we want to do something different. The problem is the emotional brain is scanning for pleasure and safety, and something different doesn’t fall into those categories, so we sabotage ourselves. So it is crucial that we trick these two brains into working together. When the thinking brain decides it’s time for a change, we have to find a way to line up our emotions to reflect that change positively for the emotional brain. For example if we decide that we need to go to the gym, we have to find a way to focus on how much better we will look when we’re in better physical shape. Our knees and back will feel great when there’s less pressure on them. See the difference? We must make the change seem more fun, easy, attainable, freeing. You must see the advantages. You must be able find the enjoyment in working against your default responses, your habits of many years. This is the real key to change, overcoming the seeming contradictions of the three brains. Without this knowledge you can see why people will literally eat themselves to death, smoke themselves to one lung, drink themselves to brain damage and stress themselves to every disease imaginable. It’s because we fight ourselves. We have brains in competition with each other and we can’t find the answer to why.

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