An age-old question in life is: can people really change? Can a bad guy become a good guy or can a true jerk become a nice person? While I try to be optimistic about redemption and fresh starts, my experience is that most people are pretty much who they are by the time they are 25 or 30 years old. That being said, I do believe that people can make transformations in their lives. But these transformations, if they are legit, are usually motivated by one thing:
A major crisis.
In order for a person to truly change, something big has to happen. I am reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Here is a quote that will let you in on his thesis: “first, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future” (loc 454).
(the “habit loop”)
Duhigg says that if we are going to change a habit or behavior, we must first change the reward. If the payoff is big enough, we will change. So crisis may not be a tragedy. Crisis is simply a point of experience that motivates us to do something different.
If you are a 40 year-old male who is still addicted to porn, you haven’t yet experienced a moment of true crisis. If you are a 50 year-old female who has no real friends, you have not yet reached the crossroads necessary in order to make real change.
I am praying that we can all create our own personal crisis that is required for us to engage in real change. If we don’t we may be doomed to being who we are. While we may not be all that bad, the idea of no positive change is depressing.
Jeremiah 13:23 asks, “Can a leopard change its spots?” I don’t think so.
But I do think we can change – if we want to badly enough.