It had been almost five years since I had seen my West Point classmate. I always enjoyed seeing him. We have a common bond all academy graduates have. But, after our first hour together, he said something that rocked my world.
“Dave, you haven’t changed a bit.”
I smiled and secretly hoped he was talking about my pant size.
But inside I knew he was referring to who he saw me to be. I was the same person he had seen five years ago. That was sobering.
The year was 1999. I decided that day was the last time I wanted to hear those words. I realized I had been wasting my time on earth trying to stay the same instead of trying to grow.
I believe there are three reasons that people refuse to change. Unfortunately, as I look back on my history, I embodied all three.
3 Reasons People Don’t Change
I liked where I was. I felt that my life was in good shape (even though it wasn’t.) Why should I change?
For many of us, admitting we need to change means that we must admit we are flawed. For me, my ego fought me in this area. If I believed my life needed an overhaul, then I would need to admit my failures.
That would sting. That would mean at some point others might ask me about my changes, and I would have to point out I was wrong in the past.
Pride makes us believe we are in charge and in control at all times. The irony is if we feel this way, pride is actually the one in control.
The status quo was comfortable. I knew who I was, how I was and who liked me as a result. But what if I changed? What if the people I am comfortable with now, are no longer comfortable with me after I change?
Fear is an enemy of change. Fear kept me from taking a road I never travelled before. Many of us have patterns we’ve established that are comfortable.
Those patterns are the devil you know versus the devil you don’t. If I try new things, something could go wrong. Some people might not like what I am doing and judge me differently. I may be on this new path alone.
To become a better man, I had to risk all those outcomes. In fact, some of the people I was closest to prior to 1999 have fallen away. I took that risk, and I will live with those results. In reality, those results have been worth it all.
I built new habits over the years. I conquered my fear of changing by consistently looking for ways to grow. Choosing to stay still out of fear would have doomed me to a stale life. I never aspired to be average. Fear was keeping on the path to mediocrity.
Admitting I was lazy hurt. But, we all must realize that much of our love for the status quo comes from this fact:
Changing ME takes work.
It is not easy to pursue growth. We’ve all made decisions to change things in our lives and have failed to follow through with them. These failures in my life made me realize how much work I have to do to actually change.
The decision to change is just the first step. To make change last, there will be blood, sweat, and maybe some tears. Is it all worth it? Do I really need to commit to something that will make me that uncomfortable?
These questions prevented me from doing the hard work necessary. I’ve watched laziness keep many talented people from reaching their potential. I realized that I was becoming one of those people.
Facing Pride, Fear and Laziness
I was prideful, fearful and lazy as a young leader, a young husband and a young father. It took a seemingly harmless comment from an old friend to hold a mirror up for me to look into.
For me, change meant admitting bad habits and bad decisions in my past. Change meant I was not done growing as a man. At a critical point, that friend made me realize part of being a man was being willing to admit I was wrong, search for a better way to live, and pursue that goal with vigor.
I faced my fears and made growth a habit. I created new habits one decision at a time. I am sure that if I had not faced the fear of changing myself, I would not be doing what I do now. I would probably still be content doing my job today in much the same manner I did it ten years ago.
I never thought of myself as lazy, but I realized I was treading water and not moving forward. I set my sights on change and began swim towards it. It was hard work each time I made a change, but I became stronger swimmer with each decision. The hard work I originally dreaded became my passion.
The Bottom Line:
Too many of us wait for a New Year’s resolution every 12 months and end up wondering why we failed to fulfill them. Growth is not a once a year resolution. Growth is a habit.
The sum total of our habits form who we are. If I am a person who allows pride, fear, and laziness keep me from growing- I am a prideful, fearful, and lazy man.
But if I challenge those patterns of the past and begin to pursue changing myself despite those old habits, new habits will form.
I will grow. I will change. I will become a man who no longer is too proud to grow, too scared to try new things or too lazy to work towards something worthwhile.
Change will become part of who I am. I will be characterized by growth and my life will be more fulfilling.I can make this claim because it has been true for me since 1999.
But, I am not done. That’s the great thing about embracing change. You realize the job is never done and the challenge is always worth it.
What has kept you from growing over the last 12 months?