When The Price Of Change Is Too High

price of change

I’m a big fan of change, as you can probably guess, since I’m writing on a blog called “The Change Blog”. I’m very much in favour of growth: people finding their path through life, taking the next steps, learning, discovering and doing new and fulfilling things.

Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to hold back from change. Sometimes, you might be tempted to implement a big change in your life – but a nagging feeling warns you against it. Not all changes are appropriate for everyone, and even if a change is right for you, you may need to be cautious about implementing it at the right time.

Over-hasty change can exact a high price. At a minimum, you’ll probably end up wasting some valuable time – and quite possibly some money. In worse cases, you could lose friends, spoil relationships, make yourself ill, or even suffer a financial set-back which takes you years to recover from.

So when might the price of change simply be too high? Here are a few situations when you might want to stop and think hard before making a particular change:

  • When external circumstances are against you
  • When you have important values or commitments that go against the desired change
  • When the impulse for change comes from outside
  • When the change would have irreversible consequences

When External Circumstances Are Against You

Now, like most people, I’m prone to make excuses at times. It can be easy to put off making real change because of “the situation” (Sid Savara has a great post on “the situation” as a personal development roadblock.) But in some cases, you may need to take the hard decision that while you want to change something in your life, the time isn’t yet right.

For example, if you want to quit your job, you may need to wait until you’ve built up an emergency fund. After I read Steve Pavlina’s popular 10 Reasons You Should Never Get A Job, my growing feelings that the corporate world wasn’t quite right for me became impossible to deny. But it took me about 20 months to be in a financial position (and with the freelancing skills and contacts I needed) to quit my job.

Even if you’re feeling hugely inspired by a book like Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work-Week or Jonathan Fields’ Career Renegade, you might need to stick it out in your day job or current career until you’ve build up the resources – both financial and skill-based – to move on.

When Your Values And Commitments Go Against The Change

Another situation when you need to hold back from a change is when you feel it contradicts your own values, or the way you want to live.

For example, I know I would have more time to pursue personal projects and paid work if I cut back on my voluntary roles at church – and I know that many secular life coaches or personal development writers would advise me to do so. However, these roles are important to me, and I’m not willing to ditch my commitments here, even for the sake of faster change in other areas of my life.

Many of us struggle to make change when it involves dumping relatives, lovers or friends. Some personal development gurus recommend cutting “negative” people out of your life: for me, though, and I’m sure for many of you, this is often simply not an option. That might mean that some of our energy is going on people who are “high maintenance” friends or relatives – but to make changes here would mean going against our key values.

When The Impulse For Change Comes From Outside

In some cases, you might have a particular goal that requires a change in your life. A popular one is becoming an early riser – huge numbers of people seem to have this as a target in their life. But in many cases, I suspect the impulse from change comes from outside – from a personal development writer who happens to be a morning person.

I myself find mornings a good time to write and to work. I enjoy being up early and getting on with my day. But many, many people are simply not at their best at 7am – and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you do your best work in the afternoons or evenings, stick to that pattern. There’s no sense in pushing yourself towards a change because you feel you “should” do it. The price of achieving it – forcing yourself on despite a lack of real motivation – is likely to involve you becoming unhappy or grouchy.

When The Change Would Have Irreversible Consequences

Some changes – getting up at 6am, jogging daily, writing a novel – don’t have huge or irreversible consequences. (If getting up at 6am makes you hellish to live with, you can always just start lying in again.) Other changes, though, may exact too high a price:

  • Quitting your job to start your own business (you might be able to go back if it all falls apart, but you’ll have lost money in the meantime)
  • Dumping a partner or friend (if you do decide it was an awful mistake, it’ll be hard to patch up the relationship – and things will never be quite the same)
  • Investing a lot of money in a new scheme or idea (if it fails, the money’s gone)
  • Moving to a new country (again, you can go back, but you’ll have lost money and possibly acquaintances in the process)

Of course, if you want to make a big life change that you’ve reasoned through and that you’re passionate about – go ahead, and the best of luck to you! What I’m cautioning against here is getting fired up by a self-help book or by a passing impulse. Do invest serious time into thinking about and planning for large changes in your life – and determine what the price would be if it doesn’t work out.

Have you ever considered making a change, but decided against it because the price was too high? What was it – and how did you make your decision? Alternatively, have you ever madeover-hasty  changes that you now regret?

Photo by h.koppdelaney

15 thoughts on “When The Price Of Change Is Too High”

  1. This is an interesting article! I’m a huge fan of change, too. I agree that major life changes shouldn’t be undertaken impulsively … most of the time. Unfortunately, when most people contemplate the upsides, the downsides, and all the things in between, that’s exactly where they can get stuck … in endless analysis and contemplation.

    Every major life change, in the end, requires a leap of faith. Some people only ever take that leap of faith impulsively … if they stopped to think about it, big change would never happen.

