jump to navigation

What Motivates People to Change?


Learn what prevents people from changing behavior and what best motivates them to change.

Are you actively working to change some aspect of your personality — and absolutely can’t understand how someone else (perhaps the “significant other” in your life) doesn’t have a clue that anything is wrong with him or her or seems inexplicably unwilling to do anything about it?

Pelajari apa yang mencegah orang dari perubahan perilaku dan apa yang terbaik memotivasi mereka untuk mengubah.
Apakah anda bekerja secara aktif untuk mengubah beberapa aspek kepribadian Anda – dan benar-benar tidak dapat memahami bagaimana orang lain (mungkin “signifikan lain” dalam kehidupan) tidak memiliki bayangan apa-apa yang salah dengan dia atau tampaknya tidak bersedia inexplicably untuk melakukan apa-apa tentang itu?


Why, you ask, are you so willing to change and the other person is not? I’ve asked myself that many times, since I’m one of those who constantly scrutinizes my problems to see how I might be contributing to the situation. That doesn’t mean I’ve been completely successful in changing some of my more tenacious bad habits, but I do work at it (which can, paradoxically, also be a curse for those of us who are recovering perfectionists). Nevertheless, for many years I found it difficult to understand why others weren’t as introspective as I.


Over the years I’ve learned that basically the reason some people want to be the best they can be, while others only like to complain is because the latter type of person isn’t in touch with, or is able to deny the pressure of, what I call “pain, pull, or push forces.” Unless people experience one of them, they are pretty well stuck right where they are.


Pain-Motivated Change

First of all, most people change (or at least are willing to consider changing) if they are in pain. We’re all familiar with this dynamic. When there’s something in our life that makes us uncomfortable, we may initially hope it will go away. If it doesn’t, we start with small and relatively easy steps to change the situation. Finally, if those efforts are unsuccessful, we get to the point that we can’t stand it any more. “I’m sick of this!” we scream. That emotional or physical pain gives us the courage to take other steps that may be more difficult, but are more likely to solve the problem permanently.

The point at which this happens varies widely from person to person. We all experience pain in different ways, but some of us are very good in putting on blinders and ignoring a situation that would drive someone else up the wall. Yet we all have a breaking point. Exactly where and when we reach that point varies from person to person.

For example, take the case of a weight gain of ten to fifteen pounds by a woman who has reached menopause. If she had previously been in top physical condition, has a job that requires interaction with members of the fashion industry, and enjoys looking slim and attractive in her expensive clothes, she will likely be well motivated to take off the weight and keep it off. That weight is painful for her.

On the other hand, suppose she doesn’t work in a job that places emphasis on looks and has friends who are either quite a bit overweight or who have come to accept their weight as okay. There is no great pressure on her to change. So pain is not part of the change equation for this woman, even though her weight may be far from ideal.

Yes, pain is definitely an important ingredient in developing healthy habits. It provides the incentive to work toward the very behaviors that can relieve our pain. For example, it has long been recognized that an alcoholic seldom takes steps to stop drinking until he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the problems alcohol has caused in his life. In fact, if he goes to a therapist who works to build up his “self-esteem” (on the theory that he will then have the courage to join AA or enter into a treatment program), his newfound self-esteem can be counterproductive. Why? Because alcohol and drugs are marvelous self-medicating techniques he can use to keep from looking clearly at the mess he’s made of his life. Having an “expert” tell him he’s “okay” is not as effective as reminding him of the pain he’s in.

However, as much as pain is a good motivation for many people, there are a few problems with focusing only on pain as an incentive to change.

1. Constantly reminding yourself that a given situation is painful keeps that situation at the forefront of your mind. Then, because change is seldom as rapid as we would like, we can be discouraged by the slow progress we’re making and, feeling as though the pain will never go away, may talk ourselves into adapting to difficult situations.

2. An opposite problem occurs when change comes too quickly. It’s not uncommon for clients who enter therapy to deal with a difficult problem to experience a positive change in their situation after seeing a therapist for only a few sessions. Feeling good about this reversal of their lives and assuming change is easy, they convince themselves they no longer need outside assistance. There’s even a name for this phenomenon. It’s called a “flight to health.” So future sessions are cancelled, although there is still a lot of work to reinforce the minor changes that have been made.

