People hate change. It’s difficult. Some would say it’s downright painful. If you think change is a pain in the neck, you’re not far off. Actually, it’s a pain in the brain.
It turns out that the human brain is actually hard-wired to resist change. So if you feel yourself resisting the changes you know you should be implementing, blame your brain. When you learn a new skill, you use the part of your brain (called the Prefrontal Cortex) that is responsible for learning new stuff. It takes a lot of concentration and a lot of energy to use that part of the brain. Once the new skill is learned, and it becomes habit, it gets stored in the comfy zone of your brain (called the Basal Ganglia). It takes far less energy to run that part of your brain, so you are naturally inclined to revert back to it – even when your logical mind tells you you shouldn’t.
When you begin a new change project – like a New Years resolution, for example – you’re using the Prefrontal Cortex to concentrate on the new tasks. But it’s not easy to keep that part of the brain focused on your goal, especially when you need it to concentrate on a bunch of other stuff that keeps landing in your lap. So when the brain gets too busy with new stuff, it wants to revert back (as much as possible) to using the comfy brain.
That’s the science behing the adage that “old habits die hard”. And that’s the battle you’ll have to wage continually throughout the change project if you are going to be successful. It’s not impossible to accomplish the tasks you set for yourself and your organization, but change is never easy. Understanding the science may help you plan better. And it may help you combat the resistance when it rears its ugly head.