Breaking Through the Status Quo

Breaking the status quo. the status quo can be a real barrier to enacting positive change.
Image by Dieter_G from Pixabay

Have you ever wanted to make a change but found it impossible to accomplish? One possible explanation is that change requires us to break through the status quo – the existing state or condition. This state is comfortable, familiar and already in place. Since we naturally gravitate to whatever course of action requires the least amount of effort, the status quo can be a real barrier to enacting positive change.

For example, let’s say you have a cluttered spare room that you’ve been using for “overflow” storage. You want to clear it out so you can accommodate houseguests, and although you’ve made some progress by sporadically de-cluttering, you can’t ever seem to finish the project. Why is this?

The answer is that making progress is very difficult if the status quo has not been interrupted. In this case, the room is still sitting there, holding existing items and accepting new deposits. The room neither complains nor talks back when it is filled with clutter, and stashing possessions inside is easier than thoughtfully redistributing them. Yes, you may periodically bemoan your lack of a functioning guest room, but most days the simplest thing to do is to just close the door.

True change often requires that we take drastic action: a step that is significant enough that we can’t easily fall back into the old pattern. In this case, imagine you physically remove the contents of the room to the hallway. By creating an inconvenient pile-up, you are forcing yourself to deal with the contents of the room. In addition to selecting the obvious “keep” and “pitch” items, you now must decide on those “I’m not sure” belongings…. the ones you previously would have avoided dealing with and left in the room.

This principle applies to many aspects of life. Since the inherent tendency is to “let it ride,” behaving differently may require a shake up:

⇒ If the schedule is overcrowded… stop automatically signing up for the same commitments.

⇒ If the closet is a mess… completely empty it out and start over.

⇒ If a room isn’t working… move the furniture around and find a better layout.

⇒ If an exercise regime keeps falling by the wayside… bring in someone to provide accountability.

⇒ If snacking is undermining a healthy diet… give/throw away the tempting items.

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Change is seldom easy, so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been struggling. Instead, focus on what you can do to interrupt and break through the status quo of how you have always done things.

Have you had success breaking through the status quo? What tips can you share for making it happen?

30 thoughts on “Breaking Through the Status Quo”

  1. I had success with this this past summer with taking a bit of a break to have a real vacation and also just enjoy the summer with kids having off. I think as far as cleaning goes though when I want to accomplish a big job I just have to rip it off like a bandaid so to speak and do agree that sometimes you just need to go for it in order to get it indeed done.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…It’s So Creepy with Halloween Party IdeasMy Profile

    1. I love that example of needing to actually break out of the work routine and take a real vacation. That can seem radical these days! But so important for refreshing and gaining perspective.

    1. Yes, even the doors in your head. That’s exactly it, Jill! Sometimes we need to really shake up our normal routine in order to make ourselves deal with something. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Seana, an amazing post from you.
    I think about this in terms of pretty much everything. It’s why marriage can be hard. It’s why sometimes it’s easier not to change and break through. It’s why so many things don’t work for so many people.
    I will take your advice for all of these things. I’ll start with throwing away all this bad sugar food!
    Tamara recently posted…Are We Here To Get a New Baby?My Profile

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Tamara. Love your point about marriage as well. We often underestimate the power of momentum, and sometimes we have to take a pretty significant step to break free from an unhealthy pattern. That said, I love bad sugar food – ack:)

  3. Change is hard! It take more energy to create change. It takes a compelling reason for change. But surprisingly just taking the small step forward can make change happen.

    1. Even one small step outside of our normal can be the start of something wonderful, right Ellen? And it is hard… if change were easy, we wouldn’t avoid and dread it.

  4. I was just chatting with a friend about how long it takes to form/break a habit. The myth is 21-days, but research has proven, on average, it’s closer to 66-days. It just goes to show change IS hard, but taking just one small step, like you suggest can set you on the right path.

    1. I’ve never heard that 66 day estimate, but I believe it from personal experience. There definitely is a point where a new habit feels “set,” and putting good habits in place can be a powerful key for success. If you need to do something significant to get that change underway, go for it, right?

    1. I give myself deadlines as well, Nina. And if my own deadline isn’t enough to motivate me, then I seek an external deadline that I can’t avoid. Whatever it takes:)

  5. There is typically some pain associated with change… I so agree. But in hindsight the struggle is worth it, and the memory of the pain fades behind the new freedom and improved daily experience. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Since you mentioned snacks, here’s what worked for me when I discovered I’d put on 15 lbs. Instead of eating chips from the bag, I counted out a certain number of chips I was allowed to eat, then stopped. Eventually I found that I didn’t care if I had any or not. Now I only have chips once or twice a year on special occasions, usually at someone else’s house.
    Janet Barclay recently posted…How to Use Facebook Groups for BusinessMy Profile

    1. This is such a useful principle… you basically added boundaries to your snacking by counting out the chips. Setting boundaries- whether physical or mental or procedural – can be a very effective way to put a change in place. Very impressive that you broke the habit completely!

  7. I like the idea of “eliminate the memory of what it was like.” Wonderful insight, because we do forget rather quickly and than helps us break out of a bad routine.

    1. In addition to not liking the way it all looks, we are more likely to get rid of something if it is already knocked loose from its longtime resting place!

  8. If only our rooms “talked back” to us when we dumped additional clutter in them…LOL! I was just speaking to a client today regarding this concept of the status quo…She had a life event recently occur that is breaking through the status quo for her. This post is so timely, I’m going to forward it along to her. Thanks for your insight!

    1. Thanks so much for the comment, Natalie. Sometimes the status quo does get broken by something outside of our control… an excellent point! Glad you are in this client’s situation and will be able to help her through it.

    1. That is so true, Hilda. We just don’t even “see” it when it is something that has been there for awhile. I heard at the NERCPO conference today that we stop seeing things after 30 days, which is incredibly little time. Bringing it out makes us encounter it (and deal with it) afresh!

  9. So in love with this post! This applies to my own house, and my weight loss journey. The status quo is bad for both right now. That’s why I have to take a day and completely work on my house with no distraction and jump start my weight loss journey by making myself very uncomfortable. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by this process, plus having a young child in school, plus my blog and organizing business. But I just keep moving forward. 🙂

    1. It is very overwhelming to make big change. Having children around means extra food you might not necessarily by (umm… Halloween candy?) And then life is hectic and it is just plain HARD. Moving forward is worth celebrating, no matter how far.

    1. Yes, it really applies to more than just organizing our stuff. Each of us struggles to bring about change in different areas. Regardless, considering doing something a bit extreme may be just what we need to finally get the ball rolling.

  10. Breaking habits can be so hard. We get so used to something that it almost becomes our friend. One moment we are conscious about wanting to change something and then within minutes we are doing the very thing we just said we wanted to change. Sometimes I believe it takes the power of God to get you through issues that are bringing you down and that you want to change. It’s nice to know others go through the same thing. Thanks for the post.

    1. You are so right, Regina. It can be so frustrating to find myself doing exactly what I say I don’t want to do! Change can just be hard… I think we all understand this battle at some level:)

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