The reason why we refuse to change
Dr. House said it best. “People don’t change.”
We all ask ourselves, why can’t I change? Why do I keep making the same bad decisions over and over again? Is it just me? Am I seeking shortcuts? The answer to all of these questions is yes, but it isn’t your fault. As human beings, our society forces us to remain consistent. How can this be explained?
We are driven to be consistent in all aspects of our lives.
Our every day traits like behavior, words, values, promises, and decisions are likely to remain the same throughout our lives. Once we feel comfortable with ourselves, we will not change.
This explains why a majority of us can’t get our lives together. We keep trying to find shortcuts, and consistency is one shortcut for making easy decisions. We rely on these “shortcuts” to make reliable decisions to avoid our very complicated lives. When faced with a problem, we simply recall how we handled it the first time, and we use the same tactics to help us solve the problem in the present. We strive to match our future behavior based on our past experiences. Being stuck in a routine or maintaining the same opinion gives us a useful shortcut in our lives. We think we’re being smart, but it’s nothing more than a practical survival skill. It makes things easy and that’s why we do it.
Consistency begins with a simple commitment.
If we decide to be committed we are likely to stand by that decision. An example we can all understand is the commitment of a relationship.
Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D., the author of “Influence,” uses an example of a failing relationship to help us understand the power of commitment. A man and a woman fall in love at a place of work. After they begin dating, the man loses his job. With nowhere else to go, the man moves in with the woman. Eventually, the relationship grows, and the woman decides she wants to get married. There is one problem. She will only marry him if he stops his heavy drinking. The man refuses to change. After a period of heavy conflict, the woman decides to separate from the man. After he moves out, the woman’s ex-lover comes back into town after years of being away. Eventually, things become serious, serious enough to plan a wedding. During this time of planning, the woman’s old alcoholic boyfriend calls again in regret; however, the woman refuses to return. Even after she tells him about her current wedding plans with her now fiance, he continues to beg her to change her mind, but she declines. It is only after the man offers to stop drinking that the woman breaks off her engagement with her fiance. Two years later, the alcoholic man and woman still live together, the man still drinks, and there are no plans for a wedding, but the woman is happy. What happened?
Her decision to get back together with the alcoholic man had made her consistent and happy. She had already committed. The drive to be consistent and “appear” consistent are very much embedded in our minds. We carry the illusion that if we’re too “all over the place” we’ll appear messy, unreliable, and unattractive.
So, since we are so committed to our decisions and aim to remain consistent with those decisions, can we change? It depends.
We cannot change our personality. Researcher, Paul T. Costa Jr. states, “There is no real evidence that our overall personalities change as we grow older. You may think that you undergo a change; however, it is only our habits that change in accordance with new responsibilities and circumstances.”
We can try and make different decisions and life choices by trying something new. If situations haven’t worked out in the past, toss it and try the opposite.
If it just so happens that you can’t keep out of trouble, keep this nice quote with you:
“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” — Aldous Huxley