The Unseen Barrier to Personal Transformation

The change process most change specialists teach is

  • Resolve to change.
  • Make goal(s) specific, measurable, attainable, real-time and time-based (SMART).
  • Write it down, declare it to others, and measure along the way.
  • Find someone to be accountable to (friend, coach, etc.).
  • Celebrate your achievements.

Many change specialists will tell you the barriers that you can expect. Common barriers include: not uncovering the motivation for change, not setting SMART goals, not making your goals habitual, not telling others about it, not practicing good accountability, not celebrating milestones, and not giving yourself grace. Even with all of these barriers, there seems to be one that lurks in the shadows that almost all change specialists neglect or overlook.

‘Love is patient’. I Corinthians 13:4

The Hidden Barrier

What the change specialists do not tell you about the change process is that your decision to change was not made by your environment. Your spouse, parents, children, boss, coworkers, pastor, neighbors did not sign up with you for the change. The people closest to you will get in they way of your transformation. As you are in the process of change, you will notice that everyone in your world will continue to treat you the same as if you have not begun to change.

The River Flow

Les Herron, a friend of mine, shared an analogy for the challenges this barrier represents as a flowing river. Imagine being on the banks of a river twenty feet wide and four feet deep. To reach your goal of the opposite river bank, you will have to cross the river.

As you take the first few set of steps, you notice that you are veering off course. The power of the river is actually taking you down stream. As you raise your foot and move it forward, the flow of water compels your foot to land further down stream than your brain told it to. And with every step, your goal becomes increasingly more difficult to reach as you have to work with even greater intent than you had ever imagined.

When you make your decision to change and set your goals, it is as if you are on the banks of the river. On the other side of the river lies the goal of who you want to become or how we want be.

We frequently make decisions about personal transformation when we have stepped out of life long enough to become introspective. As we step back into life with our SMART goals, highly motived and focused, we sometimes find that our spouse, friends, boss, coworkers, pastor, neighbors, etc. act as an unseen flow that pushes us ever so slightly away from our goals. Those we love the most seem to be working against us becoming the better person they and we have always hoped to become.

The Powerful Force of Our Family and Friends

Some common ways people in your life unintentionally get in the way of the goals we have set include the following.

  • They do not believe you because you have tried to change unsuccessfully before.
  • They do not want you to struggle in the change. They know change is hard and they do not want you to be in the pain of change.
  • They do not think you have taken all the information into account and are trying to protect you from failure by giving you more information that you may not have thought of before.
  • They do not like that you might succeed in an area where they have failed.
  • They do not want to get their hopes up that the change will stick and then be disappointed when the change you pursue does not stick.
  • They want to encourage you but their interaction with you is so habitual that it will take them time to change how they interact with you.
  • They will change how they treat you when they see consistent change in you.
  • They call you a hypocrite because you said you changed but then you made one mistake along the way toward who you are becoming.

What Can I Do About Discouragement From Others

  • Lead them through your change. Help them discover that what they are doing is normal. Let them know that you are still pursuing the change you are committed to even though how they are trying to help feels like it is working against your goal achievement. Give them specific ways that they can do to help, which may be as little as “nothing”.
  • Be courageous in the face of opposition. You noticed something you wanted to change and did something about it. Your commitment and your motivation to change is applaudable. You are on your way. Keep your courage high as you continue along your path.
  • Do it instead of telling it. Telling the people closest in your life that you are going to change or that you have already changed is good. Showing them how you are changed is even more powerful. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “actions speak louder than words”.   What you do is powerful!
  • Give them grace as they get to know the new you. You are still getting to know the new you. They are making the transition like you are. If they experience whiplash or have to take a second look, that is OK. Love them through their reaction to the new you.
  • Be patient for them to see you in the new light. Even after you have made the changes internally and behaviorally that helped you achieve your goal, you may still have some who continue to interact to you as your previously were. Be patient. In their time, not yours, they will see you as you truly are.
  • Extend yourself and your family grace around your failings. My college professor and friend, Paul Faulkner, used to say, “You are a hypocrite only when you deceive others into thinking you are what you never intend to become.” You may look like a hypocrite as you imperfectly slip into an old behavior that does not reflect what has changed within you. Along the way toward what you are becoming, someone you love may judge you as a hypocrite or criticize you that you have not changed.

What do you have to say?

We love to hear from readers.  Have you also found that those closest to you are an unseen barred to goal achievement? What would you add to the list of examples about how spouses, family and friends can be barriers? What other suggestions would you add to our suggestions about what to do?  If you tried implementing any of the recommendations, how did it turn out for you?

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at