How Much Do You Really Have To Give Up In Order To Change?

It is simple, everything that holds you down.

James E. McGinley, PhD
3 min readMay 13, 2022


Silhouette of a man walking alone on the beach.
Photo by il vano on Unsplash

Change is not easy, especially when we lack confidence or when we feel that we are being pressured into it. I see this as an addictions counselor. Deep inside, people know they need to change, but they want to strike a bargain that allows them to keep old behaviors, even if they are not healthy.

Let go of what holds you down.

The reality is that change inherently means we have to do some things differently. Moving on means letting go. We are going to have to let go of a few things, such as how we used to feel, think, and act.

There is a story of a successful businessman who was in treatment for alcoholism. Like most people, he was resistant despite his awareness of his own need to change. He turned to the counselor and asked, “Does this mean I have to give everything up?” The counselor replied, “No, just the things that hold you down.”

We need to find out who we are.

Letting go of harmful, hurtful, and dangerous behavior sounds logical, but we are often strongly tied to them. The reason is this, we have let them become a part of who we are. What we say, feel, and do has become part of our identity. Once they are there, they are hard to change.

We cannot become someone new if we do not know who that is.

In part, it is hard to change because we do not have a replacement on hand. If we stop, what fills the void? Stopping an addictive behavior, or making a change, is more than stopping the behavior. It means that we must find our true selves that exist beyond the behavior. But when we are just beginning to change, our new selves, or our rediscovered old self, is not yet in view. The result is that we can feel lost, detached, and ungrounded. We have a natural instinct to reach back to our old patterns, not forward.

We face two battles.

It helps if we remember this. When we change, we will face two challenges. First, we must shift from old thoughts and behaviors. But what do we shift towards? That brings up the second challenge. We must recreate, or rediscover, ourselves.



James E. McGinley, PhD

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor.