Breaking Through the Status Quo

Breaking the status quo

Have you ever wanted to make a change but found it impossible to accomplish? One possible explanation is that change requires us to break through the status quo – the existing state or condition. This state is comfortable, familiar and already in place. Since we naturally gravitate to whatever course of action requires the least amount of effort, the status quo can be a real barrier to enacting positive change.

For example, let’s say you have a cluttered spare room that you’ve been using for “overflow” storage. You want to clear it out so you can accommodate houseguests, and although you’ve made some progress by sporadically de-cluttering, you can’t ever seem to finish the project. Why is this?

The answer is that making progress is very difficult if the status quo has not been interrupted. In this case, the room is still sitting there, holding existing items and accepting new deposits. The room neither complains nor talks back when it is filled with clutter, and stashing possessions inside is easier than thoughtfully redistributing them. Yes, you may periodically bemoan your lack of a functioning guest room, but most days the simplest thing to do is to just close the door.

True change often requires that we take drastic action: a step that is significant enough that we can’t easily fall back into the old pattern. In this case, imagine you physically remove the contents of the room to the hallway. By creating an inconvenient pile-up, you are forcing yourself to deal with the contents of the room. In addition to selecting the obvious “keep” and “pitch” items, you now must decide on those “I’m not sure” belongings…. the ones you previously would have avoided dealing with and left in the room.

This principle applies to many aspects of life. Since the inherent tendency is to “let it ride,” behaving differently may require a shake up:

⇒ If the schedule is overcrowded… stop automatically signing up for the same commitments.

⇒ If the closet is a mess… completely empty it out and start over.

⇒ If a room isn’t working… move the furniture around and find a better layout.

⇒ If an exercise regime keeps falling by the wayside… bring in someone to provide accountability.

⇒ If snacking is undermining a healthy diet… give/throw away the tempting items.

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Change is seldom easy, so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been struggling. Instead, ask yourself this question:

“What step can I take

that will make it hard for me

to maintain the old status quo?”

Have you had success breaking through the status quo? What tips can you share for making it happen?

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