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Change is difficult but not impossible

Fact: Making a change is difficult but not impossible

Assumption: Every person on earth wants to do things that are good, positive and healthy for themselves.

Question: Why does everyone struggle with making a change, even when they truly intend to?

Below, 2 scientific reasons why making a change is difficult? Knowing them can improve your chances of making a lasting change.

Often there are moments in one's life, wherein they are committed towards making a particular change. However, they soon realize they are failing in their endeavors. It may not take too much to start, but just when things are gathering momentum, one may fall off the wagon and the 'wanted change' may not last.

Why does this happen?

Neuroscience has done a substantial bit of research on this subject. By gaining a better understanding of how the brain works, we can increase our chances of managing our behaviours. According to Stephen Light, 'our behaviours become addictions and addictions are hard to change.'

Human beings have a developed prefrontal cortex, which helps in analytical thinking and making decisions. Let's explore how the brain the works, in a non-technical and simple to understand manner.

1. Hard-wiring of the brain

Our brain is essentially hardwired to protect us from doing anything new. Since it views anything new/unfamiliar as risky and potentially even dangerous. In order to reduce the straining of energy as caused by repetitive actions and thoughts, our mind creates certain patterns, which translate into strong connections. Our habits, therefore, become difficult to change, because the mind is hardwired into some underlying patterns related with the habit.

A very popular book that discusses change and the brain’s role in it is ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge. The author discusses that when one persists with the change by keeping it iterative, the body over time learns to adapt. This helps one cope through difficult stages in lives, such as getting over a breakup in interpersonal relationships or losing weight.

2. Will-power isn't enough to make a change

Dr. John C Norcross is the author of the book titled Changeology.

Dr. Norcross was taken over by a slightly surprised disposition, when he came to realize that more and more people are fielding ideas regarding the bringing about a change based merely upon their grit and will power. This encompasses sticking to New Year resolutions.

The researcher firmly believes that when one relies excessively upon his grit and determination, he may begin to ignore other essential skills in life. This involves the ability to recognize the one who comes across more success in life. It is however important to understand that anyone who is attempting to break a habit such as smoking, curb his spending or enhancing his saving is more deeply focused upon his skillsets, and not on his capabilities.

By letting the capabilities be the primary area of focus, one can make achievable targets and go back to square one and make a fresh start again if things do not turn out to be as positive as initially intended. It makes way for sustainable success for a resolution.

Dr. Norcross’s research puts us in a position to conclude that it is a focus on building the skills that boosts the likelihood of attaining success in sticking to resolutions. Keeping the outlook positive helps and people who actually end up sticking to resolutions may go for more than one trial towards their materialization.

If we take a look at the statistics, we come to realize that while only 4% of people who make resolutions stick to them, over 40% of them are serious about making it work. For many people, the best part of a resolution is contemplation towards its success. The serious motivation is, however, often hard to find. In this regard, co-workers, friends and family members can be a great bit of help. As an example, a few phone calls from a loved one can provide that additional bit of motivation that encourages one to go that extra mile to stick to a resolution.

So how does one go about coping with change?

Norman Doidge, expresses that we exercise a tremendous degree of control over our bodily reactions. It is more prominent than what most of us realize. Upon making attempts that supersede the normal efforts, it becomes possible to check the neurons that become excited upon experiencing change. This brings to fore the capability of welcoming change in our patterns of thoughts, and also makes room for positive habits that keep one healthful in the long term.

Now, that we understand that our brain is designed to make it difficult to change a pattern (habit) it's now possible to take steps towards changing our brain.

1. Dr Rick Hanson, explains the negativity bias of the brain and says " our brain is very good at learning from negative experiences, but bad at learning from good ones". He explains his HEAL process in this video where he talks about how to start activating positive mental state and allow it to sink into the brain. Off-course, this will work gradually.

2. The 5second Rule by Mel Robbins. By counting backwards 5-4-3-2-1, one can activate their prefrontal cortex, move physically and do the intended action.Learn more about The 5second Rule here.

Only once we understand what we dealing with can we plan and strategise our defence. By understanding how the brain is wired to act against us, we now can start implementing tools and strategies to reprogram our minds.

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