Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links which means that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through the links and make a purchase.
This is Part 4 of a series I’m running on this blog titled Building the Foundation to Start a Personal Development Journey based on a series of questions I asked. (To learn more, click here.)
This article will mostly be focusing on analyzing answers from my survey and people’s views on change including my own. I simply hope to address an issue, bring some inspiration and my own perspective.
After asking people about change, I learned that we need to change the way we look at change.
The next articles for the rest of part 4 will be about why change is hard, the psychology of change, how to make change easier and more.
Through a survey, interview, and other platforms, I asked a total of 390 people what they would like to change in their life.
At this point in your life, what would you like to change in your life now and where would you start?
Some of the responses to this question disturbed me.
Here is the word map of the most common responses.
Does anything stand out to you?
At first glance, I thought it made my word map look ugly. Then, it became an opportunity. To turn nothing into something.
This time instead of counting and then measuring responses with certain words in them like I did with the previous questions, I hand categorized each answer into seven categories. The categories were health, financial/career/work, relationships/social, education, lifestyle/general/personal, spiritual/religious, and nothing. Some responses went into more than one category if they mentioned more than one category that they’d like to change in their life.
The category ‘Nothing’ had a total of 64 responses making it to 16.41% of total responses.
“Nothing.” or “I wouldn’t change anything.” screams, “I have no goals!”
There is no purpose. It’s self-limiting. You’re settling.
To me, it’s also a very cold response. There’s not much thought put to it. It could be because it’s an automatic response.
I should acknowledge beforehand that it’s possible that a few of the responses misunderstood the question as going back in time and making changes. However, that’s probably not the case with all or even most of the responses so we’ll rule that out.
I was quite astounded with the amount of responses refusing to have any openness or willingness for change.
I realized after some thinking, reflecting, and digging why some people are so nonaccepting and willingly resistant to change.
And I also realized that we need to change the way we look at change.
But before we get into that, let’s look at the demographics.
Slightly more than half of the respondents were female.
Most of the respondents said that they were between ages 21-29, followed by ages 60 or older and ages 40-49.
More than half of the respondents said they were employed, either working full-time or part-time.
The most common occupations were in Education, Training, and Library; Arts, Design, Entertainment and Media; Management; Sales and Related; and Healthcare Practitioners and Technical.
Most respondents said they lived in the United States, followed by Canada, Costa Rica, and India.
The top states were Florida, California, Texas, New York, Washington, and Oregon.
The five most common cities were Orlando, Los Angeles, Kissimmee, Denver, and Portland.
Why People Are Not Open to Change
This comes down to a character trait. Although it can be changed, it’s unlikely due to the trait itself. It’s a catch-22. Rigidity is the inability to change concepts or attitudes once developed as well as the inability or refusal to yield or appreciate another person’s viewpoint or emotions—basically the psychological term for closemindedness. It’s the opposite of flexibility, adaptability, and openness. This type of person is likely to follow traditions and old beliefs because “Papa said so” without questioning it or considering other perspectives. It’s like the poem, Mending Wall by Robert Frost which is one of my favorite poems.
There is safety and security in staying where we are because it’s “fine.” It’s living in a bubble safe from being wrong, making mistakes, being judged. Safe from growth, excellence, opportunities, success.
Fear, just like comfort, keeps us paralyzed, right where we are. With change, there is uncertainty and uncertainty is scary. We may also fear the responsibilities and the work of change which is often subconscious. Not wanting change is the lizard brain speaking. The lizard brain doesn’t like or want change. If we’re surviving, there’s no need for change according to the lizard brain.
A lot of times we don’t want to accept or welcome change because that would mean admitting a fault with ourselves or our actions. We’ll be ignorant to that because we don’t want to see it. It’s a form of showing pride and smugness. “I’ve already achieved everything. There’s nothing I need to do now.”
5. The Stigma of Change
There is stigma to change as well as personal development. This is especially true when it comes to mental health as well as with therapy. People tend to look down on therapy or think that if you go to therapy, there’s something wrong with you, you’re messed up, you’re crazy. Which is not remotely true and even if someone were clinically insane, they should not be looked down upon.
The Stigma of Change
Openness to change ≠ Unhappiness
Because of the stigma of change as well as other reasons listed above, people have misconceptions and limiting beliefs about change
1. Wanting change means you are unhappy.
The truth is the complete opposite. The irony is that change starts with love and acceptance. It starts with self-love. You can love yourself and want change. You can love your life and want change. The two or not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand.
2. Wanting change means you are wrong or there is something wrong.
A lot of times there is no right or wrong in our decisions, but there is usually better or worse. If someone tells us or we tell ourselves, “Hey, you should do this instead, or you should start doing this.” Our egos may translate that into, “What you’re doing is wrong! You’re wrong!” Whatever it may be. We hate being wrong. So, instead we tell ourselves we’re smart, and we make the right decisions. Therefore, there is no change needed because we can’t handle being wrong.
3. Change has to be drastic or big.
Change can be in any shape or form—big or small. There are subtle forms of change. When we learn, we change. Literally. When we learn something new, our brain physically changes with new connections.
