A lot of the time, people who refuse to change seek to preserve their current worldviews and self-images in a cocoon of suspended animation, at all costs. The resulting sense of complacency that they build for themselves over time often fossilises outdated skills and mindsets. After all, if you can’t adapt, you’ll be outmoded.
This same complacency often has its roots in much more enduring beliefs that help to explain why people can be so resistant to change. To begin with, here are four such fundamental beliefs.
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Most of the time, society aggrandises the idea of innate genius. It’s why people who actually work or study so hard sometimes put so much effort into making others think that they barely put in any effort.
At the root of it all is this perception that one’s skills and abilities are difficult–even impossible—to change over time. In other words, people tend to think that talent, intelligence, and skill are things you either just have or don’t have. Hence, by extension, any effort to develop them through sustained effort over time is futile—so what’s the point in trying?
The reality, though, is that all of these things are malleable and dynamic, meaning that they are susceptible to growth and intentional cultivation. What determines how good you are at public speaking, for instance, isn’t just how good of a natural orator you are. It’s also about how much time and energy you’re willing to invest in improving your public speaking skills by any means possible.
The more strongly you believe that your abilities are unchanging, the more reluctant you will be to show what you perceive to be your crippling deficiencies. If you believed that your current skills are pretty much set in stone, then to you, that’s all you’re capable of.
Hence, you’re likelier to deny that they’re insufficient to tide you through the ever-changing future. Self-improvement is only possible when you open yourself up to internal and external scrutiny. If you only see it as humiliation, though, you close yourself off from adapting without even realising it.
Expectations are the root of all heartache. When people pick up a new skill, they often go in expecting that the amount of effort they put in will always be directly proportional to how much they’ll learn. In other words, they expect the learning curve to be linear; the more you try your hand at something, the better you’ll get over it with time.
What commonly happens, though, is the opposite. The learning curve is called a “curve” for a reason; it’s characterised by spurts, plummets, and plateaus which make it anything but linear.
The initial stages of learning a new skill, for example, might be relatively easy since they’re generally about mastering basic concepts. At some point, though, the learner runs out of basic material and begins to realise how much he doesn’t know. Consequently, his confidence plummets.
So many people give up when they reach this point because they feel discouraged. They might even feel that previous negative self-images have been reinforced. Consequently, they fail to adapt and improve themselves because of their unrealistic expectations.
Human beings are predisposed to act in ways that preserve their self-interest and self-image. If you take your every failure and success as an indication of your self-worth, the blows that failure will deal to your self-regard will be incredibly damaging.
Hence, rather than face even the slightest possibility of failure, you’d rather remain in your comfort zone. To you, that’s where you know what you can and can’t do, so it’s safer. Additionally, here, you can enjoy a relatively stable amount of positive evaluation from yourself and others around you.
Essentially, the fear of failure becomes so powerful for you that you’d rather sabotage yourself than face the suggestion that your skills and abilities aren’t good enough yet.