Why Do We Resist Change?

Many of us often, and maybe habitually, reject ideas or recommendations for new approaches. Why do we resist change? Change to our liking or otherwise seems certain – Look back ten years.

The possibility of change causes each of us to compare the way things are to the way things could be. We contrast the familiar and comfortable with the unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I believe that most of us, at the cognitive level, can see and weigh the “pros” and “cons” of a proposed change, especially if thoughtfully presented. However, even if the “pros” clearly outweigh the “cons” at the cognitive level, we fear, at the emotional level, how we are going to get from here to there.

We tend to be intimidated by that unknown chasm between where we are and where we could be. The potential trip is scary. Therefore, when faced with change, we often revert to fear and other emotions, not reason, and stick with the tried and true.

One way to counter our knee-jerk reaction to recommended changes – to give them serious thought – is to consider “words of wisdom” offered by thoughtful people from all walks of life. Their ideas, which follow, may help you:

  • Economist John Kenneth Galbraith: Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.
  • Nicole Machiavelli, Italian politician and writer: There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiators have the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.
  • Tim Hurson, coach, trainer, speaker, author:  No matter how dysfunctional the present, no matter how sensible the reasons for change, most people and organizations would rather wring out the old than ring in the new.
  • Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and Writer Carolyn Gregoire:  There’s a high price to pay for being creative – tireless work, solitude and isolation, failure, and the risk of ridicule and rejection.
  • Charles Kettering, engineer and inventor: If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.
  • German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: All truth goes through three stages; first, it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed, finally, it is accepted as self-evident.
  • British scientist, explorer, and writer, Arthur C. Clarke: Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction: It’s completely impossible. It’s possible, but it’s not worth doing. I said it was a good idea all along.

Informed and inspired by the preceding thoughts, maybe you or I will be more receptive to innovative recommendations and enable our groups to experience the thrill and satisfaction of doing what has never been done while more effectively helping those we serve.


  • Image source: Based on Big Stock

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