Change Myths

¡Hola! Everybody…
I have to host an all-staff meeting, finish putting touches on a grant proposal, flesh out major portions of my unit’s five-year strategic plan, and… Well, you get the idea. Have a great day and remember to breathe.

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-=[ The Beyond Help Series: Myths of Change ]=-

It wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t post at least something about change, so here goes…

One way of learning to change is to study people who have been successful at change. Do people who successfully effect change share common qualities or do they follow a set of patterns? The answer to that is yes. But before I get into that I want to address what I feel are common misconceptions about change.

Myth #1: It just takes willpower

When I looked at a study that tracked over 30,000 successful self-changers, I found it interesting that their universal answer was “Willpower.” And this seems to verify what we all seem to know intuitively. However, when the studies examined what these people meant by willpower, there are two different definitions. The first is technical: a belief in our abilities to change behavior, and the decision to act on that belief.

The second, more common definition is that willpower represents every single technique, every effort under the sun one can use to change. There is a logical fallacy in thinking that if this so, then it follows that it takes willpower to change. This is a classic case of circular reasoning (Google it).

While there is some truth that self-changers use willpower, it is only one of nine factors for change. Willpower is important, but according to the same studies, people who rely solely on willpower set themselves up for failure. If you believe willpower is all it takes, then when you try to change and fail, it would seem reasonable to conclude that you don’t have enough willpower. This will lead to beating on yourself and possibly giving up. But failure to change when relying only on willpower just means that willpower alone is not enough.

Here’s a good example (from a case study) of willpower not being enough. A young lady was very determined to do something about her obesity and began a program of change. However, though her determination was genuine, she was that our bodies can adjust quickly to dieting by lowering its basal metabolism, which in turn leads to burning fewer calories. She became baffled and discouraged when her diet didn’t work and eventually quit in disgust.

This is a classic case of using only willpower (commitment) without other change factors (in this case, consciousness-raising).

There are nine other factors (processes) of change that successful self-changers use. I can’t get into it in full now, but I will in the near future for those who are interested:


Social liberation

Emotional arousal


Commitment (this is where willpower comes in)


Environment control


Helping relationships




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