Why Refusing to Change is Killing You

Donald Miller

Today begins my series called Start Life Over. In the series, I’ll talk about 5 things necessary to re-start our lives. The hope is that, together, we can have the most meaningful year we’ve ever had.

In the series, I’ll go through the 5 principles I learned that helped me lose a ton of weight, grow my company and even get married. I’ve never been helped by trite goals or feel-good formulas. It was the big paradigm shifts that helped me create a framework for change.

The first principle is this: You were designed to change.

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog about how I’m glad I’m not the same person I was when I wrote Blue Like Jazz.

For those of you who don’t know my writing, Blue was my first breakthrough book. I wrote it in my late twenties and it spent many weeks on various bestseller lists. That said, when I wrote the book I was 150 pounds heavier, lonely, codependent and emotionally isolated.

I only say that because over the years my writing has changed. Hopefully I’m still vulnerable, but I’m not as messed up as I used to be.

And you know what’s strange?

People miss the old, messed up me. They say, “I miss the old Don.” Well, I have to tell you, I don’t. Things that stay the same aren’t healthy.

These days life isn’t perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot better. I’m down 150 pounds, I’ve built an amazing community and my business has quadrupled. I even got married. I’ve changed. And I’m glad.


For years, though, it was hard for me to change. And one of the main reasons (there are 5) I couldn’t improve my life was because I didn’t realize I actually could change. I thought people were just people and we were stuck as we were.

But that was a lie.

Here’s a principle that has everything to do with becoming somebody different: Every healthy thing God created changes.

If something doesn’t change it’s dead. God designed the world so that it is in constant motion, never sitting still, always dying and being reborn. Everything is changing, all the time. Even you.

Physically, you will regenerate several times before you die. The skin you have now will not be the same skin you have in 7 years. What this means for us is we get to let go of the mistakes we’ve made in the past. We also get to let go of the identity other people want to trap us in. We get to change.

We get to become somebody different.

One of the ways God encourages us to change is by constantly starting things over.

He created you to sleep, so every night you lie down and go into an odd kind of coma for about 8 hours and then you wake up and start another day. Think of it like a do-over. And it’s not only you. The whole earth is starting over every morning.

And it’s not only days that start over, it’s the seasons, too. Soon it will be spring, again, for the millionth time. But it will be all new to us. And then summer and then fall, always changing, always starting over, always inviting us to do the same.

I meet people occasionally who think of themselves the way I used to think of myself when I was so unhealthy.

They think of themselves as fixed beings.

That is, beings who cannot change. But this is a lie. We can change and were designed to change. Still, though, even if I can convince them they were designed to change (as is obvious) then they believe change is hard.

Really? Why should something so natural, so ingrained in our design be hard?

One of the most freeing realizations I’ve ever had is that I was designed to change. Once I realized that, I was able to let go of the old me so the new me could get created. I didn’t have to be scared, lazy, or controlled by fear anymore. That me could die away and a new me could start growing out of the ashes. I could be somebody different.

Of course nobody changes over night.

But nobody changes at all if they don’t believe they’re supposed to.

So here’s the question: Do you believe you were designed to change? And if so, what’s stopping you? I mean that literally; what’s stopping you from changing?

In the next entry, I’ll talk about the second thing I believe stops us from changing and what we can do about it.

For now, let’s start the year by meditating on the idea we are all designed to change. At the end of 2016, none of us have to be the same person we are now.

That’s not what we were designed to do. I’ve changed, and I’m glad. God thinks it’s okay for you to change, too.

If you want more help changing, pick up Michael Hyatt’s program called 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. Every hero needs a guide. Choose one today and get on with your story!

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.

  • Your title grabbed me. I had debated for a long time about changing my professional life but it was a big decision. Huge actually. But it was “killing me.” I had such stress symptoms which were only intensifying as the months went on. Finally, at the end of the year, I fully closed my private practice. The fear was overwhelming at times but I now feel like a bird that was able to fly out of a cage. I’m soaring.

    • smuddles

      I totally get this, Holly! I’m struggling with the same feelings but man is change scary! Thanks for sharing your story– it’s encouraging!

  • I’m ready to change back – into a fit, productive person. One small choice to go to the gym and keep my nose to the keyboard at a time.

  • nate shoemaker

    Gah… I know you’re right, but I just don’t know what to change any more. I’m kinda at a point right now where when I look back over the past year (3-4 years actually…) I can almost say that all of my expectations are now disappointments. I don’t really get immobilized (there are always exceptions…) but I am feeling pretty directionless at the moment. I feel like I’ve nothing and no one to lead; that I’ve tapped all my resources and come away disappointed with people (just one of the expectations from above); that I have no ‘leads’ and no ‘platform’ now. I suppose part of the struggle for me is that I feel like I shouldn’t need leads and a platform to feel okay. So maybe this emptying is a good thing for now…

    … it’s at this point that I realize this has so little context to it, and you don’t know me, and there may be little reason to post this, except that it will be nice to have something to finish before it fades away.

