Due to once again being in a crisis state of needing a major change in my life, I first started this website last March. I had no idea why I was starting it but had always wanted to try to write since I was a little girl. Since I didn’t spend enough time on the site last year, it didn’t become very successful. However, I am now feeling the wave of persistence and change so this will be the first post for my 2019 revamped website. I sure hope it inspires many others of you to follow through with your most needed change.
Since we are starting another new year and it seems that most of us, including myself, get inspired once again to make some type of change in our lives, I thought this would be a great topic to share an article about. It is almost as if we often need a starting point for motivation to do anything in life so there is no better time than the start of a new year.
Whether you are one of those who likes to always live in your comfort zone or one who is constantly searching and thriving on variety, life will throw change your way whether you want it to or not and whether you are ready or not. Change can be good or bad, depending on how you decide to see it, but I now choose to always view change as good. Even if the change causes bad for a while, I will always believe there is a reason for that bad to happen to us for a while. There are often great lessons to be learned from it.
Change can be one of the most feared but gratifying experiences you will ever go through in life. However, change is often so scary that many of us will refuse to even remotely give it a second’s glance. Unless forced into change by some uncontrollable circumstance such as losing a job, grieving the loss of a loved one or something as simple as being turned down for a home loan, many of us will stay in a comfort zone way of living our lives, even if it causes depression, low self-esteem and many other negative emotions.
Change is that thing that makes some of us experience increased anxiety and/or depression when our world turns in a way that we didn’t want or expected it to. It is the thing that causes others to develop alcohol and/or drug addiction issues because they simply can’t manage major life events that result in loss or rejection. On the other hand, change can be that one event that transforms your life to a point of personal satisfaction and happiness that you never knew existed and will probably never regret.
At one point in my life about 10 years ago, I was so gripped by fear of leaving my extremely unhappy marriage and of using tough parenting for a child with drug and alcohol addiction that I pushed myself into an extreme depression and state of ongoing panic attacks. Yet at the time, the depression was worth staying in my comfort zone of a two-income household, a two-parent home and another adult to help me out with things that I have now learned that I can just pay someone else to do. I now realize that most of the reasons I was afraid of were just my own low self-esteem of thinking that I wasn’t capable or as strong as I truly am.
Since I wasted way too many years of my life being afraid of change and I don’t want you to do the same, I want to offer five of my greatest tips on how to overcome your fear. I am sure that others can offer many more tips than what I am going to share with you but, as with all things in life, I feel that it is much more likely that you will make a change if you keep it simple and not overwhelming.
1. Determine all the reasons for why you feel so afraid to make a change.
Is there something that you want to change in your life, whether it’s something small like your 20-year old outdated hairstyle or something much more life-altering like changing careers or leaving an unhappy relationship?
If you are human, then there is probably something that you would like to change about yourself or your life. Would you like a new hairstyle but just can’t bring yourself to try it? Are you very complacent and feeling burned out by your job but just don’t know how to make the change to a new company or career path? Do you dread going home every day to live with someone who just doesn’t fit with you anymore or who doesn’t treat you very good, but you feel a panic attack coming on just thinking of how to walk away?
Do not worry because I now know that these are all very valid and normal fears that most of the time can be overcome with assistance, persistence and a plan. Fear of the unknown is not a pleasant feeling to have. It is very scary to think about what can happen if you do something different, but it is also even scarier to think about what your life will be if you never make the attempt to change.
The number one thing that I did first before finally making some real changes in my life was to determine why I was afraid of each change. I started running and found that it was a great outlet for me to think through problems. If running isn’t your cup of tea or you are physically unable, then take long slow walks or start a yoga class or something else that gives you time to just think and silently talk to yourself. If you are unable to exercise and/or this works better for you, write each change down on paper, and then jot down reasons why you are afraid of each one.
Are you afraid of the new haircut after twenty years of having the same one since high school because you think it may look ugly? Are you afraid of changing careers or jobs because you know that it will take a lot of time, effort and stress to go back to school, having to adapt to a new work culture or taking the risk that your next boss will be mean and difficult to work with? Are you afraid of leaving a bad relationship because you are afraid that you cannot fully support yourself on one income or that you may end up alone for the rest of your life?
All of these are examples of good questions to start with for making change in your life. In my opinion, just simply understanding what is driving the fear of change is the first and most important step in progressing towards that change.
2. Make a list of possible solutions for your reasons of being afraid.
After you have made your mental or written list of the changes you want to make and why you are afraid to make them, the next best thing is to brainstorm possible solutions for the reasons you are afraid. Sometimes all it takes is talking yourself through things a little more for you to realize that there are ways to conquer most any problem in life.
