People do not resist change; they resist being changed

How Can We Change Our Beliefs?

Joe Sinclair

[Click on the images for full-size version]*

Human reaction tends to be anger and defensiveness when we believe someone is forcing us to change a behaviour, even when we suspect it may be to our advantage to change.

Nothing is static but change.  This is because change is an event whereas transformation is a process.  To move forward we must first learn to let go.  We may change even though we resist the pressures to change; we cannot transform unless we release our resistance.

Resistance to change usually occurs when the change is perceived as threatening, regardless of whether or not the threat is real.

Transformation involves change at the core of our being.  We have to align our history, our present reality, and our future intent.  We have to acknowledge what happened in the past, why it happened, and how far we contributed to what happened.  Only when we are able to acknowledge our own part in our personal history will we be able to take the necessary steps towards transformation.  This demands positive action on our part; we have to actively engage our personal power and resources.

Unhappily, though not perhaps unexpectedly, there is a great deal of pressure that is self-applied to resist the ultimate change.  This resistance needs to be confronted.

The rationale for resistance is often quite straightforward as people justify their actions to themselves. If you want to overcome resistance to change, you must be able to recognise and modify these convictions.

I don't want to change because

  I'm quite happy where I am.

    And therefore I see no need to change.  Unless you give me a reason whereby I will (a) benefit by making a change, or (b) suffer an unwelcome consequence by remaining where I am, I will be under no pressure to move.

  I can't change because this is the way I am.

    I have to change my point of view before I can change my core belief.  This is not really the way I am; it is the way I perceive myself to be.  I need to look beyond my established perception of myself.  I can reframe that perception into an image of what I might be.

  There is nothing I need that I don't already have.

        My imagination needs stimulating.  I am limiting my options and I need to have opportunities revealed to me that I may be unaware of.

  I have a considerable investment in my current situation.

    My fear is that by choosing some alternative life position, I will lose everything that I have put into getting to where I am.  What that statement overlooks is the fact that an investment in the past is something already spent.  It is gone.  it cannot be changed.  Change is possible only in the future and by ignoring the opportunity of further investment in the present, I am condemning myself to the lack of future prospects.

  This is not a good time for me to make a change.

    This is the only time there is.  Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is mystery.  Today is opportunity.  I need to set myself a target and a time frame to complete whatever is immobilizing me from moving forward.  I can try chunking down.  Divide the outstanding activity into smaller sections and complete each in a given time.

  I'm still not convinced a change would be a good move.

    This is a common situation.  It may be very easy to come up with the idea that a change is necessary/desirable/useful, but to maintain that as a belief over a period of time is much harder.  Limiting beliefs are the major cause of the failure to make lasting changes.

  I'm confused about the outcome.

    It is a common problem for those who are promoting change to assume that it is easy to understand. People who do not 'get' the rationale for change will be less likely to go along with it and may hence hang back whilst they try to figure out what it really means.  This can simply be covered by NLP prescriptions.   The outcome needs to be expressed in a positive way: what I want; not what I don't want.  It needs to be specific.  This is where an outcome differs from a goal.  A goal can be general.  An outcome must be specific.  It needs to be reasonably achievable.  If it is too large, it must be chunked down to be effective.   It must not offend ecological considerations.

  I'm not sure the change is an improvement.

    Even if I am not that happy where I am,  I still may not be particularly interested in moving forward with the change.  It seems I am not given sufficient explanation of why, where, and how the change is being proposed.  I need to be correctly and cleanly informed of the rationale for change.  Although I want to move, the final resting place of the change looks significantly worse for me than the current position. I feel it is like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

If you want people to voluntarily move, then it must be to somewhere better than they are now. You can create this in two ways: first by making the present position worse  and secondly by building a rosy vision to which people can then attach their dreams.

  There are too many imponderables between here and journey's end.

    If I buy the vision, I may still may not know which are the best steps to take. Some change projects sound wonderful, but too many question are being left unanswered.  Plans need to be expressed in terms of tactical details to which I can respond.

   I don't trust the people who are showing me the way.   

    If my experience of you is that you have been untrustworthy in the past, then I am not likely to buy your vision of the future. If you are going on what I perceive as a perilous journey, then I will not trust you and will not join you. The integrity of leaders is a very important attribute. If you want me to follow you, then you must give me good reason to trust you.

  Finally I will choose not to change if I feel that the transition will prove offensive to my set of core values.


*  The illustrations, by Yaron Livay, have been taken from Peace of Mind is a Piece of Cake, by Michael Mallows & Joseph Sinclair, Published by Crown House 1998