We devote a lot of time to trying to change, and this time of year, it’s at an all-time high.
While we’re certainly advocates of personal transformation, the reality is that certain things (many things!) don’t change easily—sometimes, it even feels like not at all. Things cycle, we cycle, and just when you think you’ve resolved something, it reappears.
We can’t and won’t always succeed at changing, but rather than think this is a sign of failure, we’d like to propose that you think of it as an opportunity. When things don’t easily change, it’s an invitation for *us* to change.
These “failures” force us to contort ourselves, get to know ourselves more, rethink what we are defining as the problem, and, ultimately, set forth on a journey of discovery.
As one of our favorite thinkers, Robert Kegan, says: we don’t solve problems; they solve us. And by going through this process, you will get to know yourself in a way you hadn’t before.
If you are facing a wicked problem that isn’t resolving, ask yourself:
- Are you defining the issue correctly?
- Are you just looking at the surface behavior, or are you also looking at the root cause of the problem? For example, if your issue is a difficulty setting boundaries, is that because you’re afraid of letting people down? Needing to be important to others? Difficulty organizing your time? Fear of not being useful? These are all very different root causes that need to be addressed in very different ways.
- Are there several challenges hidden within the problem? For example, if you are trying to be more assertive and speak up, you might have to work on several things: knowing what you want to say, addressing your fear of speaking up, noticing which contexts are easier/harder for you, and developing skills for dealing with pushback.
- Have you addressed what immunity to change may be at play? This isn’t the same as disliking or resisting change; rather, it’s a competing need that resists your efforts to change. You may want to be more assertive, but your need for harmony is just as strong.
And finally, we may overcome a challenge at one point in our life, only to meet it again later on in a new context. It may feel like you’re starting at the beginning again—but that’s okay! Just remember, at each stage of difficulty, there’s another piece of your development waiting for you. Embrace the process.