Undergoing change of any magnitude can be an exciting and energising process, yet it can just as readily spark substantial anxiety or fear. What is it about change that creates in us an initial resistance or desire to avoid it?

Our resistance to change is in part a function of our attitudes about change as well as our fear of the unknown. Change can be unpredictable, slow and erratic. A lack of progress or stress brought on through change can, at times, be enough to propel us back into old habits and behaviours.

Change can be difficult, so it is important to be prepared for the potential barriers to change you may encounter along the way. Barriers may be emotionally, cognitively or behaviourally based. We’ll look at these three types of barriers in the following posts.

Cognitive Barriers

Cognitive barriers refer to the beliefs and thought processes that may interfere with progression towards your goals. Cognitive barriers may include:

The Attitudes You Hold About Change

Do you think change is a process that is controlled by you or controlled by something external, such as luck or destiny? This is the concept of locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the extent to which individuals believe they are in control of their destiny. Individuals with an external locus of control attribute change largely to forces outside of themselves such as fate, good fortune or bad luck. Conversely, those individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to see change as a function of their own doing.

Individuals with an internal locus of control tend to be more comfortable with change and consequently make smoother transitions.

Self-limiting thinking

Self-limiting thinking is an engrained process of thought that impacts on the way in which we appraise, interpret or analyse a given situation or event. Self-limiting thoughts can take many forms, such as:

  1. Black and white thinking – The tendency to interpret events in extremes (no shades of grey). This means that anything less than perfect is interpreted negatively and limits our ability to see the positives.
  2. Unrealistic expectations – The tendency to pre-empt an event with unrealistic ideas of what should occur. This is a clear sign of setting yourself up for failure.
  3. Selective thinking – This is the tendency to hone in on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore any of the positives, leading to an unbalanced perspective.
  4. Catastrophising – Imagining the worst possible outcome. This can discourage action and stall change.

Self-limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are core beliefs that influence our behaviour, often without our conscious awareness. Below is a list of commonly held beliefs (perhaps you hold a few of them yourself?). Although they are common, these beliefs are also false. They are false because they are extreme.

They are either black or white – there are no shades of grey. Common self-limiting beliefs include:

  • “I must be approved and loved by all people”
  • “Success is out of my reach”
  • “I’m not good enough”
  • “My past is impacting my future, it’s too hard to change”
  • “Life should be entirely pleasant and enjoyable and any frustration, discomfort, or pain would be unbearable”
  • “It is possible and necessary to control the attitudes and affections of other people”.