Guide to Change: Understanding Why Change Is Hard

Change

Remember back in high school when you were sitting in physics class learning all about how Sir Isaac Newton was a total pimp when it came to things like invisible forces? It turns out that Newton’s imaginary friends were accepted by the scientific community; my imaginary friends, on the other hand, got me laughed at.

What do Sir Isaac and my childhood have to do with anything? Sir Isaac we can learn a lot from, now as far as my childhood, not so much.

Change can feel like moving a thousand pound boulder. Sometimes it seems like the universe is out to see you fail. All these struggles can be explained through the power of physics.

Some terms to know and understand:

  • Work: Work is done when a force is applied to an object and the object is moved through a distance
  • Energy: The capacity for doing work
  • Friction: Refers to any force that resists relative intended motion
  • Inertia: The tendency for objects at rest to remain at rest, and for objects in uniform motion to continue in motion in a straight line, unless acted on by an outside force.

These same invisible physics concepts can also be applied to our own invisible, but still very real, hardships when it comes to change.

At this point I hope I have not bored you to the point of clicking over to your open Facebook tab and scrolling through your feed to see what all your friends are posting during working hours.

 

How Change Starts

All change starts with a realization that I need to do something better or I would like to start doing something. At this point you are in the contemplation and planning stage trying to figure out how you will fit this new change into your daily (or weekly) life.

Some of your questions might be, how do I fit an hour workout in my already busy life?Or, what will my spouse think of that?

This stage requires minimal energy and no work. Inertia is not a factor because you have not actually started changing anything and since there is nothing changing, friction is minuscule other than the voice in your head saying, “this is new I am not so sure about this, so let’s not.”

 

Change and Environment (Friction)  

The next phase of change is the action phase. To have any change there must be action and energy put into that change. But not all changes are created equal.

Let me explain.

There are two conflicting forces with any change. There is your environment and yourself.

Environment: Family, friends, work, home, sleep.

Yourself: How much you actually want to change, your level of motivation.

The more friction there is with a new change will lead to you needing to use more energy and will take more work to get going. Friction can be how much desire you have to actually make the change; if you are really excited about the change there will be less friction. How supportive are your friends and family? If your family doesn’t support your change or is indifferent then you will have to work harder and overcome more friction.

change and work

 

As an aside you may not notice the friction in the short run, but over time it becomes harder and harder to keep the change moving.

 

Choosing the right amount of change (Inertia)

There are a lot of things you can choose to change. There are little changes and there are big changes. A little change will result in slower results but you will be more likely to stick to it. Whereas a big change will possibly lead to greater results but also lead to possible burnout and backsliding.

If you think of change as pushing a block, the larger the block is, the more inertia it has, and the more it doesn’t want to be changed or moved. That means you are going to have to put more work and energy into getting the change moving and to also keeping it moving. It will be a lot more work. Combine that with a high friction environment and you are going to have to use a lot of energy and put in a lot of work to keep it going.

change and the environment

 

Bandwidth (Energy)

The idea that everyone has their own amount of bandwidth is a great visual. If I am working 12 hour days, have kids to take care of, my coworkers are asshats, and I have not had a good night sleep in who knows how long, then my bandwidth is quite low. This would not be the best time to go on a 6 week crash diet (I would argue there is never a good time but that’s just me).  My energy would be low and my capacity to do work on a large change would most likely end in a ball of flames.

That being said, you might have enough bandwidth to start drinking more water each day. It is a small change but one that would fit into your busy schedule. Drinking more water doesn’t affect others and can lead to more energy, eventually helping free up more bandwidth down the road for other changes.

 

Picking the Perfect Change

 

Ideal:

Low Friction + Low Inertia + Low Energy = Little work

Example: This is a change you are 90% sure you can do, you want to make this change, you have very few external stresses, and have a supportive environment. The change is small enough that it will fit very easily into your daily routine. You are well rested and focused.

Success is High

 

Realistic:

Low Friction + High Inertia + High Energy  = Moderate to High work

Example: This is a change you are 90% sure you can do, you want to make this change, you have very few external stresses, and have a supportive environment. The change is something that you are going to have to think about to make it a part of your daily or weekly life. If an unknown circumstance pops up you are more likely to falter due to the amount of energy this change is going to take.

Success is Moderate to Low

 

Realistic Two:

High Friction + Low Inertia + High Energy = Moderate to High work

Example: This is a change you are 90% sure you can do, you want to make this change, you have some, to a lot of external stresses, and have some to no support from your environment. The change is small enough that you feel it could fit easily into your daily routine. If an unknown circumstance pops up you are more likely to falter due to the amount of energy this change is going to take.

Success is Moderate

 

No, Just No:

High Friction + High Inertia + High Energy = not going to happen

This is a change you are 80% sure you can do, you want to make this change, you have some, to a lot of external stresses, and have some to no support from your environment. The change is something that you are going to have to think about making a part of your daily or weekly life. If an unknown circumstance pops up you are more likely to falter due to the amount of energy this change is going to take.

Success is a fat chance.

 

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, there are a number of factors that play into how hard it will be to make a change. Be smart when choosing what changes to make and you will be setting yourself up for success.

If we go back to the drinking more water example, it may seem like a small change, but that can lead to having more energy to going for a 15 to 30-minute walks, which could lead to you being able to decompress and get a better night’s sleep. Which hell, could lead to you being able to wake up earlier to prepare a lunch for work instead of eating out.

If you set out to make lunch every day, that would be a big change. But by making small changes it freed up some bandwidth, created more energy for other changes, all while keeping the friction and inertia relatively low.

Do you find making change easy? Want some guidance? Click the link for some online sherpa-ing. Click Me Its Fun

Your Fitness Sherpa,

Josh W

 

2 Comments:

  1. You have the best sence of humor. Your blog gives me great info and makes me smile. Thanks

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