Why we struggle to change, what to do about it

When we think about ourselves we often think about the things we need to change. About how much we exercise, how much TV we watch, how often we call our friends, how much time we spend on the internet, how we treat our spouse…. the list is individual and endless.

There are various ideas of how to change. You can find some of the greatest advice on James Clear’s blog about it.

One of the most popular ideas is to change slowly, gradually, making tiny tiny changes that you can’t say no to. And in the longterm it becomes a habit.

I absolutely agree with that idea.

But I also think there are 2 more crucial steps that we need to understand in order to even get to the point to make those little changes.

Before we get to those 2 steps let’s look at the WHY first. Why do we seem to be resistant to change, even though we think we do want to change.


The reason why we like to stay where we are is the prehistoric part of our brain (the amygdala).

Our prehistoric brain tells us to be careful, to go slow, to back off. To stay where we are, because we know it’s safe.

Our prehistoric brain is like our grandfather who doesn’t want us to cross the street, because we might get hurt.

But today, we live in a world of traffic lights, there is no danger when crossing the street.

Nonetheless, we are tempted to believe our grandfather so we remain paralyzed, not moving forward, not growing, not changing.

So how can you kick your inner-grandfather in the ass?



There are two different mindsets. The growth mindset and the fixed mindset. When you follow your grandfather’s advice you live in a fixed mindset.

A fixed mindset believes you are either good or bad, there is nothing you can do about it. It’s your inherent nature.

A growth mindset believes you can be good at anything. It’s up to you and your actions.

Realize that when you listen to your grandfather you will stay in a fixed mindset. In a fixed mindset you will think that

  • when you suck at something, you will never be able to do it.
  • when you fail, it defines you.
  • when you want to start something new, you deny it, so you can stay in your comfort zone.

To give you an example: Imagine you want to play the guitar. After a couple attempts your inner-grandfather tells you that you are the worst guitar player the world has ever seen. He advices you to stop trying, because obviously you have no talent whatsoever. And you listen to him. You’ll never touch the guitar again.

Or imagine that you want to lose weight. You start eating healthier. But eating healthier feels different. And according to your inner-grandfather, different is dangerous, so you go back to your old eating habits. And that get’s you in a fixed mindset that you can’t do it anyways.

It’s the little voice inside your head tricking you into going back to your old behaviour.

So step 1 is to realize that it’s your inner-grandfather talking, it’s not you. 

Be conscious about your thoughts.


When you are conscious about your fixed mindset you have the choice to either follow it or to overcome it.

When you realize that it’s your inner-grandfather who is telling you that you will never be able to play the guitar, to never lose weight, you get the chance to choose, if you want to follow his advice or not.

How often do you listen to your grandfather (the real one, the dad from your mum and dad)? I am sure there are moments when you appreciate his advice, but eventually follow your own lead.

You can do the same with your inner-grandfather. Knowing, that he wants the best for you, which is to protect you from crossing the street, and still follow your own lead.

Make a conscious decision to play the guitar, to lose weight, or whatever it is you want to change. If you leave your fixed mindset you know you can change.


And this is where the idea of “one little step at a time” kicks in. In order to change you have to do it. One little step at a time makes it easier to resist your inner-grandfather. If you take big leaps, your inner-grandfather’s resistance builds up, because it might be too dangerous, so you should stay where you are, where you are safe. And BAM. You are in your fixed mindset thinking you can’t change.

So take small steps. If it’s just a small change, it can’t be all that dangerous right?

You want to play the guitar? Start with 5 minutes a day.

You want to lose weight? Decide to eat one apple a day instead of a chocolate bar.

You want to exercise more? Take a walk for 5 minutes.

All you have to do is to do it. 

The crucial part of this three-step-process for change is to realize what’s happening inside of you.

In our everyday life we are so busy doing stuff, that we work on autopilot. We don’t even get to step 2, to choose. Before we even know it, we listened to our inner-grandfather.

Change can be hard. And that’s something we can’t change. Because our prehistoric brain likes safety. But what we can change is how we deal with change. We can choose, if we let ourselves be controlled by our inner-grandfather or if we make our own, conscious decisions.


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