There are over 7 billion people on the planet and every one of them changes. Not once, but hundreds or thousands of times. Each person has their own reasons, so the reasons for change must number in the billions.

Not a very manageable number. Fortunately for us, though, there are some patterns that can help us understand why people change.

It ultimately comes down to just 3 issues. These issues are not reasons for change, but rather catalysts for change. They are not reasons because any one of them may not be reason enough to make change happen. But when change happens it will be because one or more of these catalysts is active.

I don’t want what I’ve got

We’re all familiar with this. We’ve had enough, over it, disillusioned, disappointed, hurt, sick and tired. We feel pain with our current situation and we don’t want it anymore. If the pain is bad enough it may propel us into change. If it’s not, we put up with it. Let’s call this catalyst ‘pain’.

I want what I haven’t got

Again, a common experience. We long for something we don’t have, we constantly think about it; we may even ache for it. The object of our desire may be a person, a car, a house, clothing, jewellery, or anything that captures our heart and our imagination. There may be an unsatisfied ache associated with it, but let’s call this catalyst ‘desire’.

I have no choice in the matter

We are always affected by changes we don’t choose. We grow older, our bodies change in ways we don’t like, we suffer sickness and loss. Children leave home, parents die, jobs change or disappear, social trends change, climate changes, as does politics and the economic fortunes of our time. Of course we mustn’t be pessimistic because some changes favour us. We may win the lottery or the meat raffled own at the pub. We may meet an extra special person, or be offered a fantastic job out of the blue. What shall we call this catalyst? Life?

These catalysts are not the reasons we change, because their presence does not ensure we will change. We change because we make a decision to change and we do whatever it takes to change. But the catalysts provide a push – an energetic shove to get us started.

Steve Barlow PhD

Steve Barlow
Author: Steve Barlow

Steve heads up The Change Gym. He is a change readiness specialist. You can contact him at