Noreen Coomey of Transition Coaching and Psychotherapy looks at why we may resist change and how we can navigate this challenge.
According to Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw “Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”.
Change is inevitable and a constant force in life. However, many of us find ourselves grappling with discomfort and reluctance when confronted with it.
Change makes us feel uncertain and anxious. We are creatures of habit, feeling safe and comfortable in familiar routines and surroundings. Change, especially in our work, relationship, or daily habits, brings a fear of the unknown and makes us worry about losing control and stability.
Change also requires more thinking and effort. Our brain likes things to be easy and automatic. We have to put in extra mental work to understand and adjust to a new situation. This extra effort can be tiring and another reason why we resist change.
Emotions also play a big role. We form strong emotional connections to people, places and routines, which create a sense of identity and stability. This makes it harder to let go. Changing our attachment to the way things are feels like losing something important. We may have strong feelings connected to our current situation even if it is not a good situation for us.
The people around us also influence how we feel about change. We care about what people think of us – we fear criticism and judgment from others. We don’t want to stand out or be seen as not fitting in. Social pressure can make us slow to embrace any change that might make us look different or go against the expectations of others.
Bad experiences with change in the past can also make us afraid of it. If we’ve been through something difficult before it could make us resistant to any new changes, even if they are positive.
So what can we do?
• Recognise, understand and explore the factors mentioned above as a first step towards becoming more open and adaptive to changes that happen
• See challenges and changes as opportunities for growth to help shift our perspective. Know that learning and development can come from new experiences
• Identify potential advantages, whether personal or professional, to create a more optimistic view of an upcoming change or transition
• Break down a large transition into manageable steps. Gradual, small-scale changes are less overwhelming and more acceptable
• Identify what degree of control we have over aspects of the change to help counteract our feeling of helplessness
• Acknowledge progress and celebrate milestones achieved during the transition to reinforce the positive aspects of change and encourage continued adaptation
• Training, mentorship and coaching resources can empower individuals to navigate the challenges associated with change and help reduce anxiety and resistance.
Reluctance to change should not be a barrier to personal or professional development. By understanding the psychological factors behind the resistance and implementing strategies to overcome it, we can all navigate changed successfully. Embracing change not only facilitates growth but also boosts resilience in the face of an ever-changing world.