We are hard-wired to perceive change as a threat. Our primitive brain likes to keep us safe and has enabled humans to survive through time. When our amygdala (part of the brain) detects fear, it sends messages to our bodies to go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This explains why some of us become angry as a result of a change being imposed on us, fearful and wanting to run away from a situation rather than face it, or paralyzed and unable to think clearly or to move forward.
So, how can we reduce our fear of change given this biological reality? Norman Doidge in The Brain that Changes Itself provides powerful evidence that our thoughts and perceptions have the power to change the structure of our brains. In other words, if we create new beliefs around change and internalize them, we also create new neural pathways that enable us to respond positively to change rather than view it as a threat. Candace Pert in her landmark book Molecules of Emotion provides strong evidence that our thoughts and emotions affect our bodies.
Given these facts, how can we reduce our fear of change? Here are some proven strategies. We can:
- Understand how we respond to change and why – A simple exercise is to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 related to how you respond to change: “1” being it scares me to death and “10” being I thrive on it. Another way is to spend some time reflecting on the barriers you have towards change and writing them down. A number of barriers to change have been identified in the literature including: becoming paralyzed by fear, procrastinating, blaming others, believing we can’t do something or are not worthy, always focusing on problems rather than solutions, getting stuck in old habits or denying change is happening, and not being willing to put in the effort required to make a change. Ask yourself, What barriers do I have to embracing change in general, and in this particular situation? E.g. changing jobs, leaving an unsatisfying relationship, accepting a new leader in my organization. Notice past patterns in your life.
- Become aware of our beliefs around change – Close your eyes and think about a recent change; one that you didn’t choose but was imposed on you. Examples include: lay-off, separation, relocation. Notice what words come up for you. Write them down. Begin with the stem “Change is”_______ and fill in the blank. Do a brain dump and write down all the words that come up to define what change means to you. Examples are “Change is scary”; “Change is to be avoided at all costs” …
- Try on some new beliefs about change; such as “Change opens me up to new possibilities”, “Embracing change is a creative process”, “Change provides me with an opportunity to learn and grow”. Post one of these positive beliefs where you will see it at least 3 times a day – on your computer, bathroom mirror…and say this belief aloud each time you see it. Do this for 21 to 30 days and observe what you notice.
- Become aware of how we perceive change and replace our negative feelings and emotions with positive and empowering ones. Ariane de Bonvoisin in “The First 30 Days – Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier” identifies six “change demons” and their antidotes. The six change demons are: fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame and impatience. She explains that the change demons “help us navigate through change by alerting us if we are off course and encouraging us to choose a different emotion to help us get where we want to go.” Being aware of which emotion you are feeling and replacing each one with positive and empowering emotions and antidotes are key to learning from and navigating change and dealing with uncertainty. The six change demons and their antidotes are:
||surrender (to not knowing)
||honesty (taking responsibility for our role in situations)
||honor (your dark or shadow side)
- Introduce small changes into your daily routine. Take a different route to work. Eat something different for breakfast. Walk or cycle to work instead of driving. Do this for a month and observe what you notice. Change is like a muscle. The more change you choose in your life, the more flexible you tend to become.
What change demons are your facing? How do you typically respond to change? What strategies will you begin integrating into your life to reduce your fear of change?
I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.
How do you know when it’s time to leave a position or career that no longer excites you?
What I’ve discovered in working with clients over the past 7 years, is that when we’re stuck in one part of our life, we’re usually stuck in other parts as well. The good news is when we take action on one aspect of our lives, we usually get “unstuck” and also move forward in other parts of our lives (e.g. in our relationships).
Here are some signs it is time to make a change:
- Work and/or life are no longer fun for you
- You are no longer challenged by or passionate about your work
- You may often feel “wound up” and find it hard to relax
- You feel SOoo tired
- You frequently catch colds or get sick
- You may be experiencing some new health issues
Barriers to Change/Moving Forward
What holds us back from leaving a position/career?
Barriers to change include:
- Guilt that we will let people down
- Rationalizing that we have invested so much time and money in a particular career/business that it doesn’t make sense to leave it
- Fear of loss of approval
- Fear of the unknown
- Rationalizing that we have a good job, are making good money, and that we should be happy
- Fear of not making enough money
- Believing that we will never find the career/business of our dreams
Tips to help you embrace change and move forward
- Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being “thrive on it” and 10 being “scares me to death”) as to how you usually respond to change. How you’ve responded to life changes in the past will provide you with clues as to how you may respond to change now.