4. Some may see not wanting anything more out of life as being humble.
The limiting belief is that people think of change only in terms of how it either helps or hurts themselves. Even if not for yourself, think about it like this. You could always give a little more. You could always be a better person. There is always room to be a better person. If there is nothing more you can do for yourself or your life, what can you do for others and their lives?
5. Change is too risky, scary and uncertain. (And therefore not worth it)
Yes, it’s true that change can be risky, scary, and uncertain. The misconception about that is that the end result is often rewarding.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Someone wrote this in response to the question so I thought I should address it in relation to misconception/limiting belief #5.
The problem with that statement is that it’s applied to human life which is incredibly fluid not static or fixed like an inanimate object. This statement also stems from fear. That change is risky. That attempting to improve something will backfire and make it worse. The thing is “not fixing it” is a risk in and of itself. Everything is a risk. Change is risky, yes, but that doesn’t mean we should fear it and avoid it especially with that kind of mentality. Not doing anything is a risk. Living life being controlled by fear is a risk.
“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.”
We should never lead our lives by fear.
Yes, there are many things in life that are constants and shouldn’t be messed with, but that statement does not and should not apply to everything especially someone’s life.
“If it ain’t broke..” is also terrible business advice. In the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, multiple businesses that refused to make any changes because “everything is fine.” failed because they refused to see and take opportunities of growth. They didn’t want to risk it because everything was going good already. The book explains that is was also a case of huge egos and not wanting to be wrong.
Good is the Enemy of Great
The following is a quote from the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, which is in my list of the most recommended business books of all time.
“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
Happiness is a Journey
Just like success is a journey, happiness is also a journey. This is another why success is not happiness. It’s treated as an end goal. “I’m happy. That’s it.” And it can be confused with comfort, security, and complacency. Happiness is not something you just get at. It’s a state that has to actively be continued. This is achieved through growth.
My father taught me that if you’re not moving up, your moving down. And if it’s neither, it’s a flat line. You’re dead.
“If you don’t look back on yourself and think, “Wow, how stupid I was a year ago,” then you must not have learned much in the last year.” – Ray Dalio
Everyone should strive to be better, regardless of age.
The mindset against change was especially common among those older. They believed that they have achieved whatever they have achieved, lived their life and that was it. That’s not living though.
Bill Gates became a self-made millionaire at 26 years old. Now, at 63 years old, he’s worth $97 billion as the second wealthiest person in the world. You could say that he’s “made it.” Yet he continues to constantly learn and grow. Did you know he has a blog? Where he posts almost daily and speaks about his favorite books, his travels, speeches, and notable philanthropies. He doesn’t just sit around and say, “Well, this is it. I’m done with life. I’ve made it. Nothing I need to do or change now.” Of course not! He spends his time reading and learning. In fact, he reads about 50 books a year.
He’s not reading fiction novels either. He reads non-fiction, and he learns. In this list I made, Bill Gates recommends several of these business and personal development books.
Warren Buffett, worth $86 billion, at 88 years old, continues to learn and grow daily by reading books. In fact, that’s what he spends the most of his time doing. I made a list of the most recommended books by the most successful people including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett here.
Yes, learning is change. It’s a subtle form of change, but it’s powerful. And it’s change nonetheless.
Regardless of age, life is not over. It’s not finished or completed. And that means that neither should our growth and success be.
Ironically, some people wrote that they wouldn’t change anything yet stated what they would change right after.
People had the assumption that something must be wrong in their life if they want change.
I think many people were looking more at the bigger picture and less at the little things. I talk about the importance of the little things in this article.
People who answered nothing may not want any drastic change in their life, and there’s nothing wrong that.
Yet I wouldn’t doubt that they wouldn’t mind more minor changes like getting a new phone or getting some new clothes.
We are so quick to upgrade our phones, but not our minds or our lives.
“I think I’m in a good place and have no regrets”
This mentality of refusing to have any regrets comes from the mentality of not wanting to be wrong. Having regrets is not a bad thing. It’s acknowledging and having remorse for mistakes.
We all make mistakes. Some of my regrets are missing out on opportunities, wasting time, getting distracted with meaningless stuff, and not taking action. Just because I have regrets doesn’t mean I’m a failure or miserable with my life or it’s the end of the world.
I don’t think you should fear regrets. I think not having regrets means you haven’t really lived. Instead, you should fear complacency, stagnancy, settling.
Avoiding mistakes and failures is not a bad thing either. No, you shouldn’t fear failure. But you shouldn’t not try to avoid it through education and growth.
We only have one life. And time is limited. I’d rather make less mistakes than I have to. The irony is that we fear making changes because we are trying to avoid mistakes. The reality is the opposite is true.
We fear leaving that toxic relationship when in reality we should fear staying. We’re afraid of quitting that job when in reality we should fear staying. We fear moving out of the state or the country when we should fear not doing so. In trying to avoid mistakes the wrong way, we make more or even bigger mistakes and regrets. We can only avoid mistakes through education and experience – making the mistake once, learning about it early on, fixing it and not doing it again and avoiding even greater mistakes and regrets.
Definition Of Hell: “On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” — Unknown
“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”
Above is a quote I recently came across that stood out to me.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
Oftentimes we have no idea what we’re missing out on.
