The Challenge to Change

Hawaii II    2009 080“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”  – Alan Cohen

When was the last time you avoided making a change in your life?

This might be a harder question to answer than you think, as we tend to retain memories or regrets of the directions we did take, rather than ponder the ones we did not.

We all have ingenious ways of talking ourselves out of change, sometimes without even knowing we are doing it.  Sometimes this resistance to change can be a safety mechanism, but far too often it can cause us to stall, resulting in opportunities missed, and possibilities unrealized.

In the Spring of 2013, when Sheryl and I decided to simplify, downsize, and create more margin in our lives, we made the decision to change because we imagined a better way to live.  Looking back, it seems we came to the decision quickly, deliberately.  But as I think deeper on it, the need to change had been present for several years, stubbornly ignored and rejected by both of us for a variety of reasons.  The speed and deliberateness of our actions was due more to a tipping point having been reached, as we finally recognized how circumstances around us had changed.

Dr. Edward Miller, dean of the medical school and CEO of the hospital at Johns Hopkins University, reports that even when heart patients are told by their doctors they will die if they do not change their habits, only 1 in 10 patients actually change their lifestyle.  It seems that for a vast majority of us, even when we are given information we can believe, from credible sources, we resist change.

John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor, upon studying dozens of organizations in the midst of the economic upheavals over the past few years, makes the observation that “behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.”

According to Kotter, even with people who pride themselves on being disciplined,  rational analytical thinkers like engineers, scientists, doctors, and lawyers, the most successful change occurs when problems or solutions are seen in ways that impact emotions, not just reason.


“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch

Dr. Dean Ornish, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, says that change depends on people seeing beyond the facts and beyond their fears.  According to Ornish, “…information is important but not always sufficient.  We also need to bring in the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions that are so often ignored.”

If we have nothing better with which to replace the status quo, we eventually lose momentum and slide back into the comfortable habits of old.

Real change does not take root until we can tap into the emotional vision of a brighter future.  Envisioning the magnificent possibilities – that is what empowers us, the thing that sets in motion our reason to embrace change.

What is holding you back from envisioning a brighter future and making the changes that need to occur in your life that will allow you to focus on the things that matter?

“Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.” – Francis Bacon


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2 thoughts on “The Challenge to Change

    • Thank you for the kind comment! Most of us struggle to make intentional healthy changes in our lives. The good news is that Dave and I are finding that at least for us, such changes permit us to give more to our loved ones and community.