Realizing we need to change or improve something in our lives or personalities is just the first step, and often the easiest one. After that comes the challenge of actually MAKING the change and keeping up with it.
But change and self-improvement is always easier said than done. It can be bloody difficult to continue making those changes to your lifestyle, speech habits, patterns of thinking, and behavior that leads to personal growth. According to one article on Psychology Today, there are a few factors that make self-improvement difficult:
Wrong motivation. When we’re motivated by negative emotions (fear, guilt, shame, regret, anxiety), it’s nearly impossible to sustain efforts to change. While these negative emotions can be the catalyst to begin the change, it’s positive emotions that lead to long-lasting results.
Too much all at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to be a totally new person overnight. Breaking down your long-term goals into short-term ones will make them more manageable. Instead of seeing things as huge, vague, overwhelming achievement, you’ll be able to tackle everything one bite at a time.
Cognitive biases. It’s easy to think “all or nothing” when it comes to change, but this cognitive bias is basically guaranteeing failure. After all, it’s nearly impossible to reach 100% success at anything. Change that way of thinking and be content with “some” success.
Too many changes at a time. Have you ever tried to change a tire while refilling brake fluid and washing the car? Sounds silly, but sadly we can approach personal growth with the same mentality of “I want to do everything at the same time”. Tackle one change at a time. Once you start seeing real progress, move on to another, but not a moment before!
Lack of commitment. Most of us WANT to change, but it’s hard to commit to lasting change over the long haul. This is where “commitment devices” come in: a plan to change, a commitment with a friend, or anything that provides a physical reminder of what we’ve determined to do.
Forgetting to plan for failure. No one wants to plan to fail, but failure is always more likely than success. The secret is using each failure to help you avoid the same mistakes each time. Plan to pick yourself up and try again when you fail the first, second, and third time.
Focusing on the end result. Self-improvement isn’t about hitting a goal and being content with an accomplishment. The real change comes during the journey, one step at a time. Don’t be so focused on the end result that you fail to see how important each step along the change process really is.