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Why is Personal Change So Difficult? Navigating Mindset Resistance

Have you ever wondered why change can feel like pushing against the tide, even when we're determined to embrace it?
Bottle stuck with incoming tide.
Bottle stuck with incoming tide. Change can feel like this!

In my years as a leader and coach, I've witnessed the struggles and triumphs of individuals navigating change. It's been a passion of mine since my early career when I saw that even small change was difficult to implement. I realised there was more to motivating positive change than just communication and sheer determination.

This Blog post explores why change can bring so much unexpected resistance, backed by some fascinating facts and stats. More importantly, it answers the question, what we can do about it; effective strategies, drawing insights from my experience and other experts in change.

The Mindset Maze

Our minds are remarkable, complex webs of thoughts and beliefs. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, in their book "Immunity to Change," explore the concept of competing commitments. Imagine you're determined to start eating healthier, but every time you're about to choose a salad, a hidden competing commitment emerges, like the desire for comfort food, resisting your healthier choice. This simple example highlights the unconscious pattern that derails us in the moment.

Example of the Mindset Maze
Example of the Mindset Maze: Embracing Healthy Eating

Dr. Carol Dweck, a prominent researcher in change psychology, has extensively studied the impact of mindset on performance and growth. Like Kegan and Lahey, she highlights that we often hold competing commitments that unconsciously undermine our efforts for change.

So what's the solution:

The key here is simple but not simplistic; self-awareness. Reflect on your core beliefs in a particular situation that’s causing you issues and challenge them. What belief or assumption helped you in the past but is now taking you away from what you want? Are they still serving you well? In my practice, and as "Immunity to Change" suggests, recognizing and examining these competing commitments is the first step that can help you break free from that mental maze!

The Familiarity Factor

Inviting Hot tub
The comfort zone

Ah, the comfort zone - that cushy, cosy place where everything feels safe and warm. It feels good right? Research has shown that our brains thrive on routine and familiarity, seeking to conserve energy and minimize stress. Stepping out of this bubble can trigger our brain's fear response, impacting our efforts to transform. And so the fear brings us back to comfort. Unfortunately, growth and change do not live here.

So what's the Solution:

Start with small steps outside your comfort zone. Gradual exposure to change helps your brain adapt, reducing the sense of threat and allowing you to embrace new experiences with ease. Combine this with the Mindset Maze solution above, and your chances of change increase significantly.

The Power of Habits

Open microphone
A Big Assumption in the moment.

Habits are like little automated helpers, simplifying our daily tasks. Researchers in change reveal that these habits are often based on deep-seated assumptions about ourselves and the world. Kegan and Lahey introduce the concept of the "Big Assumption," a fundamental belief that supports the competing commitments. For example, if you're trying to improve your public speaking skills but believe that you're inherently shy, that Big Assumption might hinder your progress.

So what's the Solution:

Build resilience by acknowledging that slip-ups are natural. Instead of punishing yourself for a missed moment or opportunity, dust yourself off, and jump back into the habit. Remember, even if you stumble, you're still moving forward, and each step teaches you valuable lessons. Challenge the Big Assumption that you've brought awareness to through the Mindset Maze solution and recognize that change is possible!


Change may be challenging, and may feel like swimming against the current, but it's far from impossible. We've discovered that hidden beliefs and competing commitments can often defeat our progress, and the allure of our comfort zones and going with the flow can keep us anchored in familiar shores.

A man standing on rock in the ocean
Losing sight of the shore is part of the process

Yet, armed with self-awareness, and insights from Kegan and Lahey's "Immunity to Change" and Dr. Carol Dweck's work on mindset, we have learned that change is a profound journey of continuous learning and growth. Each step we take, no matter how small, is a testament to our courage and determination.

As you finish reading this blog post, I encourage you to reflect on your own Mindset Maze. What's one change you've been struggling to implement and consider what competing commitments or big assumptions might be showing up and keeping you in your comfort zone.

Once you do, remember to be gentle on yourself, knowing that change is difficult and chaotic to begin with and will take determination and persistence. As Robin Sharma said so fittingly,

"Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end."
Three pupa stages
Change: Hard, Messy and Gorgeous

So here's to celebrating our resilience, determination, and the willingness to embark on the journey of change - a journey that makes us stronger, wiser, and more aligned with our true selves.

I will be posting more insights on change and transformation - I invite you to subscribe to receive my latest Blog posts and special tools every 2- 3 weeks. Enter your details in the green section below.


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