Fallacy of Change: Cognitive Distortion 12

In Fallacy of Change, we expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.


Here’s a story to illustrate Fallacy of Change.

Joe was a woman of determination. She loved to see a vision in her mind’s eye and carry it out. As a manager at work and mom at home, Joe had many opportunities to “do the right thing.” She saw herself as a powerhouse of social justice at work. Managing her subordinates and ensuring good work from everyone. Joe knew the stakes were high to succeed as a woman and a feminist. She was after the glass ceiling.

At home, Joe accepted nothing less than perfection from her children. Joe loved knowing her kids were going to be successful. She had them in all the right sports, music lessons, STEM activities and scouts. Every night after school was one long activity after another. If her kids didn’t get a solid start in life, she didn’t know how they would be successful. They needed to accomplish all the things.

Joe used her vision and determination to change those around her.

The problem is that she fell victim to the fallacy of change. Joe didn’t allow anyone around her their own agency or individual rights. She saw herself as the all-knowing leader. And it was exhausting. Joe was constantly feeling emotionally neglected by friends, family, and co-workers. She was forever the boss and never the friend. She wondered from time to time why she couldn’t have fun like others, but there was always so much to do.

Eventually, Joe broke.

She couldn’t be the cow pusher on the front of the train anymore. Constantly blazing a trail was too much. She needed balance. As Joe’s children aged, they became more and more independent. They voiced their opinions and were decidedly against doing all the things. The much preferred to pick fewer activities and do them well versus doing everything halfheartedly.

At work, co-workers, subordinates, and bosses began to ask for more personal independence. They resented being controlled all the time.

Slowly, Joe began to lighten the reigns and give control to those around her. Joe realized she had been a dictator when people really needed a colleague, confidant, and friend. She realized the best leaders are humble leaders.


Falling victim to the fallacy of change is incredibly easy.

We see a situation, have our preferred solution and work on those around us until the change happens. In the morning, we cajole the kids to get out the door. In the workplace, we lean on people to pick our side. With our spouses, we persuade them to get to the doctor or take the medicine.

It’s incredibly tough to give control to people around us, especially in our immediate family. The closer a person is to us, the more we have opinions on what they should do. To build lasting relationships based on trust is to state opinions in love, and stop. If we realize that others can make their own decisions and let them, we support but don’t control.

The next time you feel the fallacy of control, turn it around and ask yourself if you would like someone leaning on you like you’re about to lean on them? If no, then stop and offer love and support. A listening ear is far more powerful show of support than an unwanted opinion.

Waters Move Seasons Change Watercolor Painting
Waters Move Seasons Change

We have no control over the weather or seasons. They happen organically and beautifully.

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