“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill
Do you fear change? Do you fear the unknown? Do you dread sudden changes in your life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, rest assured you’re not alone. Fear of change is common; although it is how you respond to the change that is pertinent.
The question one needs to ask is, “Am I responding to the fear itself or the fear of not being in control?” There’s an important distinction since you want to maintain a level of control in your life. When you release control, fear appears to advise you of an underlying belief or emotion which you’ve disregarded.
Many years ago, fear of change was common in my life. When I sensed things were changing, I delayed them by choosing to ignore them. The more I ignored them, the more they pushed back against me signifying their intensity.
While out riding my bicycle in the hilly country side recently, I noted a number of rather steep hills from a distance. Many years ago I seldom ventured to these parts, since I was not at ease physically and mentally to attempt such terrain. Thankfully times have changed.
Have you ever noticed approaching a hill from a distance, how steep it appears? It’s disconcerting to note the scale of the hill – let alone ascend it on a bicycle.
When you begin your ascent of the hill (providing you’re physically fit), it rarely appears steep at all. It occurred to me while engaged with the terrain; my mind automatically withdraws its fear in order to focus on the task at hand – scaling the hill. Your perception clouds your judgement. It’s your mind’s fault.
Your mind searches its mental inventory of situations which are outside of your comfort zone and labels them as either safe or threatening. In the case of a hill, my mind learned through experience to associate a positive experience with ascending them i.e. challenging, improves fitness, determination, victory, accomplishment, achievement etc.
The more I attempted hilly routes on my rides, the stronger I became at ascending them. I noticed a familiar pattern emerge around this time. The relationship I had with hilly terrain crossed over to my personal and business life. I became far more adventurous, embracing new situations that were once foreign to me.
My mind learned a new language and was willing to step out of its comfort zone; it wasn’t risk averse. The benefit was personal satisfaction that included personal growth and a willingness to take greater risks thus yielding higher returns.
If you fear change in your life, make use of my metaphor of ascending hills to overcome them. The following principles will guide you toward implementing those changes.
1. Examine the fear of change
When you examine your fear of change, you’re generally viewing it from a conscious perspective (rarely are they unconscious). What is the basis for the fear? How does the fear serve you? This is a powerful question I often ask myself.
Think about it for a moment. How does a fear of change serve you? Personally, I am at a loss to cite a valid explanation. The fear of change does not serve me; rather it hinders my progress by revealing anxiety and shutting down vital bodily processes.
Fear and the fear of change is a hindrance. I may not know what is on the other side of the change, though I trust it will always workout for my greatest good. Examine your life for a moment and take note of your resistance to changes in the past. Did it not work itself out? Has life not always served you?
Your fear is a façade orchestrated by your mind to protect you. That’s not a bad thing, since nature’s intention is to protect you from danger. The fear becomes a threat to your survival when you become consumed by it.
In effect what is supposed to protect you is turned against you by your mind. The solution – face the fear in order to navigate your way out of it.
2. Reframe the fear of change
You’ve heard the expression, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? The premise behind the passage is embracing your wishes by facing your fears.
I’ve written countless articles on espousing fear being an illusion to awaken us to our inner courage. Without fear you wouldn’t forge ahead – the mind aims to thwart your success at each instance. It thrives on the safe and the known.
With this in mind, reframe the fear. What is holding you back from embracing that change is ultimately for your greatest good? Perhaps life is revealing itself to you as an answer to your thoughts – whether conscious or unconscious.
The fear of change is holding you back from accepting the new and lasting changes that come with it. Reframing the fear to something empowering allows you to navigate your way toward that which you seek. All that is needed is an alternative perspective.
3. Tame the fear through practice
If you want to become proficient at sport, dance, song or otherwise wouldn’t it make sense that you rehearse and practice until you became better at it? In the book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell introduces us to the 10,000 hour rule.
He suggests in order one become world class in one’s respective field, it takes approximately 10,000 hours; which is equivalent to 10 years. While I’m not suggesting you attempt 10,000 hours at mastering your fears – through consistent persistence, you will break the grip that the fear has on you. In order to overcome your fear of change, embrace the change next time it becomes apparent. Start small.
Order a type of coffee that you’re unaccustomed to drinking next time you’re out. Remove the earphones from your ears when travelling on public transport and be willing to engage in small talk with a stranger. Smile at people in the street more often. Engage in friendly conversation with the cashier to learn something new about them.
The idea of these exercises is to accustom your mind to things which are outside the sphere of your comfort zone. Your mind makes new connections in the process. New connections are essential to life since life is in a state of continual change.
In order to overcome your fear of change, make a vow to confront the underlying fear behind it. Don’t allow it to overwhelm you. Take smaller steps by accepting what shows up in your life. The experience is there to teach you a valuable lesson – remain open and receptive to it.