3 Effective Ways to Overcome the Fear of Change
“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch
What Is Meant To Protect You Is Turned Against You
“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch
Do you fear change? Do you fear the unknown? Do you dread sudden changes in your life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone. Fear of change is common, although how you respond to change is of greater importance. The question one needs to ask is: “Am I responding to fear or the fear of not being in control?” There’s an important distinction since we want to maintain a level of control. When we release control, fear advises us of an underlying belief or emotion we ignore. Many years ago fear of change was common in my life. When I sensed a change, I delayed it by ignoring it. The more I ignored it, the more it pushed back with intensity. Can you relate to this? Have you delayed embracing change for fear of what it will bring?
To demonstrate via an example, while out riding my bike recently in the hilly countryside, I noted several steep hills from a distance. Many years ago I seldom ventured to these parts, since I was not comfortable riding up these terrains. Have you noticed how steep a hill looks from a distance? It’s disconcerting because it seems bigger than it actually is. Yet a strange thing occurs when you start the ascent, you realise it isn’t as steep as you first thought. It occurred to me while on the hill that I didn’t think about my fears since I was concentrating on keeping my bike moving forward. Therefore, our perceptions cloud our judgment when we fear something. It distorts our assessment of actual events to keep us safe.
Our mind searches its mental inventory of past events and labels them as either safe or threatening. In the hill’s case, my mind learned to associate a positive experience with ascending the hill i.e. challenging, improves fitness, determination, victory, accomplishment, achievement, etc. The more I attempted hilly routes on my rides, the stronger I became. I noticed a familiar pattern emerge. The relationship I had with hilly terrain crossed over into my personal and business life. I became more adventurous and embraced new situations once foreign to me. I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and the benefit was my personal growth which yielded higher returns. If you fear change, the following principles will guide you toward implementing those changes.
1. Examine Your Fears
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
When you examine your fear of change, it is generally perceived on a conscious level. Therefore, what could be the basis for the fear? How does the fear serve you? This is a powerful question I often ask myself. Think about it for a moment: How does a fear of change serve you? Personally, I cannot cite a valid explanation. The fear of change does not serve me, rather it hinders my progress and moves me further away from my goals. I may not know what is on the other side of the change, though I trust it will always work out for my greatest good. Therefore, take a moment to examine your resistance to change in the past. Did it work itself out? Has life always served you? Fear is a facade orchestrated by the mind to protect you. It’s not bad, since nature’s intention is to protect you from danger. The fear becomes a threat when you are consumed by it. What is meant to protect you is turned against you. The solution? Face the fear to navigate your way out of it.
2. Reframe The Fears
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra
You’ve heard the expression: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? The premise is vested in the understanding that you face your fears. I’ve written countless articles demonstrating how fear is an illusion to awaken us to our greater self. Without fear, you wouldn’t forge ahead since the mind thwarts your success at each instance. It thrives on the safe and the known. With this in mind, what is holding you back from embracing change is ultimately for your greatest good. The fear of change is holding you back from accepting the new and lasting changes that come with it. Reframing fear to something empowering allows you to navigate your way towards your goals and highest ambitions. What is required is an alternative perspective.
3. Tame The Fears
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi
If you want to become proficient at a sport, dance, song, or otherwise, it makes sense to practice until you become better. In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell introduces us to the 10,000-hour rule. He suggests to become world-class in one’s respective field, takes approximately 10,000 hours, equivalent to 10 years. While I’m not suggesting you need 10,000 hours to master your fears, through consistent persistence, you will break the grip fear has on you. To overcome the fear of change, embrace the change and start small. Approach your fears one at a time. You might order a coffee you’re unaccustomed to drinking next time you’re at a café. You might remove the earphones from your ears when traveling on public transport and engage in small talk with a stranger. Smile at people in the street more often. Engage in friendly conversation with the cashier to learn something new about them.
These exercises help to get you accustomed to situations outside your comfort zone. Your mind makes new connections in the process since life is in a state of continual change. To overcome your fear of change, make a pledge to confront the underlying fear behind it. Don’t allow it to overwhelm you. Take smaller steps by accepting what shows up. The experience is there to teach you a valuable lesson, so remain open and receptive to it.