Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

3 Reasons We Fail to Change

Positive change is hard to come by. We spend billions of dollars a year on it (e.g. weight loss programs, self-help books, personal trainers). We lose sleep over it. We make new promises to get it. We develop new ways to accomplish it.

Yet, most of the time, our attempts fail. Why?

Here are three reasons we fail to change for the better.

photo credit Dave Huth (creative commons)

photo credit Dave Huth (creative commons)

We think it should be easy

If someone tries to sell you a book or a course or a program that include both the words “change” and “easy” in the title, run. Run away as fast as you can. Do not give them your money. They are liars.

Change is never easy.

In order to change, we have to fight . . .

the momentum of our bad habits,
the entropy of decay in the world,
the pull of resistance telling us to give up,
the voices of our culture, family, and friends.

When we set our minds to change, we automatically set ourselves agains most forces we encounter during the day. It is when you start a diet that you notice all the advertising for food.

If you think change should be easy, you will be disappointed. You will think something is wrong with you. You will assume that change just doesn’t work in your case. You will give up.

The truth is transformation is the most difficult task in the world.

We don’t take responsibility

If you wait for someone else to change you, you will never change. We have to take responsibility for our choices and our actions.

We blame circumstances.
We blame the government.
We blame other people.
We blame our lack of time.
We blame God.
We blame our culture.

Until we own our current reality, we cannot change it. (tweet that?)

Let me just say, as a follower of Jesus, Christians are the worst at this. I have noticed a trend within the church community verging on fatalism. It is the “sit on the couch and wait for God to change me” strategy.

The logic goes like this.

A. I am weak and unable to change myself.
B. Only God can change me.
C. It is up to God to change me and if I don’t change, it’s God’s fault.

People who espouse this belief even tout the spirituality of it. Well, let me speak to those people for a moment.

You are right, you are weak and unable to change. And yes, only God can change you. But he has already started that process.

God has radically transformed you. You are a new creation. You have a new heart with good desires and a strong will. He has implanted in you gifts and talents, dreams and longings. He has prepared wonderful works for you to do.

But you have to participate.

Life is not a puppet show. You have to do more than just stay limp and let God wave your arms around.

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure.

Do this not to earn anything from God or from other people. Do this because you’ve been given a gift and it is a shame to waste it.

Take responsibility. Reject fatalism. Participate with God. And watch how you change.

We try to do it ourselves

Now for the other extreme. Just because we need to take responsibility doesn’t mean we can change on our own. The fastest and most effective change happens in community. 

Community gives us encouragement.
Community give us accountability.
Community gives us strategies.

There is a reason you are not on this earth alone—we are meant to work this stuff out together. Have you ever set a goal and tried to do it yourself without telling anyone? How did it go? Every time I have done that I have failed. Every time.

Why does AA have such amazing results? Because they understand the power of a community working together towards change.

[box] If there is an area you want to change and you want to involve your community, I suggest you join the Open Letter Challenge I am hosting on my site until the end of October. Write a letter to the rest of the world. Publish it. Watch how it encourages change.open-letter-challenge_v4b-01[/box]

Community is key, but it isn’t everything. We need more than accountability to see real lasting change. We need the supernatural work of God.

If you really put your mind to it, you can probably change things about yourself without God’s help. What Not to Wear does it all the time. However, surface change wears off. And often we simply trade one bad habit (e.g. frumpy dressing) for another (e.g. pride). Deep, heart-level change is what lasts forever.

A changed heart.
An internal motivation.
A growing character.

These are supernatural needs. Good news: God is in the supernatural business. And he’s good at his job.

Change is possible

Which trap do you fall into? Today is the day to make a change.

Transformation is possible. You will fail many times on the way. That’s okay. As the wise Tom Petty encourages us, “don’t back down.” Keep fighting. Change is coming.

Share which of the three you tend towards in the comments.

You might also want to check out these articles:

Why Change is so Hard
What’s holding you back? Gravity
If it’s important, it will be hard
Resistance, your greatest enemy
Whose voice is in your head?
What keeps you from reaching your goals? It’s not circumstances.
What keeps you from reaching your goals? It’s not people.
Stop saying, “I don’t have enough time.”
3 key factors when facing a challenge

Open Letter Cover 2

If you liked this post, then consider joining the community here at JoshIrby[dot]com. Just for joining, I will give you my recent visual manifesto, An Open Letter for You from the Rest of the World, for FREE.

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"I love Josh's writing. Big things to come from him." —Jeff Goins

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  • matt Henning

    “We think it should be easy”

    Always wanting the easy “tool” that can fix everything.

    • Josh

      If only there were an easy button.

  • Christine

    I struggle with the need to see instant results. I tend to want to attack and get it done. But I’m now a minimalist in the making and the slow process, though very challenging, has been hugely rewarding. Hoping to apply what I’m learning to other areas of my life as well. And you’re right, community is key.

    • Josh

      Me too Christine. My repeated phrase is “respect the process.” When I do that I can suppress the need to rush and finish.

  • I think I lean towards trying to do it myself and then I’m looking up thinking, “oh yeah, he said without him we can do nothing.”

    We believe without him we can do less. We just don’t believe it’s nothing.

    • Josh

      Me too. I tend to rush ahead.

  • Stori

    Dear Josh,
    Can’t even read the challenge thru bec I’m in a huge change…you ae right momentum is key…mid way I’m quaking but I’m rolling and now I can’t go back. A trusted counselor said each step (not in revenge) is a step of faith. Then even if I I have to rest to catch my breath bec the changes take so much effort I can”” stand”” like Moses at the REd Sea and praying with Aaron and HUr! Pray for me will you…2 friends prayed for me to feel the presence of God…What a comfort.

    • Josh

      Just keep moving forward. I will pray.