Why Do Most Attempts At Change Fail?


Relapse is when a person who has stopped or started a behavior lapses back into their old ways. A person who has been sober suddenly is using again. A person who has been losing weight is binge eating again. A person who bought a health club membership quits going. They have relapsed back into old behavior.  Relapse is a serious problem with habits and cravings. People quit a program thinking that is the end of their problem only to find out that within months they are using all over again. In fact, many people find themselves relapsing several times (some many more times) before they are able to maintain their new lifestyle. Does this mean you don’t have a chance? No! We believe you can go through this program and maintain your habit changes. Part of that reason is that we take relapse seriously. That is why we are talking about it right in the beginning. As we have done research here are some of the reasons that people fail at changing habits.

People fail in programs because…

  1. They commit to a program not a way of life. They looked at habit change as an event, a destination instead of a journey

Change is not a magic formula. It is changing a way of life. It is a routine, a paradigm shift, an attitude adjustment. There are ways of changing things by using desperate measures and gritting it out with pure willpower. But how long does that last? Instead, we are teaching principles for living. Not techniques but disciplines that will serve you well throughout the rest of your life. Programs are good but what happens when the structure is gone? There needs to be a change in the way we see things. In what we believe.

  1. They don’t change their environment

There are too many triggers that have not been changed. The proximity of those triggers were also too convenient. Friends did not help either. They often coaxed the person into doing their habit again.  If we are going to succeed, then we need to work on our environment. The who and what, the people, places and things of our habit.

  1. They don’t like the discomfort of change

This is often because they have taken on too large of a habit. We mean well but starting with a large objective can become or own worst enemy. It is better to start a habit with something that you can do and build from there.

  1. It’s their normal and hard to do live any other reality

Many habits are birthed and sustained in a person’s normal lifestyle. Now it may be far from what should be normal (A person who living high everyday) but it’s their normal. It feels right. Change is needed but moving from their normal feels like jumping from a plane. Soon they find themselves back in the comfort zone.

  1. There is some emotional reason in staying where they are.

Fear is a strong motivator. Many of us are fear or shame based. When you are that way, the last thing you want is another test. You don’t want to fail. You have worked hard at being acceptable, a success at what you do. (At least not worse than you already are) We think, “We are as good as we are going to get.” This is a “fixed” mindset, and the thought of trying something and failing is frightening. Instead we need to develop a “change” mindset. One that says, “I have all sorts of potential. Learning and trying different things is fun. I do not have to be perfect. It is okay to grow and mature. There are no failures, just learning opportunities.”

  1. They have unrealistic expectations

We want a magic pill, an easy answer, an instant solution. When it doesn’t happen we get discouraged and quit. The truth is that habits are stubborn and are not going to give up that easily. Some changes will happen quickly but most take time and discipline. It will take time to make lasting changes.

  1. They chose to change a habit on an impulse, no preplanning

Good intentions are not enough. In order to succeed you need a plan. There is a lot involved in changing habits and there is no need to rush into failure. Instead, we want to set a date and prepare for lasting change.

  1. They do not have an accountability partner, coach or group

Changing habits is not a single player mode. It is too easy to fail by our self. Things are the way they are for reasons and in order to succeed you will need to have a team to support, encourage and challenge you.

  1. They worked out of guilt or fear not positive optimism

When it comes to changing a habit it is also better to run TO something instead of running FROM something. Optimism is key in keeping the patience and endurance you will need to make change happen. Here again, we must fight the temptation to have a fixed mindset that says, “It must come easily to me. I must succeed.” When we think that way and failure comes all that is left is guilt, fear, and pessimism. Instead, we need a “Change” mindset that says “growth and process” are the norm. Be your own detective, your own scientist as well as the subject and enjoy the journey of discovery as you become all that you were meant to be.

  1. They did not go deep enough

Some programs just work on behavior. Others on people, places, and things. Often that is not deep enough? It will not produce lasting change. If change is to be lasting then we need to help change our emotions, attitudes, beliefs, lifestyle, and environment behind the behavior.

  1. They did not work on emotional lies behind triggers

There is a difference between a simple trigger and a craving. A trigger is to a craving like anxiety is to a phobia. It is much more intense and comes from a different place. Often what is triggering us comes from sensations that are similar to those left behind from our implicit memories of childhood trauma. The self-beliefs associated with those memories had severe consequences. To be unlovable means you will be abandoned if you don’t behave and being abandoned to a child is a death sentence. It is a scary consequence of being unlovable. So when a sensation that is similar to that event triggers in us that we are unlovable, we go into a habit that is sure to make us feel better, give us relief or help us escape the emotional pain. It is true that we engage in many of our habits in order to regulate our emotions.

  1. They did not include spiritual treatment as part of our recovery

Many people do not succeed in their habit change because they have not taken advantage of the spiritual resources available to them. This is much more than acknowledging that there is a Higher Power. It is having a relationship with God. Spirituality provides the hope and resilience needed when it comes to making a change. A relationship with God is foundational to making the kind of changes we want. Think about it. Who better to help you with change than the one who designed and created you? That is why, along with sharing the latest in change science, we will be having you go through Spiritual exercises in order to draw upon all the Spiritual resources of change that God provides.

When you consider the list that we have just discussed do any of them resonate with you. How have you done in the past with changing habits? Have you experienced relapse in some of the changes you have made? Have you lived with the yo-yo effect where you succeed at a habit change, fall back to old routines and then rebound again, over and over? Be your own detective. As you consider the list above, why do you think this happened to you?