- Reflect on your past experience with life changes; what have you learned that has supported you to adapt and move forward positively?
- Change your perspective. View change as an opportunity: for self-growth and learning; for exploring new solutions and ways of doing things; for “putting on a new pair of glasses” and seeing the world differently.
- Slow down and go inside yourself. Instead of keeping yourself busy, create some time and space for yourself each day. Set aside time in your schedule for you. Spend at least 30 minutes a day meditating, journaling, walking in nature, being.
- Get in touch with and acknowledge your feelings. Don’t push away your feelings; experience them. This allows the process of healing from the inside out to begin.
- Express those feelings. Draw, journal, paint, dance…
- Nurture and take care of yourself. Make sure you eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Do something special for yourself on occasion, such as going for a massage, having a bubble bath, buying a new outfit; remember you are special and deserve the best.
- Reach out for support. Ask a friend, family member or life coach to help you. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and are not judgmental.
Based on past experience, how do you know that it’s time to leave a position or career? What strategies have you found useful to propel you forward/embrace change? I invite your comments below. Feel free to share this post with others. If you would like some support to rediscover your passion and find the career or business of your dreams this may be of interest – http://creativelivingcommunity.com/coaching/one-on-one-coaching/
I believe that man is essentially good
And that we are all interconnected.
I believe that everything happens for a reason.
The Universe provides me with what I need
And Great Spirit is guiding me towards fulfillment.
Nature connects me with my soul.
I believe that life is an adventure to be lived to the FULLEST
And I am here to help build peace in the world.
What do you believe – about yourself; the world; why you are here; what you are meant to do?
Beliefs are “assumptions or convictions that are held to be true, by an individual, or a group, regarding concepts, events, people and things.”
I particularly connect with Ty Bennett’s definition of beliefs.
“Beliefs are the core of who we are, what we do, and the success that we acquire … It is the power of belief that causes things to happen in our lives … A belief is both mental and emotional. It is embedded in the mind and the heart.” – http://tybennett.com/the-true-definition-of-belief/493/
Our beliefs are extremely important for us to unearth and get clear on as they have a powerful impact on our lives. In the busy lives we lead, balancing so many balls, bombarded with so much information and so many “to dos”, how do you get clear on what’s important to you and what you believe about yourself, the world, why you’re here (on earth) and what you’re here to do (your mission and purpose)?
Here are a few suggestions:
1) Find a quiet place in nature or in your home where you can spend 15 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Have some writing materials with you and/or a smartphone.
2) Close your eyes and take several deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
3) Get grounded. Feel your sitting bones on the chair, imagine you have roots coming out of the bottom of your feet grounding you to the earth and branches coming out of your head and shoulders connecting you with the sky, heavens, universal/source energy (whatever you wish to call it).
4) Ask yourself: What do I believe about myself? You may find it helpful to use the stem I am … Ask this question with your eyes closed and notice what comes up for you. Examples might be: I am creative; I am a loyal friend; I have the ability to connect with people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures; I inspire others by my thoughts, words and actions; I am a gifted writer … ; I have the ability to translate complex concepts and make them easy to understand. …
5) Begin recording what comes from within on your phone or open your eyes and begin to journal. Let the words flow without judging or editing them.
6) Either continue asking yourself the following questions at the same sitting or spread them out over a few days or weeks using a similar process.
- What do I believe about the world? I believe that; for example, the world is friendly; the Universe guides and supports me …
- What do I believe about my purpose? I am here to …; for example, build peace in the world.
- What do I believe about my life? I believe I have been given opportunities to learn certain lessons so that I may be of service to others and understand their pain. I believe I’m here to make a positive difference in the world.
7) At a later date revisit what you’ve written with an open mind and heart. Notice whether any emotion comes up for you. Do you have any ahas about your responses? Do you have a better understanding of yourself and what you’re on the planet to do? Also notice if your inner critic comes up and says “ that’s bragging … how can you say that about yourself; OR if you feel overwhelmed by your purpose. Get curious.
8) You may wish to share your experience with this process with a close friend or colleague who knows you well and whose feedback you value and respect. You may also wish to work with a coach to assist you to gain more clarity about your passion and purpose and support you to move forward toward the life and business of your dreams.
What do you believe? We welcome your thoughts and comments below. Feel free to share this post with others who you think might find it of value.