Who hasn’t set a New Year’s resolution or declared a commitment to change some small aspect of who they are—only to disappoint themselves a few days later? We promise ourselves we will be more patient, positive, or forgiving. We vow to work out or show up on time, but still find ourselves with a stockpile of experiences that fuel the myth that change is hard. Let me tell you why this saga feels true, and how to make change easier.

First, it’s important to understand that we’re wired to preserve energy. Our unconscious inclination to avoid anything that depletes our energy reserve harks back to the time of primal survival when protecting ourselves was synonymous with continued existence. Though our external reality has changed, our mind and body continue to function in this primal way. On the most basic level, this programming is why change can feel so difficult to navigate.

But the biggest obstacle to change is just that—a feeling tethered to old programming. Change doesn’t have to be so challenging. That is, if we understand the unconscious mind operates from a place of emotion. The conscious mind is rational. Our goal is to get them working together, not opposing each other.

Here are the five most common mistakes I’ve witnessed that keep us from integrating the combined power of the unconscious and conscious mind, and thus, making change easier in our lives.

Goals Without Buy-In
Declarations are made, goals are set, and results are measured in our conscious mind. Yet, the conscious mind contributes little to implementing the changes we desire. In reality, the unconscious mind is in charge. It wants to be emotionally wooed and understand the reasons why change is important. Therefore, any announcement related to doing something new needs to speak to the heart, not just the mind. If not, our motivation will wane very quickly.

Ignoring Our Language
The unconscious mind is literal and always lives in the present. So, when individuals tell themselves they will start working out tomorrow – that day never arrives for the unconscious mind. Or, when someone declares, “I will try” or “I should” – they are actually telling their unconscious mind that failure is an option. Therefore, the language necessary to induce real change needs to be very specific to gain the internal cooperation from the real change agent.

Not Understanding How We Learn
I’ve come to understand that all learning happens on the unconscious level. Think about the first time you rode a bike, drove a car, or heard a new telephone number. It wasn’t until you could ride on two wheels effortlessly or recite the telephone number without any mental gymnastics that you had really learned something new. Knowledge alone is not enough, which should explain why just telling someone to do something or attending a one-day training isn’t enough to spark sustainable change. Therefore, repetition is the best way to create new ways of doing or being. In fact, even practicing something in your mind is a great way to create new mental muscle memory.

A Lack of Curiosity About Behaviors
All behavior, programs or strategies are born from the beliefs that send direct neurological commands to the body. Behind every disempowering pattern is a set of protective beliefs. In fact, the only thing our conscious mind does when we engage in behaviors that don’t serve us is to make up stories or reasons for these annoying occurrences. Everything else happens at the unconscious level. Therefore, get curious about why you do the things you do. Look for the beliefs below the behaviors, and question the status quo.

Falsely Relying on Willpower
Willpower or courage is not enough to fuel the change we want in our lives. Sure, sometimes we can push through things by making different choices. Yet studies have proven that our willpower takes us only so far before the mind and body start to slow down and we move into self-preservation mode. What is often viewed as a lack of commitment is actually a depleted energy reservoir. Therefore, unless you are working with someone who specializes in change at the unconscious level – such as an NLP practitioner or hypnotherapist – take change in small steps.

Finally, trust yourself and have faith that you can act in congruence with the person you really are. What you’ll find is that having this empowering mindset has unlimited energy.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Crampton Davis has been coaching and guiding individuals to success for more than twenty-five years. Today she focuses on helping people to identify and remove the limiting beliefs that stand in the way of greater happiness and success.

Susan is a graduate of Evergreen State University, a master-level NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner, a registered hypnotherapist, and a practitioner of Belief Reconditioning Therapy™, which is a client-centered therapy that involves several healing modalities. Prior to starting Awakening Works, Susan held senior leadership roles at some of the best companies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Getty Images, Staples, Amazon, and W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.