The new haircut may make you look ugly but guess what…hair does grow back. Even though I am all about the variety of hairstyles and fashion trends, I have experienced some not so great haircuts. How did I handle it? Just grin and bear it for a couple of months but it will grow back, and it is not the end of the world. And honestly the good part is that you will then know not to get that haircut again as it isn’t the most flattering on yourself. Or you just feel brave enough to continue trying new hairstyles until you find one that sticks and makes you feel amazing enough to conquer the next change on your list.
Changing jobs or going back to school, especially at 43 like I am doing right now, is very tiring and stressful. I will not lie to you about that. Maybe you think you don’t have the money or the time to go back to school. There are ways to get around this. You may have to work two jobs, take out student loans, and only get 5 hours of sleep at night but it is possible if you really want it. Your life will not be so great while you are working through the change, but I am almost one-hundred percent positive that you will emerge on the other side with more self-satisfaction, courage, and sense of accomplishment.
Leaving a bad relationship is probably one of the most difficult things to do because a person often thinks that maybe they haven’t tried hard enough, or they need to give the other person a second, third and fourth chance to improve their behavior. If you are simply afraid of being alone, then, in my opinion, this is the strongest indicator that you do need to leave. What I discovered for myself was that my fear of being alone was really my insecurity of being afraid to take care of myself when ultimately, I really needed to do just that. For the first 9 months after leaving my ex-husband, I cried myself to sleep almost every night, but I still got up every morning and went to work with a smile on my face. Even though I had not been in love with him for years and was the one who finally ended the relationship, I still grieved over what I felt was 17 years of my life lost to unhappiness. However, now looking back 7 years ago, I have no regrets for leaving and view it all as life experience gained, not lost.
So whatever change you would like to make in your life, there is most likely a good solution to accomplish it. If you seem to go around in circles in your mind and can’t come up with a good solution or answer to ease your fear enough to make the change, start developing a plan on how to execute. You may just find that, in doing so, the answer comes to you and it now doesn’t seem as bad any longer.
3. Develop a plan for execution of your change.
Often, just creating a plan for how you will make the change, can go a long way in decreasing your fear and anxiety. One of my greatest fears of leaving my marriage was not being able to support myself financially. I devised a plan for refinancing my car loan, found an affordable apartment to rent and then just stepped out into the unknown, even though my income vs. expenses was in the red at that time. Seven years later, I am at a great financial point where I make quite a bit more than my expenses.
Determine how you will go about it all. Make a step by step plan of each possible solution that you have already came up with. Decide when and how it all will happen. It isn’t necessary to figure it all out at the beginning. Just figure out how to get started and then the rest will fall into place. I can assure you of this because that is where my biggest fear was coming from…needing to have every little detail figured out. Once I realized that is completely impossible in life, I have been able to accomplish major things and most of my fear of the unknown has completely disappeared.
Sometimes all we need is perspective on how to execute. Execution is the key to quite a few things in life and most people don’t have the courage or the ability to do that. Therefore, they stay in the same place forever.
4. Find a friend/support person who can help encourage you along the way.
When I was at my lowest point in my life, I got sent what I call an “angel” to help me emotionally stabilize and lift myself up enough to think clearly on what I needed to do. I was just in such a state of depression over what was uncontrollably going on in my life that I just couldn’t execute change. I knew the change needed to happen and I desperately wanted to, but I didn’t know how. This “angel” or rather neighbor crossed paths with me at just the right time when I needed it.
While you may not be lucky enough to be sent an “angel” or maybe don’t have any close friends as I didn’t at that time being so caught up in the bad of my life, there are support groups for all types of life problems. Sometimes we just need someone else to help us think clearly or motivate us through whatever change we need to make. There is nothing wrong with that and I would recommend it. I spend years focusing on my family that I used to not have very many close friends that I could lean on for advice. If I had had those at that time, maybe my life would have been a little easier to cope with and less anxiety-inducing to make the changes that needed to be made.
5. Continue reminding yourself every day of why you made the change.
Adapting to change is truly a life-long learning process but it can and will happen at some point in your life. I am not saying that change is easy as it is not. Change will most likely be bad at first and there is no way to determine how long that will last until it transforms into something way better than where you were at when you first started making the change.
During your time of change, you will most likely experience discouragement, stress, anxiety and many other negative emotions, so please continue to remind yourself of why you make the change in the first place. Think back to your list of reasons for being afraid and then the solutions that are going to allow the change to be ok and work out in the end.
Those who can deal with change by allowing it to transform their life in a positive way will be the beautiful winners in life. Those people will show and prove that they are confident and tough enough to handle all problems coming their way.
Those of us who can adapt to life changing events and still come out on the positive side of things truly have an advantage over most people. Change comes in waves throughout life, so it is something that we will all be better off knowing how to easily accept and go with the flow of it.
Change is good. Change is necessary. Even though I have already made many positive changes in my life, I never stop striving. My newest change this year is to get myself back into amazing shape by advancing beyond the 5K status and crossing the finish line of a half-marathon. What would you like to change today? It isn’t an easy road, but I promise you that it is an enriching one for sure.