Why Improving Yourself Is So Freaking Hard

And why you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself

Sam Cook

--

Photo of a man in a kayak paddling in water. Green hills are in the distance.
Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

When I write about making a personal change — whether it’s a change in health, finances, or anything else — I make a point to emphasize that changes are hard, and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself as you pursue them. We have a lot of guilt around our ability to change ourselves, and nothing feeds that guilt like a failed attempt at self-improvement. At some point, we’ve all had the experience of working hard to make a change, then slipping back into our old ways after some brief progress, and it often comes with feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.

Why are we like this? I’ve thought about that question through many years of making changes for myself, and often struggling with the same tendency. Here’s how I look at it now, and what it reveals about why improving yourself can be so hard.

Imagine a small river running through nature. Over many years, it’s worn away soil, smoothed rocks, and pushed debris out of the way. It has cut out a path for itself, and gradually changed the terrain. That river is your baseline behavior. Like the river, the way you typically operate has altered your lifestyle, carving out a path that accommodates it. It’s a path that is now familiar, easy, and comfortable.

--

--

Sam Cook

Former writer for Tested.com and Geek.com, currently a technology professional, teacher, and father. I write about whatever is on my mind.