Many, perhaps most, people would like to change their lives. They’d like the good parts to get better and the bad parts to go away. How you define these good and bad parts are entirely individual, reflecting the infinite diversity of human life. But consider yourself and take stock of where you are now. No one can do this realistically without wanting something to change. Yet after a certain point most people realize that change is difficult, and the path to finding a better life is twisted and rocky. A certain percentage will simply decide that “people don’t change” is a fact of life. If you are a hard realist, you give up trying to change yourself, much less anyone else.
With this background, it seems strange that so many people hold out the goal of total transformation, and in fact every spiritual tradition supports this, whether through redemption, salvation, the promise of heaven, enlightenment, or Nirvana. Total transformation goes far beyond making some changes in your life. If limited change is difficult, isn’t it folly to hold out for complete change?
Yes and no. The way that people struggle to break bad habits, improve their relationships, stop feeling anxious and insecure, and hoping to stay afloat financially is where change often proves futile. The mind struggling with itself can’t help but wind up with more struggle. In the world’s wisdom traditions, there is also a deep analysis of the ego, the isolated individual “I,” which by its nature is constantly presenting demands that never get satisfied, not to mention that the isolated “I” is by its very nature small and insecure. So relying on your ego or the restless mind doesn’t lead to meaningful personal change.