It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change - Charles Darwin
In life there are no certainties, nor guarantees, but if there is one thing that is constant and is the same for all, it is that all things change. Everything around us is constantly in a state of flux: people, feelings, places, nature. Whilst it is something totally natural, change can be scary and sometimes we do everything we can to avoid it until life itself forces us to find ourselves in situations that we had not bargained for, leaving us feeling at a loss for what to do.
At other times we feel the need for change in one or more areas of our life but we don’t know where to start to make that happen. If we really want to live a life that reflects the best of our possibilities then we have to be open to change and to welcome it as a natural part of our evolution. Here are 7 steps you can use to overcome fear of change:
1. Life is change and change means life
The belief that most of us have adopted is that “Change is not a good thing, it’s uncomfortable and potentially painful”. Without a doubt most of us naturally seek to avoid it. When we were born we naturally have been separated physically from out mother’s body. The first big change that we face when we come into this world is often unconsciously associated with separation and breaking away. It is for that reason that most people rather than go through the pain and suffering of breaking away prefer to remain gripped to a situation that they know even if these are dysfunctional: a job a relationship or a habit. Life is change and change is life. Don’t live change as a punishment, but as an opportunity to grow, improve and to learn new things. Whatever lesson life is teaching you at this moment, ask yourself: What is perfect here in this? What is happening for me?
2. Accept the situation, but don’t resign yourself to it!
Acceptance of the situation that we currently find ourselves in is the first step to embracing change. To accept doesn’t mean to resign ourselves to the way things are, that is we don’t have to passively accept things and behave like a victim of circumstances. Acceptance requires courage, determination and honesty. It means accepting the fact that life is working for us and our good, even if at the moment we don’t realise that. And it means having become aware of those parts of us that we are more uncomfortable with – those we don’t want to face but that we would like to change.
3. See failure as something positive
Perhaps the greatest fear associated with change is the fear of failure. The only way to avoid that is not to do anything, not take any action and live as a spectator rather than as a protagonist. Making mistakes is part of the learning curve. When we make mistakes we learn from these, making corrections and improving ourselves. When we learned to walk, we made thousands of attempts and failed a similar number of times. But this didn’t stop us from trying again falling and learning how to get up again. No-one judged us when we weren’t able to walk neither us nor others. Why not keep the same acceptance when faced with times we “fall” in life? It is the judgment and fear of that that paralyses us and falsifies our interpretation of events stopping us from moving forward. When we free ourselves from the emotional baggage transformation is made possible. Remember that the people who manage to achieve their dreams against all odds of success are those who worry less about failure. It is the people convinced that however things might go they will have learned something new along the way. In this way they enjoy the journey as much as getting to the destination itself.
4. Celebrate every little success
We are often quick to notice things that are not working or things we are not able to do and this can limit our progress. By celebrating even small victories each day we can keep our motivation levels high. Try this exercise: write in your diary at least one thing each day that you consider a small or great success (of any kind, not only things related to your career/work). You may have cooked something delicious, helped a stranger, and listened to a friend… After having written your success give yourself a round of applause and find a way to celebrate it. Be creative!
5. Be responsible
We cannot change what happens in life or how others might behave towards us, but we can change our behaviour in response to that, and it is this that makes the difference and moves us along the road of personal evolution. We all have a “power zone”, those areas in which we do have the responsibility to act. To be responsible means to take back your ability to respond to events. It means using our ability to change and to give the most functional responses to life’s problems that may come up from day to day.
6. Be patient
Sometimes we have to repeat a lesson again and again to pass the exam that life is setting us and to do that we need to have patience. Impatience is a reaction. Patience is a response. Growth (and change) is about evolution, not revolution. Yet when we are governed by impatience we tend to choose revolution. Revolution, however, creates turbulence, agitation and therefore tends to destroy rather than integrate. Patience is a muscle that needs to be exercised every day. How would things change if we transformed life’s red traffic lights into signals for reflection, presence and appreciation of what we already have
7. Step outside your comfort zone
The “comfort zone” is that mental space where we take refuge, where we have the illusion of feeling protected and safe. So why do we feel so unhappy? To step out of our comfort zone and enter our zone of freedom and let go of fear does not require radical changes. We can start with small symbolic gestures, those that have the ability to disconnect our internal auto-pilot mechanism. Change the route you take to get to work, change where you usually sit at the dinner table, learn a new language, become vegetarian for a month or cultivate new hobbies. These are just a few ideas of things that we can do to break our usual habits and automated responses. Bit by bit, we implement these, we expand the outer dimensions of our comfort zone, discovering new passions, new abilities and new ways of living.