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The 16 Voices in Your Head Stopping You From Reaching Your Dreams

Jessica Stillman

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Over the years as a writer I’ve explored dozens of tips and tricks to finally make lasting change in your life.

There’s the Stanford study that recommends swapping your metaphor for change, the simple (but apparently effective) trick of copying friends’ good habits, the even more appealing suggestion of preparing for big changes by doing a whole lot of nothing, and the classic technique of just bribing yourself.

I could go on. There is a lot of advice out there about how to make lasting change in your life. Which tells you two things. One, a lot of people are pretty desperate to change, and two, actually making significant alterations to your life is really, really hard. Why is that, exactly?

That is the million-dollar question that armies of psychologists are busily studying. There is no simple answer. But the closest I’ve come to finding one recently popped up in my inbox in the form of an edition of the newsletter Every by executive coach Steve Schlafman. The piece is an extremely deep dive into the subject of personal transformation but it offers a simple explanation of why it can be so incredibly hard to change.

Driving forces > resisting forces = change

“Kurt Lewin, the father of change theory, was one of the first people to recognize and write about resistance, in the 1940s,” Schlafman explains. “He argued that in order to change, ‘driving forces’ had to be greater than ‘restraining forces.’” Or, expressed mathematically: driving forces > resisting forces = change.

When we want to exercise more or start pursuing that dream project, we tend to think the issue is all about motivation. We don’t want it enough, or we’re lazy, or we lack self-control. If we could just work up more will to change, we’d be in the clear. But in Lewin’s model, what’s pushing you forward is just as important as what’s holding you back. Change comes not just from more determination, but also from fewer roadblocks.

Roadblocks to change can be external, like an insane schedule or an incredibly tempting sweetshop on your corner, but more often they’re internal.

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Jessica Stillman

Top Inc.com columnist/ Editor/ Ghostwriter. Book lover. Travel fiend. Nap enthusiast. https://jessicastillman.com/