It is super hard to get motivated to change. Most of us have an area of life that we would like to change; to be different; to be better. We have lists of things that we should be doing, ways in which we ought to be growing and changing. But it’s tough. We know who we are, and we may have an idea of who we want to be, but making the necessary changes to achieve that change is one of the hardest things in the world. Whenever we set upon a new path towards growth, the primary obstacle to achieving that growth is not the outside world pressing against us. The primary obstacle is ourselves. We haven’t fully owned the change.
External motivation only carries you so far. Real change must be internalized if it’s going to last.
What I mean is this: Say you struggle with something in your life that could stand some change and growth. You may be married and your spouse is putting pressure on you to change. Your spouse is external motivation. You may change for your spouse (either because you want to please or because you want to end the nagging). If you have not internalized that the change is your decision, then the change will never be permanent. Eventually, the old habits and patterns of behavior will resurface.
If you want to see lasting change, then you have to own it! Ask some questions: Why am I changing? What is it in me that desires this growth? What and why do I want to be different? It’s hard enough to change with the proper motivation. Without the internal motivation it’s never going to happen.
Our 6 year old is a sweet and loving girl (most of the time!). Every once in a while she’ll have huge meltdown, not want to obey mom and dad, and be a real pill. Being the loving kid she is, she always comes to make amends later on. She has said, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I will always listen and obey from now on because I love you. You’re my best daddy (she only has one…).”
She’s totally sincere. She really does love me. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there will come another instance when she doesn’t want to do what I am telling her to do…and here we go again. She hasn’t internalized change. Cleaning her room is still something that mom and dad are putting on her—she hasn’t internalized and owned the concept.
We adults are like that, too. There may be areas where we really-maybe-kinda-sorta-wouldbenice if we were different—if we could grow, if we could change. But we usually stay in our same ol’ ruts and habits. At least this is nothing new to the human condition. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church:
I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do. I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me. Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
Yes! That’s us! As kids and as adults that perfectly characterizes our attitude towards change. Even when we know we should do something or should grow in some way, something within us keeps dragging us back. We fail to own the process and let go of the old us. It’s so nice to hold on to the old us. Old us is comfortable. Old us is familiar. I’m a big fan of The Simpsons cartoons. Homer, the family’s dad, is your all-American couch potato. So much so that he even has a special groove in his couch cushion that fits his buttocks. In one episode, someone messes up his groove and he has to go through the process of re-establishing his groove. We like what we like and we are the way we are. People better not mess up your or my groove.
Change usually happens only when it hurts more to stay the same than it hurts to change.
When it finally hurts too much to stay the same then we’ll go ahead and change. But it doesn’t have to be that way. God has cleared the path for change-for letting go of the old us and embracing something remade and reborn!
But how? How can we see real and lasting change? Here are some tips that have worked for me:
- Identify what it is that you (not someone else) really want to change. If you don’t own it it’s probably not going to happen.
- Identify why you want to make the change. What benefit or end result will you achieve?
- Find someone whom you trust who can hold you accountable to maintaining the change.
- Through the whole process pray continually. Yep – ask for divine help in morphing into the new and changed you. In the theological world we might call this sanctification: the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.
There will be good days.
There will be bad days.
You will have peaks and you will have valleys. The path to growth is not a straight-lined graph. It’s a curvy son-of-a-gun. But if you keep on the path you will eventually find that the valleys of your tomorrows are actually higher than the peaks of your yesterdays. Keep pressing on and you will see it happen.
So…what about you? What do you want to change and improve in your life?
Asking Life-Changing Questions: Challenge Accepted? by Pastor John Snyder
Start, Stop, and Continue: See A Change in Your Life by Pastor Jimmy Proulx