What You Want to Change and Why You Won't

7/23/2019 at 3:43 PM · By Mark


About every couple of months, I go through a lull where I feel as though I've lost my purpose and life becomes more mundane.  Here are some ideas that have often helped me in these moments of conundrum and that I try and revert back to when I start feeling the weight of the void pressing down on my shoulders.  For general purposes- when I refer to "Change" I'm meaning "changing for the better".  If you're looking to change for the worse, this article will be of little help.

We all seek essentially 3 types of change:

  1. We desire to change the obvious. These changes are obvious to us both in what they are and often in what we need to do to fix them.  Generally, the inhibitor to change is simply a lack of motivation.  Take for example, the desire to lose weight.  Everyone knows exercise and a balanced diet is the key, but it’s hard and the bigger you get, the harder it gets to reverse course.
  2. We don’t know what we need to change, but we know something is missing. In this type of change, we have a hard time pinpointing exactly what it is we want to change.  Often these are reflected in feelings of depression, boredom, uncertainty or just a sense that we’re living without purpose. 
  3. We’re changing the wrong thing. Sometimes a person is so focused on changing their weight and body shape, when perhaps perspective and self-image are the real underlying problem.  When we change the wrong thing, the next thing on the list becomes the problem and the pain doesn’t subside.  


Have you ever started toward a change, done well for a month or even a year and then reverted back?  Perhaps you lose motivation, you get injured or some other change in your life knocks you off course.  Why is change so hard for us? 

After reading this paragraph I invite you to sit back and close your eyes for 10 seconds *(or longer if you need it).  With your eyes closed, envision yourself sitting across the room from yourself analyzing that person.  Who do you see?  What do you like about that person, what do you dislike?  What does that person need to change so you’re proud to be them?

Most of us won’t have any difficulty pointing out our flaws, but this exercise is designed specifically to help you see them clearly.  If you saw that you weren’t smiling, ask why you aren’t smiling?  If you’re slouching, or overweight, or balding or lazy, sad, bored, too ugly, too beautiful, etc.  Point it out and be clear about it. 

Most of us want to change something and feel a need to change, but often just grab onto the first thought on how to fix it run with it haphazardly.  I recently spoke with a person that told me they weren’t feeling fulfilled in their current occupation and they were looking at going back to school to change occupations.   My question to them was: “are you sure it’s the occupation that you’re really wanting to change, or is it something deeper that you're missing?”. 

It’s normal to feel bored, to feel a lack of motivation, to feel like there’s no purpose to your life how it is.  It’s normal to feel fearful of change.  It’s normal to be confused about what it is we really need to change. What does that mean?  It means your normal.  But normal isn't better or best, betterest or bestest.  To get there we have to change.  To start to change, we must answer 2 questions:

  1. How do we know what to change?
  2. How do we actually do it?

How do we know what to change?  Sometimes we don’t.  However, a good place to start is with our perspective.  If a college student does poorly on a test, immediately following the result, it feels like a big deal.  5 years later, it’s not a big deal.  50 years later when we pull the test out of a stack of old papers, we’ll laugh about it.  Big deals are only “big” because of perspective.  If we change our perspective, we change the nature of the challenge.  A person may feel like they’re not being paid enough, but then travel to Africa and watch a mother carrying a baby in one arm and a 40 lb bucket of water on her head for 5 miles home, constantly watching for predators.  Of the 2 who’s more underpaid and underappreciated?  Perspectives change based upon our experience.  This is why happiness has little to do with what you actually have and a lot to do with how you grateful you are for what you have.  

First, work on changing your perspective.  If you think you’re ugly, fat or stupid.  Losing weight, wearing a wig and some makeup, or taking an IQ test probably won’t change that view.  Changing our perspective first to see the bigger picture, helps us to see much more clearly “what” we need to change and “how” that change will really affect us.  If I feel stupid, I probably want to feel smart.  This means I need to first define what in my perspective, it means to be “smart”.  We all look at life through a microscope, but the changes that matter most are the ones dictated through the telescope.  Zoom out and define what it is you’re really seeking. 

Once we have a clearer perspective on what we want- how do we change?  The key is to first accept and then embrace that challenge is inherent in change.  Change is hard, it always has been and always will be.  You will not change anything of significance if you can’t accept and embrace change as being a hard thing to do.  To change we must come to terms with the idea that simply because something is hard to do, is not a justification for not doing it.  We spend our entire lives trying to make life easy, yet we find the most value in doing those things we perceive to be the most challenging.  Those who change effectively quit running away from challenges because they’re hard.  In fact, often those who are most successful at changing, look for challenges because the thrill of conquering is significantly more gratifying than avoiding the pain associated with the challenge.  Accept that change will be hard, then embrace it.

Once we accept that challenge and difficulty are inherent in a life of purpose, we can zero in on big-picture changes and this happens in a 2 step process: Perspective then Action.  Where perspective helps us to see, action helps us to feel.  In other words, once we see things differently, we have to act and behave in a different way as well.  I may not see myself as negatively if I’m overweight, but now I want to feel different as well.  So I must act.  I must embrace that it’s going to hurt, it’s going to be hard….. and that’s okay, because I want to “feel” healthy.  If I don’t feel happy, I have to first change the perspective to one of gratitude for what I do have, but then act graciously so that I “feel” happy.  How do grateful people act?  Trust your heart and follow it.

My kids on occasion come to me and say: “I’m bored” as though it’s my job as their parent to keep them entertained 16 hours of the waking day.  I like to respond, “I’d be happy to find some work for you to do.”  At which point they become magicians and disappear.   Regardless of the messages that we hear from Apple, Google, Netflix, and Amazon, life is not supposed to be entertainment and instant gratification all the time.  Hunger is a good thing because it helps us appreciate feeling full.  Movies watched once a month are enjoyed much more thoroughly than if we watch 5 a week.  It’s in the contrast that we see the light.   

So why won’t you and I change?  Because we will refuse to embrace that life’s greatest rewards come from its greatest challenges and difficulties.  However, once we stop running away…..we change.



Photo by Travis Seera from Pexels


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