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What is the Difference Between Wanting and Committing to Change?


Let’s say we are past the point of deciding that change needs to happen. We are ready for change. We want it for one or more of a number of reasons that may include we see the need for change or we are being forced to change. But what is the difference between wanting and committing to change?

Wanting to Change

Think of it in this way…go big or go home. Guns blazing. Fast and furious. All show and no substance. The hare in The Tortoise and The Hare.

Wanting to change generally relies on motivation. But this is a poor strategy for change.

The classic example is what we do in preparation for New Year’s Day or a new month or a new declaration. Wanting change tends to be accompanied by platitudes. They sound like, “I will ALWAYS…,” or, “I will NEVER…,” or, “From now on…”

The night before, motivation is high. Sometimes the motivation is out of guilt (overeating during the holidays), or some other pain point. But then the new day hits when the “all or nothing” is supposed to be a reality. And…tick…tick…tick…it is only a matter of time before that motivation wanes and the old habits pull on us.

That is the trouble with using motivation as your driver. Motivation is fickle, it vacillates, it tires out. As BJ Fogg, Ph.D. states in Tiny Habits, “When motivation surges, you can do hard behaviors….but high levels of motivation are both scattershot and unsustainable.”

This isn’t changing at all. It is “all bark and no bite”!

Committing to Change

Committing to change, by contrast, looks and sounds like…slow and steady wins the race. The tortoise in The Tortoise and The Hare.

“Doing a little bit in infinitely bigger and better than doing nothing.”
--Stephen Guise, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results

Committing to change relies on willpower. This is a solid foundation and strategy. The primary way to make this strategy a success is to use willpower on a small action. This is touted in three books that I would recommend to you. They are:

When we commit to change by taking a small action after a specific prompt, we gain a WIN! And our brains like that.

Prompt. Behavior. WIN!!!

That was easy!

And who doesn’t love easy and a win?!

So we do it again – win!

And again – win!

And before long we have a change in the habit! This is REAL change…a true fact!


Let’s bring this home and make it real. Think about how you want each and every person greeted on your phones. We have an easy cue…the phone rings. What is the smallest action we can take? I am going to assume you already think to smile so let’s add one more thing. Anytime we hear a phone ring I want you to think, “I would be happy to help you.” Then when the caller tells you why they have called, say the magical seven words, “I would be happy to help you.”


Now you, too, have a victory and know the difference between wanting and committing to change!

“Be the person with embarrassing goals and impressive results instead of one of the many people with impressive goals and embarrassing results.”
--Stephen Guise, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results