When the fear of change is less than the pain of staying the same

Who isn’t afraid of change?

Change is scary because it’s uncertain, unpredictable and unknown.

‘Better the devil you know.’ This saying encapsulates why the fear of change is so pervasive. We are more comfortable with what we have, even if it’s awful, because at least it feels familiar. In my entry about practicing gratitude, I explained how we often get desensitised to that which surrounds us. If it’s part of our routine, chances are we no longer appreciate it. It is the fear of replacing comfort with change that makes it so difficult for us to do something different, even if we know in our heart of hearts that something has to change.

Ultimately, we are often only capable of change when one of two things happens:

  • A change happens which we have no control over;
  • The pain of staying begins to outweigh the fear of change.

Of course, we can also build the hardiness, courage and bravery to act before life forces change upon us, or without having to experience pain.

What are some signs that the pain of staying the same may be beginning to outweigh the desire for something different?

  • You feel restless, agitated or moody;
  • You feel depressed or anxious;
  • You feel that time is passing you by;
  • You begin to worry about feeling regretful;
  • If you imagine your life looking or feeling the same way in five years time, you feel despairing;
  • You feel desperate or hopeless;
  • You spend your days sleeping/eating or otherwise consuming large chunks of time to distract from what really needs doing;
  • You feel claustrophobic or trapped.

How can we take action before we experience pain?

This one takes some practice, as for most of us it only takes something very extreme to shake us into a state of change. By nature, most will cling to what is comfortable, secure and familiar. That said, it is possible to become more in tune with yourself, understand when you are in a situation that is not right and take steps to make things different.

  • Begin pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Take the bus if you usually drive. Book onto a class you feel apprehensive about. Get up an hour earlier and go to bed an hour later. Experiment with doing things slightly differently to how you usually do. Expanding your comfort zone in this way reassures you that you’re able to handle changes and gives you the autonomy and confidence to start to trigger bigger change.
  • Formulate a Plan B. It is never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, in case something goes wrong. Having a Plan B, C or even D is useful in terms of getting you thinking about what you could do differently if you had to. Think outside the box. There is always another solution to the problem.
  • Do something everyday that prioritises you. Put your own needs first. Exercise, eat well, meditate, journal, go for a walk or call a friend. The more often you can incorporate these behaviours into your day, the more likely you are to build a sense of self-esteem, a great baseline from which to improve your life and leave a bad situation behind.
  • Inspire yourself by thinking of the potential, rather than the problems. Will leaving that relationship be so bad? What might be good about being single? If you can shift from a fearful mind-set, you’ll realise that there can be a lot of positives. We are just conditioned to see the bad and to err on the side of fear. This doesn’t mean you can’t choose to come from a place of power and see the opportunity in any situation.
  • Talk to others who’ve done it. Engaging with people who have done what you are scared to do is a great way to build towards doing it yourself. We begin to realise that it’s possible and that we aren’t the first, nor will we be the last to make the change.
  • Don’t rush. It’s okay to take your time over a decision. Not making a decision is also a decision, and sometimes it’s the right one to take. Of course, if you are in a dangerous situation, you should remove yourself as quickly as possible, with outside support and help. Otherwise, no decision is so desperate that it cannot wait.

All my love

K

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