Often we would rather accept to be unhappy than making changes that can lead to a better life for us. Time and time again, we can see that people only change when they have no alternatives left. When their back is against the wall.
But before that came a long ordeal or even a life of suffering. Some examples of the areas we most often fail to change:
Stuck in a work situation that makes us unhappy or even sick
We do not chase our dream and live a compromise
Our relationship is over. But we stay
We want to change unhealthy behaviour
We will look at why we are hesitant to make changes and most importantly share the tricks that will enable you to overcome the fear of change and create the life you desire. At the end of the article, you will also find a gift that will support you even further.
There are some cases where the following tips will not apply as easily and where a person is advised to seek additional individual help. For instance traumata, addiction, serious depression/burnout or cases of severe procrastination.
First of all, I would like to show you why we often put off making changes, even though we know we will be better off if we do.
For an outside party, it can be hard to comprehend why someone does not change situations that make them unhappy, for instance quitting a job or ending a relationship. In my experience as a Coach, some people are very scared of making changes. Affected people told me that even though they know that they have to make a change and even though they really want to – somehow they can´t.
Why are we afraid of Change?
No matter how bad the status quo might be – something we already know makes us feel safe. The familiar seems to be better than the unknown. Because we know it, because we know how to react to it – and how to protect ourselves from it.
And there is no guarantee, right? It could get even worse, or we might fail. People tend to imagine worst-case scenarios. We are great at seeing risk and danger and prepare ourselves for the worst. Cognitive psychology studies suggest that we have much more awareness and sensitivity for losses than wins and chances.The fear of losing the bad job pains us more than potentially missing out on a terrific job. The belief that things could get better is often secondary. The fear of the unknown weights heavier than the suffering.
The strategy of sticking to the status quo seems to be deep-rooted. Holding on to the known gives us a better chance of survival than taking risks does. The fear of change can also be interpreted as the fear of hurt and fear of failure.
I am sure you were also in situations where you discussed a problem your friend had. “But it could be even worse.”. And when you offer practical proposals for taking action they are like: “Yes, true. BUT….” That illustrates how much we are fixated on obstacles and resistance. We immediately find reasons and arguments against any proposal to change. Often we do not even apprehend the chances and advantages.
And if we see the chance we are afraid that it could maybe fail. That would leave us even stripped of the hope that there might be a better life. It´s a primal survival instinct to try and protect us from such harm.
Here are some tips to beat this survival instinct that comes in very handy when we are running from a mad bear – but not so much when we want to build the life of our dreams.
1. Disarm the worst-case-scenario
As mentioned, we tend to imagine it could get even worse. Often we do not think this through. Ask yourself: What would be the worst that could happen? Please visualize it in all details and very explicit. And then ask yourself (without fear):
Who am I?
What are my capabilities?
What do I want?
It´s not easy to be totally brutally honest to and aware of yourself – but it´s possible. And you can do it.
Once you found out what you want, you will notice the difference. Every day. Find out things about you that you never guessed.
I promise you: As soon as you start thinking the worst-case scenario through until the end you will know that making the change you dread is less risky and dangerous than you thought at first.
Here is an example: You want to start a new job. A risky one. One where you still lack skills needed. Your instinct tells you to stay way. Once you think it through you will discover that you are afraid of failing. Why? Because someone might think of you as a failure. Next you will realize that a) the person might think even worse of you if you never try and most importantly b) that it is not all that bad.
The chance what someone might think of you if you should fail does not weight stronger than the chance. A positive side effect? If you practice the “thinking things through” (something Alfred Herrhausen taught me) you will skyrocket your chances of succeeding by positive thinking and a positive belief.
2. Change requires Strengths
To take action in life requires persistence, power, and a positive mindset. But that´s just what we lack when we are unhappy or have been in a bad spot for a longer period. Burdensome situations cost a lot of energy. Just like they would suck the energy right out of you.
Where to find the strengths needed to make a change? My tip: mind your thoughts when you think about the potential change. Are your thoughts mostly optimistic or pessimistic? Stop negative thoughts and paint a clear picture in your head: How do you want your life to look like after the change? Put it on a piece of paper. But only write down what you want. Not what you don´t want.
Take your time and imagine every terrific detail. Again. Shut out the negative thoughts and focus on your ideal scenario. You will notice that you feel like a cell phone on a charger. All of that energy and strengths streaming inside of your body.
3. Change takes Courage
I have heard from people that they do not see any other alternative. And that they feel like they do not have a choice. That they have to make a change.
That´s not good enough. If you want to change something you also need faith and the belief that things can get better. And you need to believe in yourself.
Courage, self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth eliminate the fear of the unknown.
Which obstacles have you overcome in the past?
What helped you achieving your goal?
When did you succeed? How did that make you feel?
4. A shift of perspective
Are you a regular reader of my blog or even a current client? Do you already trust me? For those who do let´s do a little experiment:
Please do this right after reading: Stand up and walk in a circle for a minute.
And another minute. Does that feel silly to you? What was your impulse? Did you want to stop? End the craziness?
This little (and admittedly amusing (; ) experiment helps to paint the symbolic picture for people with the fear of change. How we in reality always run in a circle.
Sometimes it is easier just to keep moving. It also takes less courage. Because to eliminate the fear of change requires courage and energy.
Try to look at yourself from afar.
What do you see?
Which impulse did the shift of perspective create?