December 9, 2015

The Myth That People Don’t Change (And What It Really Takes To Change)

People don’t change is probably one of the biggest myths that I see people buy into, especially people who don’t want to change or people who are too scared to change. The reality is that I’ve changed drastically since I was younger, and I know many other people who have too.

Some people change physically, some people change spiritually, some people change mentality, and some people change their whole lives around. If change wasn’t possible, then nobody would ever adopt anything new in their life and everyone would be the same from their twenties to the end of their life.

I heard of a behavioral study done in Montreal where they did a lot of research on the brain and its response to various topics, such as change. The results showed that talking about change was almost identical as talking about torture. So, it shows that the process of thinking about change is scary for people.

Change is hard to do! Some people will not change throughout their entire life. It’s comfortable to do what you’ve always done, and changing requires strength and commitment so that you don’t fall back into your old habits. If you can’t find that strength and commitment, you will start falling back into old ways of behaving, thinking, and believing, and soon nothing will have changed at all. But, while you will feel comfortable back in your own habits, you will kind of wish you had followed through.

People Don’t Change Easily

That is a much truer statement than ‘people don’t change’. Research has shown that change is not easy, but it is possible. It just doesn’t always come quickly.

Yes, you may set out a goal to change a few things about yourself, but to get to that point, you may take a few steps backwards and even sideways before you end up reaching your goal. The harder the change, the truer that can be.

If your commitment to change is high, though, a few falters here and there will not result in your permanent defeat. In fact, they can be viewed as small failures, which are really just lessons that help you figure out what NOT to do next time so that your chance of successful change is much higher.

How You Perceive The World Dictates How Much Progress You Make

Change is hard, but it’s even harder when you don’t understand how you perceive the world. If you think that everything you think and see is true, then it’s going to be very hard to change. Your beliefs and ways of moving through life are firm – the blinders are on, and it will be hard to develop any new behaviors or habits because you will be so stuck in your world perceptions.

You will find this with older people who have never changed. They have a very strict set of beliefs on what is right and what is not right, and their actions and behaviors follow suit with what they believe. Usually those beliefs will be negative, and they will say things like:

– The world is scary
– Money is scarce
– [Fill in with bad habit] is something that everyone does where I am from
– That’s the way life has always been
– This is right because this is how other people I know do it
– Happiness is an illusion
– People don’t change

On the other hand, if you meet someone who has gone through a lot of positive change in their life, you will find them to be quite open-minded, and their beliefs will have changed as they grew, learn, and adapted to a better way of life. Moreover, their actions and behaviors will have become more positive as their beliefs became more positive. And, they will say much more encouraging things about how life works than people who haven’t changed. And, they won’t buy into the myth that people don’t change.

Why Some People Adapt New Beliefs And Ways Of Life

Unless change is forced on us, our perception on life is what causes us to change. Our perception is our truth unless we open up our perception or ‘keep an open mind’.

The way we perceive things is pretty standard. We get some information and we interpret it according to our beliefs. We decide whether or not we are affected personally, and then we decide what we want to do about it. Depending on what we perceive and want to happen, change will either occur or not occur.

Most people get stuck after they see some information. Instead of seeing it as is, they interpret it into something it’s not and then blow things out of proportion. This is why people don’t change. They can’t see past their own habitual interpretations.

For instance, if a stranger waves at them, they may interpret it as something good if they are in a good mood, but often it will be interpreted as something bad, such as being sarcastic, rude, or condescending. That can make them upset, give the finger back, and then proceed to have a miserable day. Meanwhile, the person waving just thought they knew them. The person who can see the information for what it is – a stranger waving at them, will have a much easier time changing.

How To Change Your Perception For Change?

So, it’s really about making shifts in your perception. Yes, you can wake up and be told you are almost at the point of having diabetes and suddenly get an urge to change your diet, but if you don’t have a shift in perception, such as how bad processed food really is for you and how delicious a healthy diet can be, then you are still not going to change your diet. You have to shift your perception of your diet. That’s the real way to make sure you don’t end up back where you started.

Therefore, it’s important to make shifts in your perception if you want your life to be any different. And that requires that you open your awareness and look at your current life.

Sit down and rate your life in all areas, including finances, love, friends, family, hobbies, spirituality, health, and success. Give yourself a rating between 1 and 10, and be honest! No one is looking!

If you are not sure how to rate yourself, decide what the highest marker of those things would look like to you, and if you are still not sure, look up the highest marker of those things according to experts. For instance, look up what a loving relationship should look like, and then rate your relationship based on that description.

