How to Change: Change Must Be Less Painful Than Not Changing

January 5, 2023 Natasha Tracy

At this time of year, we might think about how to change various aspects of our lives. We might want to change our looks, habits, or many other things. These changes are often expressed in the form of new year's resolutions. And as most of us have witnessed, new year's resolutions rarely last past the year being new. I think this, in part, is because we don't think about how to change and what's required to change. And in many cases, change begins with one simple idea: not changing has to be more painful than changing.

How to Change: Not Changing Has to Be Painful

The first step in deciding to change is looking at what you're doing today and deciding what doesn't work for you. You're looking for your pain point. What is causing you pain today that you would like to get rid of? You should focus on the pain this existing aspect is causing, as that will become your motivation.

How to Change: Change Is Also Painful

Then one needs to consider that change itself is painful. If it weren't painful, we would have already done it.

How to Change: The Change Equation

For change to be successful, then, the pain of changing must be less than the pain of staying the same.

I.e., the magical equation is: changing pain < same pain.

I would suggest this is why diets don't work so very often. Sure, a person might want to lose 10 pounds -- that's their pain point -- but once they get into the diet and exercise regime to do it, they find the pain of the regimen is worse than the pain of just dealing with the 10 pounds.

I'm not saying people can't lose 10 pounds -- of course, some people can -- but their pain points must be much bigger than the average for them to have the motivation to do so.

And my belief is that this equation governs all change. Why doesn't an alcoholic stop drinking? Well, that's because even though drinking may cause pain, the idea of not drinking causes greater amounts of pain. It's only when the equation flips and continuing to drink causes greater pain than stopping that the alcoholic may make a different choice.

How to Change This New Year

If you want to change something this new year, and no one is saying that you have to, consider how this equation stacks up for you. Consider the pain of staying the same. Consider the pain of changing. Be honest and realistic about these pains. And then decide which side of the equation wins out. Because while changing may be in your best interest, now might not be the time for it, and failing, may set you back more than staying the same right now.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2023, January 5). How to Change: Change Must Be Less Painful Than Not Changing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

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