All human actions are motivated at their deepest level by two emotions–fear or love.
– Neale Donald Walsch
In my own life and working with coaching clients, the focus is usually on getting past fear(s) and doing whatever it is that the fear stands in the way of. Recently, though, our organisation had undergone changes in its leadership. This has created a panic, nervousness and fear amongst my colleagues. I was observing the Fear of Change.
There are three reasons that we fear change. The first, and in my opinion, most important, is that humans fear the unknown. The second is that, at our very cores, we’re creatures of habit. Sure, you may enjoy finding yourself in a different city every weekend, maybe at a different job every other year. But that’s a pattern in itself. We take solace in the predictable. And third, we fear failure and loss. What if, by making a change, we’re starting down on the long road towards failure?
Whether it’s fear of the dark or fear of what happens after we die, question marks terrify us, so much so that we often let fear of the unknown talk us out of a decision. We can’t quite take all the credit for our fears, however; as humans, we’ve inherited this from our evolutionary predecessors. We fear things that we don’t know or understand because we weren’t always the top predators; long ago, humans were prey. To survive, we stuck to what we knew worked. Deviating from that is difficult, and it often feels like self-sabotage.
Change is the only constant in life right? So anytime we’re fighting with reality we get to ask ourselves some deeper questions. Like what am I really afraid of here?
I’m going to challenge you to DIG into the real reasons any of us are afraid of change, some people fear change because it may mean that they lose their livelihood. Some people fear change because they believe that it may come with a loss of status or face. Other people fear change because they think that it will come with disruption, violence and instability. Some people fear change because they worry about facing the consequences of things that they have said or done. Some fear change just because they fear the unknown. Many fear change because they believe that change will turn the tables and enable others to do unto them that which they have been doing unto those others.
But our fears, whether rational or not, cannot stop the hands of time and as time marches forward it drags change along with it. So we all have to face the inevitable, inescapable and immutable fact that change is coming. We must also cease to fear change. Change is only traumatic if we try to resist it or if we position and entrench ourselves on the wrong side of history. So how can we navigate the inevitable change without fear? Here are some tips.
- Acknowledge the change.
The first, most important thing to do in the presence of unsettling changes, is to acknowledge it, Recognising and accepting change will be the first steps toward managing it.
- You need to have enough courage to trust yourself
We make all sorts of excuses for not making important changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves.
We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.
Give yourself more credit than that.
You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped? Divorced?
In the end, you were fine.
Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.
- What’s the worst that could happen?
Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.
When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realise that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.
- Embrace, Rather than Avoid, The Change
Approaching a change can be like approaching a pool. Is the water cold? Are you going to like it? There are two ways to find the answers to these questions: jump right in or stand there dipping in a toe and withdrawing. I’ve done both, and I’ve discovered that if I must go into a pool (like I must face change in my life), I do better if I embrace it rather than avoid it. I get used to the water much more quickly, and I begin to enjoy myself more quickly, too. If I dip and retreat, I grow increasingly anxious because I think it feels cold and unpleasant, I don’t want to go in, but I know I have to. Embracing the inevitable change helps you get the difficult things over sooner so you can settle in and be more relaxed than anxious.
- Continue to pursue opportunity
If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.
Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.
In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.
If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.
- Effort matters, so use it
It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make change is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.
Flunk that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have got an A if I actually studied.”
Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”
Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, well then we can chalk it up to laziness.
Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.
And the funny thing is, if you actually try — because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying — then you’ll win a lot more than you think.
- Start with something manageable
You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.
When I decided to raise money for my Syrian people by climbing Annapurna base camp in Nepal, I didn’t just go out and did it. I had to make a manageable plan to train for eight months in advance such as climbing stairs (20 floors a day), swimming 200 m a day…etc.
Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?
Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications?
You don’t need to be a world changer today, you just need to make a small change in your own world.
Although each of these seven techniques requires different skills to pull off — and you’ll probably gravitate toward some more than others — there’s one thing that you must do if you want to be more successful at dealing with change: Accept it.