The challenge of change and how to get through it

"I want to change, but not if it means changing." This quote comes from a book I read recently - The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz. Stephen is a psychoanalyst, and the quote comes from one of his patients, says Hilary Jeanes of PurpleLine Consulting.

The Examined Life book cover says 'This book is about change' - 'one ordinary process: talking, listening and understanding.'

People choose to see a psychoanalyst or work with a coach to achieve a specific goal or change they desire, which they are not able to accomplish on their own.

"I want to change, but not if it means changing." Is this familiar to you? It certainly is to me.

If you feel like that, what does it mean? That you're unwilling, unable or not ready to make the change?

I know that when I've made a change from a good state of mind, implementing that change has been easy.  I remember that stopping smoking suddenly seemed the right thing to do and so changing just made sense, even though up until the moment I had that insight it had not previously been the case.

Yet change can sometimes feel very challenging, even where we believe we are choosing to make the change, whether a physical change (job, house, partner) or a behaviour (exercise, smoking, eating). This is especially so if our thinking is not supporting the change we want to make. And perhaps more shockingly, when not changing might result in your death.

Why is this?

Habits and routine are comfortable and familiar. Better the devil you know ... and all that.

Also, doing something new inevitably involves some kind of loss. And in our instant gratification culture, sometimes the benefits of the change seem a long way off and it feels like the route to achieving them is a path of deprivation and hardship.

On many occasions I've tried to analyse what specifically made a change so easy when at other times it's felt impossible. Like giving up smoking. But that rational process alone doesn't seem to provide an answer.

To give a practical example, when you have applied for and been offered a new job you start to appreciate and focus on what you are leaving behind - the convenient commute, the friends you've made, the routine you've come to accept, knowing the job inside out. This response is emotional.

Ahead of you lies a lot of uncertainty and potential discomfort. You know what you might lose, and have an idea of what you will gain, but will it be borne out in reality?

Paying attention to the loss you will experience in making a change and what might replace it might be important to helping you achieve the change you desire.

In the example of changing your job, finding a number of different ways to commute will help you choose the one you like best; you will keep in touch with the good friends you've made in your current job and also have the opportunity to make new ones; it doesn't take long to develop a new routine and you have a chance to learn new stuff.

The route to achieving the change you desire is to see how the opportunities presented by the change outweigh the losses you will experience and suddenly that change seems the absolutely right thing to do.

Rational first, intuition second.

Following your innate wisdom is the key to implementing the change you desire.  Then making the change is a natural course of action and enables you to tap into your motivation and excitement. In some situations, it may not feel like you're making a change at all. But unfortunately that innate wisdom does not just show up when you want it to!

Is it any wonder then, that organisational change is such a challenge if change can be so difficult for us personally when we want or can see the benefits of making a change? Especially if that change could ultimately affect whether you have a job or not...

What do you think?


Hilary Jeanes works with individuals and organisations to implement changes they desire. Contact her on 01763 245323 or by emailing for a conversation about the changes  you'd like to make in your working life.


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