    • Steve James

      I believe you are now useful to God Nate. You should dive into some Tullian sermons: http://www.crpc.org/media/preacher/u/2/tullian-tchividjian

      2 Corinthians 12:5 – “…but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.”

      2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

  • Iryssa

    I have a feeling this is going to be a great read for us, as we examine the possibility of making some HUGE life changes in the next few years (location, lifestyle, possibly income, job(s), school for the kids, etc.). Frankly, it’s TERRIFYING. Even though I want it. I honestly have gone to bed the last three nights SO excited, but every minute wondering if it’s even possible for us to do it and survive (which sounds hyperbolic in writing now, but far less so in late-night contemplation).

  • Can really relate to this. One of the lies that kept me stuck for years was “you made your bed now you have to lie in it” Biggest lie I ever believed and chains fell off when I stopped believing it. One of my passions in life is helping others understand how false this is. Different choices are always possible.

  • Charlie Hively

    logistical question: you said that Creating Your Life Plan is going away forever. What about someone who’s purchased it? Will we still be able to view it? If not, can we download the videos instead of streaming?

    • Great question, Charlie! Since you’ve already registered, you’ll have access to the content forever. We’re only closing down the ability to create new registrations.

  • KJQ

    My problem isn’t that I don’t believe in change, it’s that every change in my life has brought more pain and suffering that what preceded it. In other words, my “fear of change” is experientially justified.

    • Jenny

      Change in my life has continually brought more pain and suffering in my life for many years now, until I CHANGED my focus. Once I shifted my focus from the situations and storms to the blessings and the One in control, change brought about growth. Yes, change is still painful, like gold being refined by fire; but the result can be beautiful if we choose to focus on the good and growth that comes from it. I can think about the deaths, illnesses, moves, lost jobs, loneliness, and fears and be depressed; or I can focus on the memories, healings, new friends, new jobs, the good parts of the jobs, the constant companion in Christ and hope in Him and be joyous. You can too!

  • The Three Divas Events

    Hi Don!
    On this first day of 2016, the three of us sat down together and read your blog post. Then, like you suggested, we asked, “Do you believe you were designed to change?” …and oddly, the answer was we believe we can grow, but didn’t see that as change. Why? We spent years in a relational environment with people committed to staying the same! So today we embrace that growth IS change – and we look forward to 2016 and finding a community of people who value this process as well !!!
    The Divas – Deborah, Rebekah, & Jennifer

  • Vic Shustak

    “And it’s not only days that start over, it’s the seasons, too. Soon it will be spring, again, for the millionth time. But it will be all new to us. And then summer and then fall, always changing, always starting over, always inviting us to do the same.”

    This born Jew is glad for the symbolic messages that God has built into his creation. What’s keeping me from changing? Not appreciating often enough those amazing reminders that help awaken me to the Spirit’s company and movements. Signs from our molded and knitted bodies. Signs shouting throughout all of God’s creation positioned creatively to awaken and boost His company within our eyes, minds, and response. And our conversions.

    The Spirit empowers our obedience. And change is tough. Again and again He revisits and assures me to keep in step with his patient lead towards change. My destiny’s completion even seems dependent on morphing. Two or three selfish “comfort” areas are resolution worthy without a doubt.

    My increasing understanding of Jesus, his creation, his grace, his pursuing Spirit, and the love of his many friends are breeding change. The invitation is clear.

  • izitbru

    You see, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with change, even in your circumstance Don. I’m glad you’ve changed. After all, change is what shapes us. Sometimes we change for the good, and other times for the bad. I don’t think you fall into the latter. In fact I think you believes you are a better person more than you have ever been and that’s great. So I don’t think your new lease on life should annoy people.

    But here’s what I do think. Like many of your fans we grew up loving your writing because of your authenticity. There was something to it that made us put ourselves amongst your scribbles without needing to write ourselves into the story. Not every author has that kind of knack. The beef I have is that you assumed that your very same audience would be interested in your newfound zest for all things ‘marketing’. And I’m afraid you’re wrong. At least for me you are. I don’t ever remember signing up for any conference or tutorial emails? I signed up to your blog and any notifications for future book releases. I most certainly didn’t sign up to receiving pings for ‘how to improve my marriage’, thanks Don, but no thanks.

    For someone who is passionate about story as you are, you out everyone should know that tone, subject and audience are all very different. And they all have a place. The tone you take as Don the author is very different to Don the, “10 steps to…” guy. The same applies to your audience. I don’t see myself at your conferences the same way I see myself reading one of your books. So why do you assume as much? Imagine a Dad walking into his child’s room talking to him like a coach and not a father. He would think something is awry. Not so? However, if the child is in his soccer kit on a pitch and his dad is the coach of the team, he wouldn’t expect him to talk intimately with him on the field, but he would want him to motivate the team and blow his whistle. In other words it all comes down to context and setting. In my opinion you might have confused the two and assumed too much of your audience. You took a huge following and thought you could attribute it to building a company. A gamble that might have proved handsome in rewards, but it also explains why people are upset. They probably feel slightly hoodwinked. But they really shouldn’t be. They just need to unsubscribe.

    On the other hand perhaps you should’ve invited your audience first or at least asked for their permission to come along for a different ride. Or maybe even separated the two, down to the click-through storybrand banners on your author blog. Even if the business sense of your database tells you otherwise, your audience will always have the last say.

    I still like you Don. Don the author. I love that you’ve changed, and I’m glad you have. I don’t want another Blue Like Jazz. So I will keep reading your books, maybe just not fist pumping the air to your motivational modules.