    So – crazy impulse or Divine inspiration? Only time will tell! Great article with lots of food for thought!


  2. Really wonderfully written. We often don’t think about change in this way and I think you’ve made some really EXCELLENT points here. I especially like the point about the impulse for change coming from outside of ourself. If we are trying to change for someone else, it’s really, really difficult. You have to change for you!

  3. Hey Ali, I second Positively Present on how wonderful this post is. There are some points that ring extremely true – particularly about changing only when it’s triggered from within and when it’s congruent with our values. Changes that occur for any other reason will just be happening for the wrong reasons.

  4. Often we are “pressured” from outside to change. I agree, change must come from within.

    “Of course, if you want to make a big life change that you’ve reasoned through and that you’re passionate about – go ahead, and the best of luck to you”
    I wish you the same.. good luck!

  5. Hi Ali .. nice to meet you re the Change Blog — good site and I enjoy the posts.

    I just happen to have been reading Time .. airport dallying around & plane trips when I’m tired! .. on their 100 World’s most influential people .. a learning read .. and the Oprah one came to mind re Change: Diane Sawyer the author says .. “Her curiosity is undiminished. She’s always moving forward, seeking, changing – like the great explorers who reset the horizon every time they sailed”.

    I guess change is being ready to embrace new things, things you’ve prepared for and are expecting, while also looking towards your next goal, preparing for it, .. I love change and am so grateful I do ..

    Thanks Ali
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters

  6. Thanks for this post Ali. On the subject of “energy vampires” or “toxic people,” I think another possible perspective is that these people actually help us to see places where we don’t fully appreciate or trust ourselves. If someone says “you can’t start a business” and we feel discouraged, for instance, that actually gives us an opportunity to look at why we don’t trust ourselves to achieve our goal and let go of any false ideas that might be in the way.

    1. @Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching,
      Excellent point. What effects are other people’s skepticism and viewpoints having on us? Is something True just because someone else says it/ fears it?

  7. Change is not for everyone . Some people love it and strive it while others resist it all the time. Often we all experience we want change but sometimes we slow down and don’t want it. Change is inevitable for most people whether you want it or not…

  8. Good insights. Most people find it difficult to make positive changes. That’s because the impetus for change comes from the cluttered mind. The mind can be cleared by releasing and by simply being here and now, and fundamental changes manifest effortlessly.

  9. Thanks all for the thoughtful replies and feedback!

    @Chris Edgar – That’s a very interesting point. The (few) people who’ve been a drain on me have been people who made me feel insecure, unattractive and disliked — and I’m sure much of the “problem” was really in my own mind. I’ve found it easier to deal with these sorts of people as I’ve grown in self-confidence.

    @Casper – Yes, some changes are inevitable. You might decide not to quit your job because the time isn’t right … but if you’re made redundant, you have no choice over it. In those cases, I think the best thing we can do is try to focus determinedly on the positives. (Which is hard: I find it particularly difficult to accept changes that come at me from outside, especially changes to my plans.)

  10. It good to remember sometimes that no action is an action of kinds. Some of the best of advice that I ever got was if in doubt do not act. I’m all about action but sometimes no action is the right action.

  11. Hi Ali,

    This is a great post! There will be times when there is a high price for the changes that we want to undertake. It will be good to make preparation to ensure that we are able to pay the price before we took the plunge.


  12. Hi Chris and Ali .. meditation .. I’ve tried and looked at various things .. and I agree it is difficult to get going .. and I’m still not doing it .. but I worked out that I need to allocate that 10 to 15 minutes .. to realised that that is meditation time .. and it is there – it cannot change: so just sit quietly and start the process of letting your thoughts go – emptying your mind .. so that the re-energies and soul rejuvinations can flow in .. it won’t come at once .. but with time the meditation process will happen – because you’re not blocking it.

    If the process had been set up and established as a routine .. It’d be part of my routine of life .. however I think for three – elderly mother and uncle, and one day I know I’ll settle into it .. and it won’t be a negative – nor I will not turning against it.

    Good post Chris – thanks…
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters

  13. I recently faced having to bail on a planned change in my life for these reasons. With $40,000 in student loan debt and no full-time job, I considered joining the Air Force as an officer to be the best option for my family of four. It would mean security.

    But as I went through the process, I felt a growing sense of uneasiness even though logically it was the best choice. In the end, I decided it went against my values to join–it would mean not being the type of mother I want to be. It would mean giving up my freedom to act as an individual. It would mean living a life that was good at the cost of living a life I truly wanted. Also, it was something I “should” do–I felt obligated to do it, for my family. And it was also a huge commitment (8 years total) that would be near impossible to reverse.

    I’m glad I resisted the change for the reasons in your article, even though I didn’t find your post until after I resisted the change.

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