Why Do People Resist Change?

“There is nothing permanent except change. “

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. “
Andy Warhol

Change in life is inevitable, otherwise we stagnate. Yet people can often find change challenging. There are many reasons for this and two that we can easily recognise:

  1. Change requires stepping out of our comfort zones – familiarity is comforting.
  2. Change requires acceptance of the unknown – which can be scary.

Admittedly, we vary in our response to novelty and uncertainty.  Some people thrive on constant variety and unpredictability; others much prefer to plan ahead and be prepared for upcoming events. 

In coaching, we see this variability all the time. One of our jobs is to work with people where they feel comfortable, at a speed they feel fits their personality type.

So although the two reasons given above are extremely common, there is another reason why we come up against reluctance, ambivalence and at times resistance to change in our clients.
Because other people are trying to change them

Health and wellness is an area that is full of information, facts and guidelines.  Many people struggle with living their best lives, achieving optimal wellness. Our clients often come in with a series of failed attempts under their belts and although they realise they should do something about their weight/stress/sleep/fitness, they are already expecting not to succeed. If we coach for compliance  (with safe guidelines and recommendations about lifestyle habits that we “know” will make a difference),  we will simply add fuel to the fire and send the message that we want to change our clients. The end result – they resist. This hidden scenario can be very subtle and at times coaches don’t even realise they are playing it out. Even if we’re coaching well and asking sensible questions that lead the clients down the desired change path, somehow they will know that it’s really our agenda!  They’re expecting this pressure.

So what can we do to avoid this cycle?
Get right out of our clients’ way. Coaching requires the ability to put all our values aside and truly find out what the client wants for themselves.  And sometimes this means breaking down those subconscious beliefs that everyone else is planning out the steps to their improved health.  

It’s not easy. We know that to sit in the space of uncertainty is one of the hardest things to do. We want to help. But until we learn to do this, to curb our impatience and desire to help, to slow down and let the client lead, even if it takes an age to get started, we will not help anyone.

We know that slow change lasts…