Change is hard. Breaking an old habit or creating a new one takes real effort, which is why it is so annoying when somebody else is pressuring you to do it. Fortunately, you can resist that kind of pressure if you know how to respond. Here are six simple things you can do to avoid changing.
Obviously, the person who wants you to change thinks you have a problem. That’s why they’re pushing so hard. They’ll stop pushing if you can convince them that what they’re worried about is not a big deal. It’s nothing, really. A small matter. Maybe a one-time mistake. (Incidentally, if you want to minimize effectively, you shouldn’t bother keeping records. Don’t keep track of what you eat, drink, watch, or spend—don’t track anything. It’s much easier to minimize a mental inventory than a written one.)
If you want to make the case that you don’t have a serious problem, find somebody else who has a similar problem but is much worse than you. There is always someone worse. (The Pharisee employed a version of this tactic in the story Jesus told about two men who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee lifted his eyes toward heaven and said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” Boom! The Pharisee was off the hook.)
- Create a Diversion
When the spotlight is on your behavior, a great way to divert attention is to start a different argument. Blow something up! This is the perfect time to gossip, start a political argument, or fire up a theological debate. Follow the example of the Woman at the Well, who, when it became clear that her marital life and sexual behavior were a complete disaster, brought up an age-old argument between Jews and Samaritans about the proper place to worship. That was a classic diversion. Jesus didn’t fall for it, but the person who’s pushing you to change isn’t Jesus. Try it! It just might work.
This is a cool one. You can admit you have a problem but escape right away by saying that it’s really not your problem. You would love to change, but you can’t because your behavior is someone else’s fault. It’s the fault of your family, or your boss, or—best of all—the very person you’re talking to. If you can make it their fault, then you are absolved of responsibility and, alas, powerless to change.
Odds are there is at least one thing that you do impressively well. Maybe you’re a hard worker, a good speaker, a talented artist, or a great cook. Whatever that thing is, double down on it. Prove to yourself and others that you are not at all impaired by your so-called problem. When you are performing successfully, you are certainly entitled to a little bit of slack. As long as you’re performing, you can tell people to back off and leave you alone.
The pressure to change always comes at a point of crisis. Under the pressure of the moment, you may need to agree to change in order to avert disaster. That’s okay, as long as you don’t actually do anything substantial. Go ahead and make an apology. Promise to change. If necessary, order a book you’ll never read, or make a show of looking for a therapist or a recovery group. Just keep dragging your feet. Eventually, the crisis will pass, and you will be able to get back to business as usual.
This is not mere theoretical advice. I personally employed every one of these tactics for more than 20 years, and I can assure you that they really do work. However, there eventually came a day when I was forced to choose between changing and losing everything I cared about.
There eventually came a day when I was forced to choose between changing and losing everything I cared about.
If that day ever comes for you, you will need to do what I did. Reverse course. Rather than minimizing your behavior and its consequences, start keeping a complete and honest inventory. Stop thinking that you are no better than anyone else. Stop arguing, and start listening. Stop blaming, and start confessing. Stop performing, and start living. And stop putting off until tomorrow what you really should do today.