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Why is Making Change So Hard?

On Saturday, I left my yoga class, started walking to lunch, and began a conversation with my friend Jeff. (Yes, we went to an organic restaurant, Angelica Kitchen.)

Jeff is a successful entrepreneur, a self-starter, and someone that I have always viewed as extremely disciplined.

So, I found it shocking when he told me that he was having so much trouble sitting down to meditate each day.

How can someone who appears to be so disciplined have such difficulty adhering to a regular meditation practice?

I then posed the question “Why is it so hard for us to make change?”

Two questions came from our conversation.

1) How important is it to make a change?

If something is that important, a person will make a change.

I stopped smoking cigarettes more than a decade ago because I didn’t want to wake up when I was 60 years old and have lung cancer. This was literally a life or death issue, and I quit for good.

A big and nagging challenge that I face is organization. If I were more organized, I firmly believe that I would be in a much different place in my life and things would not seem as chaotic.

I tell myself that being organized is important and make half-hearted attempts to do something about it, but nothing has really changed.

How important is for me to be organized?

Not very, it appears.

For Jeff and his meditation practice, it was a similar case. With a very busy schedule, he admitted that meditating takes a back seat to his other priorities.

2) Do we have a finite number of things that can be important to us?

If we want to make a long-lasting change in our lives, something has to be very important to us.

And to make long-lasting change, we have to be disciplined and committed. Otherwise, the change won’t stick.

I know that in some aspects of my life I am very disciplined – not drinking, not smoking, eating organic, etc.

Yet in other areas of my life, such as being organized, my discipline just isn’t there. I really struggle to make long-lasting changes.

After going back and forth with Jeff about this topic, I left our conversation thinking that we can only have a certain number of things that are really, really important to us. In this area, my assumption is that our capacity is finite.

Later that day, I stumbled upon an article in the New York Times by David Allen, productivity expert and renowned author of Getting Things Done, titled “When Office Technology Overwhelms, Get Organized”.

David Allen outlines a 5-step solution to getting organized, the first of which is to “capture everything that has your attention, in your work and your personal life, in writing.”

This means writing down everything that you need to do in every part of your life. He says that this could take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours to complete.

I did that yesterday, and the results were surprising. I looked at the list, which was long, and said to myself “Wow, this is doable”.

For some reason, I felt some lightness around this whole organizational issue. I didn’t feel as burdened or overwhelmed as I had before.

I am all for methodologies such as David Allen’s because they can really help facilitate change, and I have already started to use his approach.

Nevertheless, I maintain that if something is not super-important to us and we are not committed to making change, all of these systems are useless because they don’t run themselves.

At the end of the day, making long-lasting change is never easy because it is means altering fixed behavior patterns. And there has to be something deep inside of us that truly wants a different outcome out of life.


In the video below, David Allen explains why I felt so much better after making a list of all of my commitments. It starts at the 5 minute 30 second mark.

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