What are some of the factors that influence change and make it hard?
80% of New Years resolutions fail. This is the stat that is bandied around the internet. Interestingly enough, this stat tends to be a "they say" number that is linked endlessly back to no official study anywhere. Despite the scepticism around the statistics, I know New Years resolutions are rife around this annual calendar moment, and they don't tend to translate well into successful behaviour change.
Change is a strange process. Personally, I have found myself changing in ways that I would never have anticipated as life has developed. I never used to care too much about tidiness. Or bed making for that matter. Even as a young married couple, it used to trouble Beth that I couldn't see the problem with my spreading ways or that the bed never seemed to be made by me. Fast forward to having a little human spreading things everywhere, and the bed in your background for any online meeting, and I often make the bed and I am quite strongly committed to keeping our house neat and tidy these days. Who would have thought!!! But one thing is for sure - change has most certainly taken place for me.
How about your experience?
We've begun a series exploring how we change as humans from a biblical and psychological perspective, drawing upon a very useful resource I'm reading. I think it's highly relevant to us right now as we're coming out of lock-down in Sydney and considering the ways we want and need to do things differently in our lives moving forward.
So what is the change "secret sauce"?
Well, it appears that there is no secret sauce or silver bullet. And further, that human change is complex and hard to come by. This is what J. G. Millar argues in his work "Changed Into His Likeness".
This much has certainly be true for my life. It's not impossible to change, but it is far more challenging, messy, and stranger than our simple and often spontaneous New Years resolutions tend to make it out to be.
So do you REALLY want to change?
Perhaps the place to start is with some way to check if we're really ready to change. And whilst I am aware of models that define stages of change we tend to go through as humans - like Prochaska & DiClemente's "Stages of Change" modelling (read more HERE) - I'm looking for something a bit different. I'm looking for the conditions that tend to trigger change or prevent change from moving through all the well considered stages identified in "Stages of Change" modelling like Prochaska & DiClemente's.
Here's where J. G. Miller identifies the often "triggered" nature of personal change and the complex and it's complex and messy reality.
Change, according to Millar's analysis of the Psychology literature, tends to come:
Around a major life transition (marriage, parenthood, loss of a loved one, midlife, etc.).
From a sense of boredom or dissatisfaction with life.
From a recognition that something is broken and needs to be fixed.
From a desire for the 'rewards' that come with change. And/or,
From a crisis/shock that produces motivation for action.
Here's your checklist. Are any of these real for you? You may be right in the middle of an opportunity for personal change. As Millar notes, any of these experiences can bring out the desire for change in us, and even more so, make the decision to not change painful and therefore not an option.
Even more helpful is Millar's collating of reasons why change doesn't always to last for us:
We lack the will to continue - our willpower is limited and our routine neural wiring tends to be hard to shift.
Our goals may be unrealistic or ill-judged.
Our beliefs may be dysfunctional, inhibiting change.
We may slip into blaming others or our circumstances rather than taking responsibility to change.
The benefits of remaining stuck outweigh the change as we see it currently.
We may lack support from important others.
Our traits or moods may work against change.
We may lack the skills to manage the change process well.
Here's your second checklist. Maybe you are seeking to change, but have found the change hard to embed in your life. Any of these reasons resonating with you for your personal change initiative?
Isn't This All A Little Depressing
Well yes and no. Yes, it is in the sense that change is quite a sensitive and hard to maintain effect in our lives. But this is a good thing for us to recognise, as it prevents us from being naive about our approach to change in ours and others lives.
Even more importantly, these insights cause us to realise we need real help to change. There are multiple factors at play in seeing genuine change take place in our lives and those around us. And this causes us to recognise that the grace and presence of God is essential in co-ordinating the factors around us and in us that are necessary for real and lasting change to take place.
But again, if the scripture declares to us what is true for us and all who seek to follow Jesus, change is what God is working in us, and through us, in this grace-empowered life. Remember this, from Romans 8:29:
"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."
In an nutshell, we are destined for change in following Jesus, and into nothing less than His image. Wow! So whilst change is hard, messy, and complex, scripture declares to us - God wants to bring about in us the best kind!
What do I do?
You can't just manufacture your circumstances. Don't go out seeking a major life transition just to encourage change, for example! But you can assess where you are at, and what factors might be preventing lasting change for you. Review the two lists above, and ask:
Am I in such a catalytic set of circumstances right now? If so, how exactly? If not, why not?
Am I finding one or more of these issues is real for my change efforts at present?
After taking an honest assessment of yourself, I'd encourage you to do two more things:
Humble yourself under God and seek His help - James promises: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." [James 4:10]
Ask someone who you trust and know will encourage you - to stand with you in the change you seek, to pray for you, and to believe God with you for change into Christlikeness to occur by God's empowering grace.
Having a realistic understanding of what is before us in pursuing change and growth is essential to actually seeing it come about.
Next week, we will discover "Change Has Happened Here" - right at the core of who we are, because of the grace we received when we first believed. Can't wait to explore this with you all!
Pressing into this transformational journey with you this week.
Written by Ps. Rob