Change is inevitable, yet we all fear it because we don’t know the outcome. We prefer to know, to find peace in the knowing, and as a result find it hard to move on when something comes to an end.
We naturally reject uncertainty and are prone to be paralysed by our fear of the unknown, running various scenarios in our search for clarity, and end up with worry and anxiety, especially if the change is out of our control.
For example, if you decide to move cities or start your own business, you feel more in control of the outcome and the decisions that need to be made, even though there is plenty of uncertainty associated with your choice. However, if the change is out of your control such as an accident, death of a loved one, or a pandemic, you feel disempowered which leads to resistance and refusal of the change.
We all prefer the predictable, even if the outcome might be negative. Our mental well-being prefers a stable, structured daily routine and we feel less stressed and anxious if we know what can be expected as opposed to the uncertainty of what might be waiting ‘round the corner’. Watch my You Tube video for some practical advice on embracing change.
Why do we fear change?
- You are wired to fear change
When your social environment changes, it challenges your sense of stability – more specifically, your brain’s. If the brain decides the change is, in fact, threatening, then it will resist or avoid the change as much as possible.
The brain is hardwired to survive by minimising threats and maximising rewards. Change is usually seen as a threat and causes uncertainty. This uncertainty activates the same area in our brain as error and pain.
We then enter one of these involuntary modes:
- Flight – escape to avoid the situation
- Fright – anxious, scared
- Fight – take action to eliminate the danger
- Freeze – paralysis, shutting down, becoming immobile
- Flock – search for allies or gossip
- Fear of failure
Nobody wants to fail or be seen as a failure, especially in a world where success is celebrated. However, making mistakes is a necessary part of experimenting and learning. Don’t allow your fears of possible failure to deter you from embracing the change and gaining growth!
- Fear of what others might think
We all crave acceptance and validation from those around us. But stop waiting for approval from others. Your idea might be a bit unconventional or your new venture might be out of your comfort zone but it’s your change and one that you need to believe in and feel comfortable with.
- Fear of losing control
Accept that you cannot always be in the driver’s seat. There are many moments when things happen out of our control. What we can control is how we react to the change and how we embrace the change with an open mind and a learning mindset.
What should I do when faced with change?
- Pause and breathe. Resist the urge to act and rather take time to pause, breathe and gain perspective on the situation.
- Be comfortable in the discomfort. Discomfort is never permanent. Sometimes that what is intensely discomforting in the moment, may be much less threatening when you have all the information, had a cup of tea, or spoke to a trusted colleague or friend to get some perspective.
- Allow yourself to feel emotions. Be anxious, be angry, be scared. These are all normal emotions to experience when faced with a crisis or change.
- Opportunity for growth: See the crisis or change not only as a challenge but as an opportunity for growth and learning.
- Go with the flow. Sometimes you do not have to make a decision, and rather allow things to play out themselves. This is the nature of life.
- Be optimistic. Have a positive attitude and generate positive emotions
- Reflect and gather information. This will help you to make a decision and act from a position of power.
Where to now?
Just as our brain protects us from harm, so too is it powerful to assist us in dealing with change. This is due to neuroplasticity – the inherent potential of brain cells to remove redundant connections and to establish new connections, reflecting newly acquired information. In this way the brain continues to remould according to new experiences. New connections support learning, growth and ultimately, change.
We all have times in our lives when we find ourselves at crossroads, and ask ourselves: Where to now? Reflection is a very powerful tool to help you navigate uncertainty which accompanies change.
You can use the following questions to guide your reflection to help you determine your direction:
- Where have you come from? How have you become who you are? Your life journey (the highs, lows, mentors, influences, family, education, society)
- What is really important to you? Write down the first three things that come to mind. Your values and principles. When everything fails, what remains?
- Which people are important to you? Those whose opinions you value, and who influence your decisions, as well as those affected by your decisions. Who do you like? Who do you fear?
- What is hindering you? What aspects of your life prevent you from thinking about the really important things? Which deadlines do you have in your head and what is hindering you? What and when?
- What are you afraid of? List the things, circumstances, or people that cause you to worry and rob you of strength.
Once you are done, look at what you have reflected on. Find the keywords and identify the:
- Familiar road – the one you have been down already
- Beckoning road – the one you have always wanted to try
- Dream road – the one you imagine in your wildest dreams – if there were no constraints
- Sensible road – the one that people whose opinion you value most suggest
- Untraveled road – the one you have not considered before
- Safe road – the one which takes you back to a place where you feel safe
Be inspired by change rather than frightened. These quotes sum up the power of change beautifully!
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” -John C. Maxwell
“In order to design a future of positive change, we must first become expert at changing our minds.” -Jacque Fresco