We hate change. We want life to ‘go back to normal’.

COVID has changed everything. It has forced us to change how we live, work, shop and socialise.

Pre-COVID, we hated change. Whether it was reducing car-use, recycling, consuming less, reducing waste, driving below the speed limit, walking kids to school or using alternatives to single-use plastic. We moaned, groaned and complained about change.

Prior to the pandemic health, obesity, transport, road safety and cycling behaviour change programs weren’t really working. We had gridlock, growing traffic congestion, increasing road crash statistics, sedentary lifestyles and unprecedented levels of heart disease, diabetes and childhood obesity. Behaviour change – or the lack of it – had been one of the biggest issues facing public sector agencies. Politicians and public servants around the world were asking “What do we need to do to get people to change their behaviour?”

To change our behaviour, us humans need a compelling reason, a strong motive and a burning desire to change.

I have spent two decades studying behaviour associated with transport, shopping and finance. In 2019 and 2020, I interviewed and engaged with tens of thousands of men and women about their personal behaviours based upon three propositions:

  • Change as a result of a crisis (e.g., a bushfire, a cyclone, divorce or unemployment)
  • Change when ‘’everyone does it” (e.g., supermarkets removing single-use plastic bags)
  • Change when there’s a compelling reason, a strong motive and a burning desire

I have concluded that we ONLY change our behaviours when we have the last of these along with a personal ‘defining moment’. When its personal and urgent, we draw a line in the sand.

Change happens in that defining moment when we draw our personal line in the sand. Whether it’s debt, diets or divorce, we make a choice and say, “I’ve had enough.”

Change is complex because we hate it.

The saying goes, “we can’t force others to change”.

COVID has. It forced us to change.

But most of us want life to go back to normal.

Will we sustain our changes?

Only time will tell…