If you hate change, you’re not alone.
Along with the 34% of people in this study who said they would avoid change at all costs, I am also among you change-haters.
I’m one of those people who despises change, yet, seems to constantly hurl themselves into it. Whether it’s a new project, a new athletic endeavour, moving from city to city (and sometimes to different countries), or forming new professional and personal relationships, I’m as restless as they come. While I’m constantly pushing the envelope and testing my boundaries, I don’t feel I handle change well.
Fearing change is perfectly normal. Change brings about a loss of control, increased risk, potential to fail, and a general sense of uncertainty. Most of us are comforted by order and predictability, and bristle at the mere thought of those comforting routines being disrupted.
So why change? Why invite the discomfort?
Well, there are many major motivators; chief among them: The desire to be better and feel better, the desire to chase and accomplish big dreams, the hope of a more enjoyable future. For me, if nothing is changing in my life and I’m no longer learning, pushing, and growing, I feel stagnant and dull. I’m a better person when I’m adapting to change – even though I may be fighting fear every step of the way.
Science backs me (and you) up on this one.
Our brains love efficiency. So, when we attempt to make a decision – like changing our career or applying for a promotion – our brains look for historic data and past thought-patterns to arrive a conclusion that’s consistent with our sense of self. If, in the past you’ve been turned down for a promotion, or a job search lasted for months, or received negative feedback from friends and family about a career decision, your brain will try to protect you from those negative outcomes. Your brain will push back against the change.
Your brain is simply reinforcing a story that you have about yourself. A story that says if you try, this bad thing or feeling will happen. But you don’t have to be stuck with that story. You can outsmart your own self and make yourself that much more comfortable with change. And trust me, there are better ways than my personal “feel the fear and do it anyway approach”.
1. Change Your Internal Story
What you think about yourself and how you see yourself make all the difference when you’re embarking on change or making a decision. You’re far more likely to proceed with a change if you feel positive and confident about the outcome. If you are constantly telling yourself that you’ll be too stressed or that you’re doomed to fail, you likely will be (or you’ll be unlikely to attempt the change at all).You are not beholden to the scripts and stories you have about yourself – those can change too! Your brain can be re-wired to think differently. If you consistently tell yourself that things will work out for the better, that you have the skills and strength to overcome difficulty, and that you will succeed, you are much more likely to accomplish your goals. Practice complementing yourself and eventually, your brain will see this as the new default response – it will prop you up with support and encouragement (instead of defeat and fear) when you see a job you want to apply for or when you want to meet with your boss about a promotion or raise.
2. Don't Muscle Past Your Feelings, Embrace Them
Unfortunately, feelings don’t just go away if you ignore them.
You may get away with “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” for a little while, but eventually it will sneak up on you and you’ll end-up in tears in the middle of grocery store trying to select a bag of apples (true story).
It’s vital that you really listen to your feelings and give them the respect they deserve. This is what will allow you to move forward with the confidence and self-compassion that will lead to success.
Try using this HeartMath tool when you are facing an immediate difficult decision or situation. Start by recognizing what you’re feeling and give it a name. Is it fear, anger, anxiety, frustration, disappointment? Naming your feeling will help you to accept and understand what’s going on in your body.
Then, focus on your heart area and breath in love for about a minute. This is an act of self-compassion. If negative thoughts or feelings continue to arise, just refocus on your heart area. As you focus on your heart, you want to radiate this compassion to any issues you are experiencing (fear, inadequacy, insecurity, self-pity).
As you do so, you’ll notice those feelings subside. Sitting with your feelings and giving them space for understanding, gives them less power over your actions. When you give your feelings the attention they demand – but in a calm and self-compassionate way – they are less likely to pop up in destructive ways.
3. Create New Habits
If you’re looking to do something new on a regular basis, like speaking up more in meetings, networking with other industry professionals, volunteering for more difficult assignments and projects, you need to form a new habit.
The trick to successfully establishing a new habit is to pick something small and associating it with another, already well-formed, habit. For example, if you want to voice your opinions and ideas in meetings more often, start with one safe-feeling meeting that happens at work. If you have a weekly, small team meeting, try speaking up here first – ask a question or suggest an idea.
Once this becomes a comfortable habit, try it other more senior meetings. If expanding your professional network is a goal, connect your regular social media activity or web-browsing habits with LinkedIn.
After checking your Facebook messages, pop over to LinkedIn to send a few new connection requests.Whatever new habit you’re trying to create, make sure it’s easy and achievable. You can always build on it later; the most important part is making sure you consistently perform the new action.
4. Normalize Change in Your Life
Perhaps the best way to embrace change, is to make it a regular part of your every day experience. Cultivate a life where change is normal and welcomed.
Here are my top 4 tips for embracing change in your day-to-day life.
1.Be Open to New Things. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable.
2.Be Playful. Don’t take yourself too seriously, it relieves the pressure.
3.Be Yourself. Living authentically can refresh your attitudes and remove limiting expectations.
4.Be Inspired and Motivated.
Don’t neglect the activities and people in your life that bring you joy.Feeling discomfort around change may never fully disappear, and that’s ok. Just don’t let change avoidance or fear of the unknown keep you stuck somewhere you don’t want to be. The discomfort of change will never be as great as the discomfort that comes from regret.
Are you like me? To you fear change or simply avoid it? Let me know in the comments how you’re going to tackle change this year. Or, if you have an inspiring story about change, I want to hear it!
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