Once you have a rating for all areas of your life, take a look at why you have given your life those rating. For instance, if you gave your love life a 2, then take a look at your relationship and decide why you feel like that.

– Is your partner ignoring you?
– Are you being impatient with your partner?
– Do you feel like you are growing apart?

Write it all down and be honest. Then move on to the next area of your life and write down why you gave that area the rating you did.

Once you can see what is going wrong in those areas of your life, you will have a clearer vision of what you need to change in order to experience more happiness and fulfillment in those areas. So, write down a few goals for each area of your life that would make you feel happy and fulfilled.

How To Really Make Some Changes

You’ve been open and honest about your life and where you are at. You know where you want to go. Now, how do you take the steps to make it happen? You develop a new perception. When you develop a new view on something, and it moves you enough to create some serious emotion in you, then you will change.

For instance, my friend wanted to stop eating chocolate because she felt like she was addicted to it. So, she developed a new perception on chocolate and pictured it as solid poop. Chocolate chips were animal poop. Chocolate bars were poop formed into bars. As soon as she pictured that, she had an emotional reaction to chocolate, and the thought of eating poop made her sick. She hasn’t touched chocolate since.

Another friend of mine was addicted to the casino. She was spending all of her extra money there, and even though she hated losing her money, she would see a casino and perceive it as a place that she ‘could’ win some money. At one point she had enough and decided she didn’t want to give the casino another dime. So, she took two letters from the casino and focused on those rather than the slot machines inside. She saw ‘no’ instead of casino, and that simple ‘no’ was enough to remind her that she didn’t want to go there anymore. She hasn’t been there in two years now, and she was going 3 times a week for over 10 years.

But how can you apply this in your life? Take one of the goals you created and find a way to change your perception towards what you want.

Let’s use this example: You are in a struggling relationship and your goal is to have a loving relationship full of peace and happiness.

Step 1: Write Down What You Want To Become Aware Of (Perceive)

This should be something that strikes some emotion in you. Right now, you may be annoyed with your partner, but to have a loving relationship full of peace and happiness, you need to see them as someone who is doing their best in the relationship (which they are by the way!).

2. Write Down A Small Habit To Help You Achieve What You Want To Perceive

So, you want to be able to see that they are doing their best. A habit that can help you do that is to remind yourself of the fact that they are trying every time they do something that irritates you. Thinking this as you look at them will help you change your perception about them and, ultimately, help you change how you feel about them.

3. Put Your Attention On Your New Perception

If you want to change anything, you have to keep your attention on your desired perception. Therefore, write it down, post it somewhere you can see it, create little alerts on your phone with your new perception, and get it in front of you as often as possible. The more attention you put on it, the easier it will be to maintain the new habit.

4. Let The Habit Change You

As you go forward, and practice maintaining the new habit of seeing them doing their best, you will start to see change. You will find yourself being more patient and understanding of your partner. You will speak softer and stop accusing them for things they haven’t done. Remember, information is interpreted by your perception, so what you used to think they did with the purpose to hurt you may suddenly seem like an innocent gesture that has nothing to do with you.

5. Find A New Habit

Once your perception changes and you can clearly see they are doing their best, find a new habit to help you further develop more change in your relationship. For instance, you can add a habit where you talk through misunderstandings. The more positive habits you put into place towards your goal of a loving relationship full of peace and happiness, the more change you will see, even if your partner stays the same.

Note: Consistency is key. If you don’t get yourself into a routine of doing a new habit to help change your perception, then your perception will not change. If you only do it once in a while, then it will not become a part of your life. So make sure you keep your intention to practice your new habit daily.

Changing Other People

Now, when you think of the term ‘people don’t change’ you may be thinking about a certain relationship you are in. Since you understand that perception is key to change, you should also understand that you can’t change someone else.

You can’t reach into someone’s head and change their perception. No matter what you say or do, they will choose to view the world in whatever way they choose – until they choose differently. And, some of them may never choose differently.

So should you stay in an unhealthy relationship hoping they will change? Not if they are hurting you. And, not if they are unwilling to try to change!

Their perception is likely very negative and that is playing out in how they behave in, and view, the relationship, and the chances of things becoming good quickly are very low. They need something to show them that their way of interacting with the world is not working for them before they can start to change their perception, and you leaving the relationship may be one thing that can stimulate the desire to change – but it’s not guaranteed. Remember, some people will not change in their life. They don’t have the awareness or strength to make it happen.

One thing is for sure – staying in the relationship and letting them get away with their poor behavior is not going to stimulate any kind of change because it is working for them. They have no need to view anything differently.


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