Why People Change


Like a stained glass window, human character can be both diverse in its qualities and change when new environmental factors shine upon it: when it is noon, the stained window appears one way; when it is evening, the stained window appears to be different yet again. When we are in stress, we are one way; when we find new friends, we change yet again. As with the stained window, humans are both diverse and changeable when the world influences us.

Though there are doubtless many reasons for why people change, I draw our attention to some prevalent and common reasons, of which I believe to be among the more important reasons; namely, stress, self-initiative, social influence, and career. Each of these sources will either break a branch from our trunk, which thus allows us to grow another in its place, or fertilize some uncultivated soil so as to give rise to new life; each source can change us through either damage or encouragement.


A fracture in the skin, bone, or mind can be caused by stress. And the greater the stress, the more dreadful the fracture. The longer the duration of the stress be, the greater the changes. In addition, a difference in stress brings a difference in outcome. To elaborate, when we experience a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, we become traumatized. When we are over-worked, we become drained or burnt-out. And when we fail, we become doubtful. Stress can change people.

For example, individuals that have experienced an armed robbery, due to the stress, become paranoid. Every person they see with either their left or right hand inside a pocket is, after the stressful event, a threat: each person becomes a potential robber, waiting for the person to let down their guard.  Within a person who has experienced an armed robbery, a degree of vigilance and concern suitable only for war-zones, not a public mall or park, has been induced.

But not all stress brings about a negative change, nor is all stress negative. Indeed, some stress can be beneficial and healthy, it can help us grow and better ourselves. For example, when we encumber a project with a fast-approaching deadline, leaving little time for completion, a great stress is endured. And that stress can force us to change.

Due to the limited time we have been granted for the completion of the project, we will ignore our friends, our hobbies, and our family. Under great pressure and with little time, we become stressed and consumed by the project. Our lifestyle, as a result of the project stress, has changed.

And of course, while too much work stress can be negative, such projects can teach us about time management, work ethic, and sacrifice. Sometimes, our stress is the nutrition which feeds positive growth.


Sometimes, something with a repetitive nature, like the sway of a tree branch on a cloudy, windy day, no longer repeats. Books sometimes read right to left rather than left to right; clock change from constant movement to no movement at all; and branches can tirelessly sway in the wind until they break and sway no more. But these changes, from the common to not so common, are all dependent on environmental influence. And that is not always the case with people.

What a person’s character happens to be at the moment need not entail what their character will be in the future. They can change, and their change can be as unpredictable as a plastic bag in the wind. I am referring to what is sometimes called, “spontaneous remission,” within medicine, or ordinarily, “self-initiative”.

Of course, to the internal observer of the change, the word “spontaneous” is usually a mischaracterization, for they experienced and are familiarized with the thoughts which had motivated their change. But to the external observer, the change appears as spontaneous as the weather; only because there are no readily visible indicators.

But nevertheless, some among us go from bad habits to good habits, from lazy to hard-working, from immoral to moral. A person can change from someone who reads zero book a year to a person who reads twenty books a year; a person change from having a  poor performance at work to a stellar performance at work; and a person change from doing evil to doing good. And although we so desperately seek an explanation for said changes, we will have to settle with the unsatisfactory answer of “self-initiative”. Sometimes people simply want to change, and we shall have no insight as to why.

New Social Circle

To no surprise, those around us can have an impact on our actions, thoughts, and beliefs: our character is susceptible to social influence. The friends we choose, the colleagues we gain, or the groups we join all play an important role in shaping who we are. Our character forms a give and take relationship with the people around us.

Our friends come with their own sets of values, their own past experiences, and their own beliefs. And when we interact with them, we adopt or learn from their values, learned behaviours, or beliefs.

For example, if we have a group of friends that engages in heavy alcohol consumption, then we will be invited to participate at a greater frequency than would otherwise be the case without those friends. Thus, the odds of consuming alcohol can increase as a result of our friend group.

Likewise, when our friends espouse certain beliefs or ideologies, because we seek acceptance from our immediate social circles, we will mirror and adopt precisely the same beliefs and ideologies; only so we may gain acceptance among them.

So, for myriad reasons, our social circles can impact who we are: that is, what we believe, what we think, and how we act. Therefore, social circles are an important source of change.

Professional Life

Work life is yet another vital source for change, it has a noticeable impact upon our goals and wants. For some of us, work is nothing more than a means to an end: a way to maintain some standard of living. But, for others amongst us, work is  the end itself: the purpose of our life.

Work has social ladders which are readily visible to all those who are employed, though not everyone enjoys climbing. But for those who are not only excellent climbers but also enjoy climbing, social ladders bring a deep sense of purpose and meaning to life.

As a result, everything in their life orbits work: promotions, increased productivity, and networking. They want to impress their bosses, earn more capital, and acquire more connections. Nothing short of an entirely new life philosophy can come with work.


Although we have not exhausted the reasons as to why people change, we can nevertheless see that there are many reasons as to why someone can change. Stress can impact a person and make them change, either for better or worse; a person can change by their own whim,  which we seldom ever understand; a change can occur when people adopt new friends; and a change can also occur when people start new jobs and adopt new goals. Among many others, these are some of the reasons for why people change.


Ideasinhat is a business development analyst and longtime reader of academic literature. He writes books and essays on science and philosophy, and posts them to this website. The essays, as with the books, cover topics from psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science to economics, politics, and law.

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