Why are long-term life changes so difficult to make?

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Everyone knows that familiar feeling of January 1st and setting resolutions to finally make that change. I also know that feeling two weeks later when that resolution is nowhere to be seen and forgotten about...

My work is all about making a change in your life. What most people won't tell you is that making a real change that lasts is bloody hard.

Real transformations often come after mindset wobbles, lack of motivation and thoughts of "why did I even want to do this?!"

This doesn't mean it's not worth it or that you shouldn't try. But it's helpful to know the reality before you start. You also need to know that it's totally normal.

If you're struggling to make change stick, it doesn't mean you're lazy or a lost cause. It means you're human.

This blog post will explain why our brain struggles so much with changing up our usual routines & habits and how to make the transition a little smoother.

Overcome people pleasing behaviours

Our brains love predictability and routine

The brain loves to preserve energy. Doing what you've always done is the brain's preferred setting because it doesn't require much energy or effort. Guess what tends to use up more energy? Doing something differently!

That's often why your brain is so good at convincing you that you don't need to make that change.

  • You don't need to wake up earlier, you managed with 10 minutes to get ready before.

  • Do you really want to exercise when you get home? Doesn't a takeaway and Netflix sound better?

  • You can start meditating next week, you're too busy right now!

In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about habits being obstacles to overcome on the journey to what we want - "Meditation is an obstacle to feeling calm. Journaling is an obstacle to thinking clearly. You don't actually want the habit itself. You want the outcome it delivers".

Therefore, the way to achieve what you want is to make the obstacle as small as possible. The less energy required the better.

It's also important to take note that our brains are literally wired against us making big changes. If it doesn't happen or you forget about it - you don't have to beat yourself up, it happens to us all!

You're going in with an all or nothing mindset

How often have you decided that on Monday you're going to exercise, nourish your body, drink more water and meditate for half an hour before you start work?

Sounds pretty overwhelming, doesn't it?

I don't know what it is about deciding to change a habit that means we automatically go to a complete lifestyle overhaul. Bearing in mind that our brain loves to conserve energy, you can see how you're setting yourself up to fail.

Taking it slow and steady is a much better way to ensure long term success. It's not as sexy or satisfying, but it's likely to stick.

You're not running out of time - I know that can be one of the fears driving this type of mindset. Particularly when it comes to our physical and mental health, making one small change consistently is more beneficial than ping-ponging between two extremes.

Choose one change that is important to you and takes little effort to implement and stick with that for at least 1 month before you add anything else. You're in this for the long game.

Fear of the unknown is holding you back

While consciously you want the change and the outcome you're desiring, your subconscious doesn't like not knowing what to expect. It doesn't know what's on the other side of making that change and that is scary.

This is often why we self-sabotage. Your brain wants you to stay where you are because it knows it's safe and safety is its number one priority.

Even when a change is something you've dreamed about for a long time - that job promotion, new relationship, feeling healthier, more inner peace - it comes with a lot of what-ifs.

What if it isn't the right thing?

What if it all crumbles by this time next week?

What if my mum/partner/friend doesn't like me anymore?

Remember that these are just thoughts - it doesn't mean that any of them are true. If it helps you can talk to that part of your brain that's scared. Address the fears head on and remind yourself of what is possible and the transformation that's waiting for you at that next level.

You're expecting it to be quick and easy

We're all so used to getting what we want straight away. We can get items delivered in less than 12 hours and receive information in an instant from our phones.

Why wouldn't it be the same for our personal development and daily routines?

If you haven't gathered by now, there are many reasons why change is often not instantaneous. If you want change to be long-term and stick around, you have to accept that it's going to take a while to build.

Thinking that it's going to be easy can actually make change feel frustrating, difficult or hopeless.

That's not to say that things are never easy. As I mentioned before, making things as easy as possible for yourself is how to ensure your success. Believing that change is achievable is also really important.

You can create any transformation you desire. But giving up when things get tricky because it's not what you expected isn't ideal.

Hope for the best, but have a plan for the worst!


If you're struggling to make long-term life changes stick, you're not the only one. The difference between success and failure is usually perseverance and adjustment when things don't go to plan.

If you're wanting specific tips in a certain area then check out the blog posts by some of my colleagues:

14 views0 comments