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Can people change? and how?


One of the benefits of getting older is that one starts developing a more strategic view on life. Some call it wisdom that comes with age, others anxiety (in a good way) that comes with the realization that we will not live forever. Nevertheless, as this strategic view develops we often explore the “purpose" or "meaning" of life and then we wonder: "can people change?"


Some say “no”, “old habits die hard”, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and so on…


I say “yes”, not just because I am an optimist, but also because it is something I have repeatedly witnessed in myself and others. It is not easy, but it is certainly feasible!


First, let’s think about the human species. As Charles Darwin claims, we have survived and advanced, not based on our strength or our intelligence, but mainly due to our adaptability.


  • Think of the speed of transportation. Just 60 years ago the train was the principal means of transportation; today one can hop on an airplane and travel overseas in just a few hours.

  • Think of the speed of information. 20 year ago we were dependent on newspapers to learn the main events in our country; today almost every single event around the globe is posted on the internet.

  • Think of new technologies and how they have impacted everyday life. Like the computer, the internet and the smart phone. Think of what is yet to come (nano-technology, 3D printing etc.).


We change and evolve, not only as species but also as individuals.

Think of people you know that adopted new habits in their personal lives, like maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly or managing to stop smoking or drinking. Think of people that have changed at work, like managers that changed their communication style, their leadership style, started being more grateful and more trusting. And colleagues that started caring more about their team than their personal growth.


So some people do change! Others do not. This proves that change is not easy but it is feasible!


Then, how do people change?


Years of study and experimentation, both in personal and professional environments, boil down to the following three elements:

  1. Commitment. Unless you consider yourself committed at 9 or 10 (in a scale of 1 to 10) chances are that your energy will soon be depleted and you will return to your old habits.

  2. Baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And old habits do die hard. So focus on small changes at first. The target is to establish a new small regular habit. Once it is regular, it will grow. Be patient!

  3. Smart change. In order to maintain your willpower (a limited resource) you need to be smart about changing. Rearrange your settings, so that new target behaviors are easier to perform (closer/1-click-away) and old behaviors, you want to avoid, are harder to perform (far/multiple-clicks-away)


So, with regards to your professional or personal goal:

  1. How committed are you in a scale of 1 – 10?

  2. What is the next small change you will focus on?

  3. How can you set up your environment, so that the new behavior easier to perform?


If this article gets you thinking, it is a good step.


If it gets you taking action it is a great start!

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