My boyfriend mentions to me about how it was like living back then like in the Medieval Times. Knowing what I know and how I live in society today compared to how history tells us it was back then, I tell him it must have been terrible. He claims that people didn’t know any better so it couldn’t have been that bad. I argue that while that may have been true for some people, there were people who were aware. Those who were aware believed in and fought for change. We are living in a better society today because of people who believed in change.
If everyone in the world answered “nothing,” we’d probably still be living in the same kind of society all these years without any kind of change or improvement.
All change in the world, however, starts with ourselves.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy
I had a friend who moved from where I live, Orlando to San Francisco. She came back to visit her family and friends, myself included, maybe about a year after her move. I think when someone willingly moves out of their small town into a larger city in pursuit of their dreams, there’s most likely going to be some growth. And that’s definitely what happened to my friend.
She spoke to me about how strange it was visiting some of her old friends because they were the same. Because of her move she had grown and changed so much, and they didn’t. She had trouble relating to them. In her mind, it solidified her decision to move. Coming back was like looking back at her old life and her old self. It made her realize how much she had changed and grown in a healthy and positive way. But it also made her feel sad for her friends.
Maybe you’ve experienced this also. Have you ever reconnected with old friends from high school or attended a reunion and found that they were exactly the same? You had trouble relating to them because you’ve grown and changed since high school. You’re not the same person you were in high school, but they were. And then your other friends had also changed and grown like you, and you felt that you could connect with them better than the friends who were still the same from high school.
Below are some selected featured responses from the change question.
“If I wanna change my life? Wow, that’s deep! Um… Can I ask you a question? Like what do you mean by change my life? Change in what aspect? The thing is with that I think that when you think of… it sounds like such a deep question where you think it needs to be something drastic. But I believe to change your life drastically it starts with small steps that compound over time, that create habits. And, you know, it’s like a compound effect, you know? It’s just a slight edge that just takes you just tchoo, tchoo, tchoo, tchoo. Like it’s like a smooth road and then all of a sudden you’re just on the mountain. Drastically changing your life due to your small habits, small changes, you know.” – Francesca Gura
“Uh…I think that’s an open-ended question. I don’t think it’s whether I decide or not. I think everybody, me personally, I’m always working on myself. So it just depends on what’s gnawing at me. Like if it’s, you know, if I’m feeling a little bit out of shape, or I feel like I could be contributing more to, you know, financial success. Or I should be doing more to help people around me. Or am, you know, am I ultimately happy with what I’m doing, you know? Like, am I growing? In that respect. If I wanted to change my life, I would begin… That’s a difficult question. I think I would, looking back at my age, I would begin to have done things sooner that I know that I should have done sooner. I think the trajectory in which I am right now, I would have been far greater, far further ahead. The things that I knew back then that I just really didn’t apply myself to. Taking full advantage of that knowledge. So I was always—Yeah, taking action. Just delaying the inevitable. You know, trying to cheat in certain ways like, for example, taking shortcuts, you know, just rather than just doing it with diligence. And following through and doing the hard work necessary. I would start with what is the end goal and work backwards from there. In other words, if I wanted to say, achieve a certain level of fitness or have a certain amount of financial success or me to get into a new relationship. I would say what am I ultimately really looking for? And then I would work backwards from there, what it would take, and then figure out, you know, what steps I would have to take to achieve that.” – Greg Gura
“Become a better father. And I would start by taking a good hard long look and decisions I’ve made and being honest with myself about what’s truly important to me and be willing to make sacrifices and stop using excuses as a crutch not take care of my responsibilities” – Anonymous
“I guess it would be prosperity with dignity mixed in with integrity that makes me emotionally healthy, and it would be the creation of consistency.” – Anonymous
“I am changing my life every day, every week. It is so joyful. In my 40’s I finally took my life into my hands and quit worrying about whether my family (children/husband) was behind me. I can’t say I got support, rather I lead by example. Here I am 17 years later with a job that fulfills me, several novels written, and a second home on the beach. Seventeen years ago I was akin to white trash in a little go-nowhere burg of Wisconsin. Just make one change. Throw a resume out there for the hell of it. Quit worrying about results and just do any change, anything, just for the hell of it. You have nothing – nothing – nothing to lose. Life is always a win situation. It’s scary and thrilling and every step reminds me to keep up with myself. Keep up with my dreams.” – Anonymous
“People tend to wait to for another month or another year to begin a new chapter in their life but I feel like everything begins with us and how we think. We can always start fresh whenever we decide. It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you started.” – Jewels
“I made changes every day the always start fresh with every new change” – Tommy
“I am never settled, always looking to learn, evolve and strive further.” – Dennis S.
A Final Note
It’s impossible to be a true advocate and believer in personal growth yet claim to not want to change anything in your life because you’re happy and you love your life.
Since you’re reading this article, you are probably interested in personal development. If you had any misconceptions of limiting beliefs about change, hopefully, this article helped clear those up for you.
If you answered or would’ve answered nothing, I would advise to at least try to change just this one thing: Change the way you look at change. It may just change your life. 😉