The myth of radical change and overnight success is pervasive in our culture.
The Myth of Radical Change
Experts say things like, “The biggest mistake most people make in life is not setting goals high enough.” Or they tell us, “If you want massive results, then you have to take massive action.”
On the surface, these phrases sound inspiring. What we fail to realize, however, is that any quest for rapid growth contradicts every stabilizing force in our lives. Remember, the natural tendency of life is to find stability. Anytime equilibrium is lost, the system is motivated to restore it.
If you step too far outside the bounds of your normal performance, then nearly all of the forces in your life will be screaming to get you back to equilibrium. If you take massive action, then you quickly run into a massive roadblock.
Nearly anyone who has tried to make a big change in their life has experienced some form of this. You finally work up the motivation to stick with a new diet only to find your co-workers subtly undermining your efforts. You commit to going for a run each night and within a week you're asked to stay late at work. You start a new meditation habit and your kids keep barging into the room.
“Resistance is proportionate to the size and speed of the change, not to whether the change is a favourable or unfavourable one.”
The forces in our lives that have established our current equilibrium will work to pull us back whether we are trying to change for better or worse. In the words of George Leonard, “Resistance is proportionate to the size and speed of the change, not to whether the change is a favourable or unfavourable one.”
In other words, the faster you try to change, the more likely you are to backslide. The very pursuit of rapid change dials up a wide range of counteracting forces which are fighting to pull you back into your previous lifestyle. You might be able to beat equilibrium for a little while, but pretty soon your energy fades and the backsliding begins.