Why's It So Difficult for You to Change?

Change can improve your health and help you establish new habits and grow professionally. However, have you noticed how difficult it is to carry out these processes? In fact, there are certain elements that prevent you from doing so. Here, we'll explain how you can deactivate these processes.
Why's It So Difficult for You to Change?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 20 April, 2023

Changing your behavior is a psychological engineering process. It requires the intervention of a specific cognitive and emotional artifact: your mind. However, few processes are as complex and frustrating. For example, have you ever tried to establish the habit of going to the gym yet given up after a few days? Or, would you like to improve your character but you see it as an almost impossible task? Why’s it so difficult for you to change?

Changing your behavior on a long-term basis isn’t easy. Firstly, because your brain finds it difficult to accept change. Indeed, it prefers homeostasis. This means that everything remains balanced and doesn’t vary. That said, our well-being and progress as human beings require the assimilation of new habits.

Undoubtedly, changing to reach our best versions, achieve our goals, and feel better is something that we should all promote. If you want to achieve this, you need to know how to recognize your psychological enemies that make it impossible to integrate different behaviors and attitudes. But, this mechanism requires more than courage: it demands new mental tools.

Sometimes, even though you’re going through an adverse situation, you can’t find the mechanisms for change. That’s because there are unconscious psychological factors that you tend to reinforce that immobilize you.

Climber going up a mountain wondering why it is so hard for me to change?
Change always requires mobilizing multiple psychological resources.

Why’s it so difficult for you to change?

Psychology promotes changes in behavior so you can improve. It offers mechanisms so that you can take the step toward improved well-being and the achievement of healthy goals. However, evidence claims that our brains are dominated by unconscious mechanisms that make the integration of new habits difficult.

Research conducted by the University of Vermont claims that changing behavior is a complex and highly unstable process. It involves frequent relapses, steps backward, and abandonment. Not being able to sustainably maintain these new behaviors or attitudes can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. Therefore, it’s a relevant issue.

One way of dealing with these resistances is by recognizing them. The problem doesn’t necessarily lie in a lack of will or discipline. There are certain underlying psychological processes that you tend to drag along with you for years. You need to detect and deactivate them. They’re as follows.

Limiting beliefs

Limiting beliefs are negative opinions or perceptions that you have about yourself and that condition you. Many of them develop during childhood and at school. In fact, you often incorporate completely invalidating messages from the outside that diminish your worth, virtues, and strengths.

Believing that you’re not capable of something or that you’re flawed and not particularly competent are major obstacles to the process of change.

An excess of negatively valenced emotions

Let’s say you have a bad relationship and are really unhappy. You know that you should take the step and leave, but doing so scares you. Indeed, negatively valenced emotions are an indisputable factor in why it’s so hard to change and move forward. You might feel anguish, anxiety, guilt, sadness, and even shame.

This accumulation of emotions fills your mind with adverse and even fatalistic ideas. You’re afraid of failure or regret. Added to this is your fear of the unknown. What’ll happen if you leave the relationship?

You’re often afraid of change. You feel insecure and fear what may happen next. This makes it difficult to even take the first step toward change.

Impostor syndrome and low self-esteem

Taking a step forward, more than effort, requires commitment and full confidence in yourself. If you’re not confident, everything will collapse. Sufferers of impostor syndrome (those who believe that they’re not intelligent and competent) know this. Consequently, they find it difficult to establish new habits.

If you’re not in tune with your worth, you’ll suffer from low self-esteem. This makes it difficult to promote any long-term change.

Cognitive dissonance and self-deception

You know that a sedentary lifestyle takes its toll on your health, but you say to yourself it’s a myth. You know you should look for a better job, but tell yourself it’s better to be safe and stay where you are. Cognitive dissonances are mechanisms that allow you to rationalize your own inconsistencies to avoid any psychological suffering.

You must review your self-deceptions. You may be fully aware that you need to take new steps in your life, but they scare you. So, to avoid that anguish, you resort to artificial reasoning that justifies remaining in your comfort zone.

You underestimate the process

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Promoting it requires emotional, behavioral, and cognitive processes. Overlooking these components will cause you to fail in your attempts. Moreover, with each step backward, your self-image and self-esteem will come crashing down.

Successful change is the result of multiple interconnected steps. They require commitment, clarity of purpose, and a healthy dose of enthusiasm. However, sometimes, due to a lack of awareness and tools for understanding these processes, you make mistakes.

Person wondering why is it so hard for me to change?
Before starting a change, clarify your purposes and action plan.

Strategies for effective change

Science has always been interested in change. A study conducted by the University of Helsinki and Ireland claims that social, emotional, and also biological factors are integrated into the potential for human change.

To achieve change, you must work from motivational, behavioral, and educational aspects. Furthermore, you must review many of the beliefs integrated into your psychological universe. Now, we’re going to reflect on the tools you need for facilitating this process.

1. Awaken your motivation and remember your reasons for changing

You don’t always find motivation when you need it. Indeed, sometimes your strength fails and your mind doesn’t respond. But, if you need to initiate change, you must clarify your purposes and the reasons why you need to take this step. It’ll fuel your actions.

2. Make an action plan: plan-evaluate-correct

When starting a new habit or establishing change, you must make an action plan. It’s not a good idea to improvise. Ideally, you must plan the steps you’re going to follow. Later, you evaluate the process. Ask yourself if your plan is going to be useful. Do you need to modify anything? Your plan must be flexible so you can adapt to each challenge and circumstance.

3. Manage stress

You must integrate stress management resources into your daily routine. After all, change places you in new scenarios. They may be challenging and you might accumulate emotions of negative valence. For this reason, you shouldn’t hesitate in practicing sports, relaxation techniques, or meditation. They’ll help you develop a more relaxed mind and a body with less of the stress hormone, cortisol.

4. Boost your self-efficacy: you’re skilled and competent

Self-efficacy is the confidence you have in your ability to achieve what you want. This is the most important quality when integrating any change in your life. It means knowing that you have the resources to achieve it and the skills and capabilities to succeed.

5. Say yes to small daily advances: less is always more

In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, he talks about the power of small daily achievements. In fact, he claims that big changes often only require small daily advances, being constant, and focusing on your purpose. So, remember, don’t rush or try and make too many changes at the same time. Take it slowly.

6. Discipline and action

You might think of your motivation when initiating change. But, this emotional element doesn’t always show up when you need it most. This is when the most important factor comes into play: discipline. Indeed, you must be disciplined and understand that establishing new habits requires commitment, action, and repetition.

7. Resistance to frustration

No doubt you’ve felt frustrated at times, realizing how difficult it is to initiate change. As a matter of fact, it’s extremely common to falter and take a step backward. It means you stop for a few days before moving forward again. This is normal. No change is linear, there are always ups and downs. You simply need to know how to resist and accept them.

No change is easy. Taking small daily steps guided by confidence in yourself will guide you.

Commit to change

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so difficult to change, you need to know that most of us feel the same way. You’re not the only one. Try reminding yourself that you possess the potential to achieve change. You can do it. Commit yourself to change and you’ll achieve that long-awaited goal and improve your well-being and self-realization.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.