3. Pain can actually be viewed as positive by those “martyrs” who use it as a technique to punish and control others. (You may have one of these in your own family.) They unconsciously cling to their pain because they don’t see any other way of getting what they want.

In these cases, a more effective motivation for change may involve an awareness of the forces that can pull us toward change.


Change Created by Being Pulled Toward New Behavior

People change if they are acted upon by forces that can pull them toward modifying their behavior and shifting their perspective of the world, forces that arise in three areas.


The biological imperative to grow and enter the next phase of life

Why does a baby learn to crawl and walk and run? It’s not because the parents want her to. Her body is hardwired to move through these stages. And remember those hormonal changes in adolescence when we began to see classmates of the opposite sex in a different light and weren’t sure what do with our new feelings? We couldn’t have ignored those changes if we’d wanted to. Even the physical and emotional changes created by increasingly frequent aches and pains of aging offer their own lessons.


Life-cycle stages

Courtship, marriage, birth of children, the launching of grown children and the onset of old age each create different climates that allow for the evolution of personal growth and development. For example, a quest for deeper spiritual meaning often increases in later stages of life. In fact, the more we’re in touch with these naturally occurring “pulls” toward change, the easier it is to shift directions when old patterns no longer fit. As the scriptures note, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the sun. . . “


Response to information and inspiration

Every day in school teachers struggle to instill learning and new ideas that will make a difference in their students’ lives. Thousands of sermons are preached every Sunday in the hope that the words spoken from the pulpit will resonate within the hearts and souls of the congregation and encourage at least a few people to live with renewed commitment to a set of high principles. If you think back on your life, there is sure to be a time when you were inspired by words of encouragement from parents or other relatives, by a teacher, by a friend, by a story you read in the paper, etc. Even more, you have probably been an inspiration to others, even though you may be unaware of it.

I hope the ideas you find in articles on Support4Change will pull you toward new behaviors that are life-affirming and can help you create the changes you want to make.


Change Forced by a Push from Someone Else or by Circumstances

Now we come to the form of motivation that is the least effective method for creating permanent change, but one that is used by many a spouse and boss. That is the effort to push someone into a corner in order to get them to change as well as the consequence of circumstance that force a person to consider change as the only way out of a bad situation.

Yes, I know, you’d love to demand your significant other make the changes you think would be good for him (and that would sure make your life easier). I’ve tried it. It’s not easy and it seldom works.

When someone is being pushed by another person, the pushee will often make an initial, halfhearted attempt to change so the pusher will get off his back. The wife starts a different diet every week because her husband threatens to leave her if she doesn’t “do something” about her weight. So she satisfies the requirement to “do something,” but it’s not permanent and doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which may be the more serious matter of a demanding husband and passive-aggressive wife.

Bosses can be a bit more effective in pushing someone to change because they control the money angle, but the best supervisors know the most effective ways of applying pressure on their employees.

Although being told by someone that you have to change “or else” is seldom a strong enough incentive for permanent change, at least it can cause a person to get their body into a therapist’s office. Once there, if the therapist is perceptive, he or she can discuss why that person might want to change – regardless of whether someone else wants them to change. In fact, a good therapist can often use the fact that a person was “forced” to come in to see them as a springboard for how painful it must be to find themselves in that situation.

Incidentally, if you are in the position of feeling you “have to” do what someone else tells you to do, remember that you ALWAYS have a choice. Unless you are bound and dragged into the office of a therapist or doctor, if you are there, you chose to come, albeit without great enthusiasm. You may not like the choices offered if you didn’t go there, but you did – and that is the first step in acknowledging you ARE in control of your life to a much greater extent than you may want to believe or acknowledge.

When we look at the push of circumstances beyond our control, an excellent example is the change forced on people by the September 11th attacks. The lives of some of the people who were directly involved have had to change because their workplace and homes were destroyed or they have lost an important member of their family.

At the same time, there have been many people who were not directly connected with anyone in New York or Washington or on the planes who, nevertheless, realize they cannot count on the security of a terrorist-free country. The horrendous pictures of carnage on television have forced them to the conclusion that life has more meaning than Jerry Seinfeld and Sex in the City. The outlook and behavior of these people has shifted because someone else has pushed them to see the world from a new perspective. Hopefully many people will make significant changes in what they believe and how they behave. But for too many others, the changes will fade like New Year’s resolutions.







No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: