The #1 Reason Why People Hate Change

Boundaries for LeadersOne of the most important boundaries that people have to establish is against the tendency to put off changes that they know need to be made. If you think about it, much “waiting” and putting off changes has nothing to do with “getting more information,” or “waiting until we get finished with a, b, or c.” Obviously, it’s essential to gather data and do analysis, but many people allow too much lag time between knowing and doing.

I (Dr. Cloud) remember once when I had a decision to make regarding a significant investment. I had been reluctant to green light the deal because it was in an area that I was less familiar with than I wanted to be. The truth, however, was that my advisers were experts in this arena, and I really did trust their opinions. Still, I was putting it off. Finally one of them, the lead investor, called me.

“We have to go forward now or it is not going to happen,” he said. “What are you going to do?”

“I want to talk to David first about some more balance sheet issues, and then I will let you know,” I said.

“What specific information do you still need that will help you make the decision?” he asked. “What exactly do you need to know to go ahead? And what are you going to learn that you don’t already know?”

When he put it that way, I realized something. There was no more piece of specific information that I needed. I was just looking for more comfort and there was no information that was ever going to give me that. I had to decide, to trust the smart people, and to eat my discomfort. I had to pull the trigger.

“You are right,” I said. “There is nothing I am going to learn that will materially change anything. I am waiting, but I guess I am not waiting on any ‘thing.’ Let’s do it. I will get the money wired today.”

Look out for this dynamic in yourself by asking: What’s holding me back? Is it lack of information or fear of making a mistake? Put some boundaries around the “need for more information” and the desire for absolute certainty. With most big decisions, risk cannot be entirely eliminated. Deal with it and get moving.

Another resistance to change is the desire to “make sure everyone is on board,” or “we reach consensus,” which is sometimes code for “I want to make sure everyone is going to like it.” Just as it’s essential to get good information, it’s also important to align key people around the proposed change. At the same time, getting absolutely everyone on board may take forever, and making everyone happy with your decision is highly unlikely anyhow.

Sometimes, after everyone has been heard and understood and has been able to have their input considered, you might have to make a decision that all are not happy with. You may even have to ask the people around you to “disagree but commit.” But you cannot wait around for everyone to get happy.

Resistance to change is a fact of life. If you want change to take hold, you must have good boundaries to contain the forces that are working against the effort.


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  1. Renee Held says

    I work with teams making “change” in the workplace. Much of what you have written about here, “CHANGE” in the workplace becomes a barrier. I have not read the Boundaries for Leaders book. I have read the Boundaries book, though.
    I am wondering, do you think there would be value in coming up with a Boundaries for Teams? Not only to cover creating team meeting rules, processes and ultimately, deciding on change for improvement and then ways to overcome the related resistance to implementing change in the workplace.

  2. J says

    Thank you ..great article,…I am going through the EXACT same my personal life..thank you..keep posting…

  3. Barbara says

    I believe I understand the point you are making about fear versus truly needing more information to make a decision. How do you distinguish between God giving you the nudge that perhaps you shouldn’t leap ahead versus fear versus a man trying to make you leap into a decision? Did you pray to God for His Wisdom about this decision and then how long did you wait? Or can you describe more how God interacted with you to help make this decision?

    • Cheryl says

      Hi Barbara,

      I can do identify with your thoughts here! So, I wanted to share something God dropped on me about my own viewpoint when it comes to making decisions. In my case, God was giving me the freedom to choose, which is kinda scary really. He reminded me that in my freedom to choose was also the opportunity to fail. That was what held me back from making a lot of decisions in my life. I could use the reasoning that I was waiting on the green light as an excuse not to change (like taking a risk) OR I could go forward in knowing God had not told me no about the situation. Sometimes I think God sits back and watches how we choose, partnering with us along the way as we step out in faith (I.e. take risks) towards change.

      I’m certainly not condoning going haywire without regard to Gods will for our lives. For me, it was finally understanding that my fear of failure was a real problem and I hid behind “not hearing from God” as a way to avoid making decisions. That was crippling for me and only in hindsight could I see God’s hand had been in it but I was too afraid to make changes. I went around the same mountain for years before I began to understand the extent of true freedom and that His grace is sufficient. He wanted me to try and I froze rather than fail. Unless we fail now and again, we can never learn or grow in our love walk with Jesus. There are great lessons in failure and we shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things (I.e. change). Sometimes the lack of a no is a yes to a great adventure!

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