There are two primary reasons why people don't answer the call to transform themselves, even though it would lead to a better life.
(1) Fear disguised as practicality
(2) Expectations of others
And they go hand-in-hand.
We often come up with excuses as to why we can't change our lives. For example, I spoke with a friend that followed the linear life path, earned six figures as a pharmacist, and bought a house in her early 30s.
And then admitted to me, "So, what was the point? I'm not happy."
She shared that she wished she was traveling, experiencing other cultures, and living a whimsical life. I said, "Ok, then do it."
She replied, "I can't. I just bought a house."
I said, "Sell it." But she wouldn't. She said she would feel embarrassed to admit she did that.
Wrapped up in that statement is a mix of mind-made fear and adherence to societal expectations. Both are illusory and keep her from living how she wants.
Yet that's extremely common. So we drone on through life controlled by our fear and others' expectations.
Some tell me, "No, I can't do that. I am required to do so as a mom/dad. I have to make this sacrifice."
Do you? Is it necessary? Will your children actually hate you for doing what you need to do for yourself? Will they end up worse off because you decided to meet your needs?
Take two examples.
The story of the Buddha is the original story of breaking free from fear and expectations. He left his royal position, his wife and his son, and subjected himself to immense suffering, poverty, and illness over many years in pursuit of his enlightenment.
He later returned to his family after becoming "The Enlightened One", and his wife and son also became highly regarded for their own spiritual achievements.
You can read/practice the Dharma all you want, but unless you recognize the wisdom of his actions, you don't get it.
Another example is Pema Chödrön (https://pemachodronfoundation.org/about/pema-chodron/)
She too made the difficult decision to temporarily part with her children in pursuit of her spiritual path and transformation away from the deep suffering she was in. Today, she is one of the world's most important spiritual teachers.
Or how about Dandapani? (https://dandapani.org/about/)
After graduating college, he became a monk for 10 years, entering rigorous study, training, and isolation. He left his family and everything he knew behind, renouncing all worldly connections.
I'm not saying that becoming deeply ascetic is necessary for people to transform and that all sacrifices must be made, regardless of the situation. That is not the message I'm sharing.
My point is that we mask fear as practicality and refuse to make hard choices when considering a change to ourselves, and our lives. A profound transformation is possible so long as you have the courage to make hard choices and the faith that everything is going to be ok.
As my friend Steve Schlafman said to me recently, there are two questions people must ask themselves:
(1) What am I willing to let go of?
(2) What am I unwilling to let go of?
That is a personal choice. But know that much more can be let go of than we are willing to consider.
You are the obstacle in the way of setting yourself free. Nothing else.