Most people like change as long as it doesn’t affect them. While change can be exciting and may lead to growth, most of us dread the unknown. Fear of the future is at the core of most resistance to change. We may ask ourselves, “what if things don’t work out, what if I fail, what if things get worse, what if….”?
We often remember the past as being better than it was, experience the present in a fog, and worry about things in the future that will likely never happen. Because of this, change in our lives fills us with feelings of resentment, grief, exasperation, uncertainty, fear and dread. It is our nature to crave routine and to find change to be undesirable. The more comfortable and content we are, the harder it is to accept change.
Change is a constant part of our lives. Some changes are welcomed, such as a new job, relationship, baby or home… but others are undesirable, e.g., breakups, the death of a dream, being downsized, foreclosure, a health crisis or the death of a love one. “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
– James Baldwin
Whether we seek it or not, change is difficult and comes with many challenges. The solution to managing change is to embrace fear and learn to tolerate discomfort. Growth begins where comfort ends.
Handling change is easier for some than for others. Knowing which camp you fit is the first step. If you find that you are ignoring warning signs of change and continuing to do the same things that worked in the past but you are now losing ground, it is time to change. Focusing on the good old days, placing blame, and seeking culprits may lead to resentment, anxiety and depression. No one desires unwanted change, but resisting change keeps you stuck, dampens your soul and robs your spirit. “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” — Mark Victor Hansen
Being flexible and resilient is key to surviving planned and unplanned change. Otherwise, we can become stuck or paralyzed by fear and what ifs. Fear of change is also related to a lack of flexibility. When was the last time you took a risk? Not something life-changing, but something that represented a step
outside your comfort zone? Fear of change stops people from taking action.
Understanding the reasons people resist change can help you move forward. Sometimes, we can fear success as much as failure. Recall from your history that you have the capacity to survive, and even thrive, during change. This will help you to gain the courage to face the change that is before you. Research has shown that being flexible is crucial to having a longer, fuller, healthier life.
“Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word
as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.”
— Alan Cohen
Solutions to consider:
1. Self-talk: Change can offer just the opportunity that you have been waiting for. Remind yourself that you have survived change before. Say “I am going to be ok no matter what!”
2. Talk to someone: Talking to someone you trust about your fear of change can be very helpful. During difficult times you can get so wrapped up in stress that you can forget that you have friends who can help. Know that you are not alone and that others fear change too. Be careful not to overwhelm your friends by calling too often, as doing so could over tax your support network.
3. Reach out: Reaching out to your “Virtual” Personal Board of Directors could be helpful in planning next steps. For more information on virtual personal boards, please see Virtual Personal Board of Directors
4. Develop better coping skills: We all cope with the fear of change in different ways. Some people stave off the pressure of obsessing over the change with the help of distractions. Many people cope by spending hours playing games or watching TV. Try a healthy distraction, such as going to the gym, meditating, or practicing yoga.
5. Keep an open mind: Your outlook towards change greatly impacts the result, so it is essential that you maintain an open mind. Remember that all change offers an opportunity for growth and learning.
6. Seek help: If your fear becomes unbearable, consider seeking the help of a professional therapist. Friends and family members may be too personally involved in your life to challenge your mode of operation. A therapist can help you gain a new perspective, sort your options and lend objective support while assisting you in managing needed change.