However, for many of us, change is intimidating because we don’t know what lies ahead. It challenges us to step out of our comfort zone and into a new stretch zone – for some that’s exhilarating but for many it creates resistance … almost like standing at the edge of a minefield. We have to decide where to step first, and that requires knowledge, determination and courage.
Let’s look at some of those ‘mines’ that cause us to resist change:
Mine #1 : Fear of failure
When you’re considering a life change, you may wonder if you'll be able to do it. Your inner voice kicks in saying, “what if I fail?” We tend to look at the final outcome, which can be huge, however, all goals have steps that move us towards the final outcome. You gain proficiency and experience as you go and this gives you the confidence to take that next step. As your sense of achievement grows you will feel stronger and less weakened by that fear of failure.
Mine #2 : Lack of belief in yourself
Another ‘mine’ in the field is comparing yourself to others who are already succeeding in what you want to do. You may think, “I'd never be able to manage that”. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is step outside your comfort zone, cast aside your normal practice of comparing and embrace the opportunities that will naturally occur in this new, confident you.
Believing in yourself takes you outside your comfort zone because you have to face the world. Although it involves a degree of discomfort, remember that every expert was once a beginner. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell said it takes about 10,000 hours under your belt before you can achieve expert status. So only compare yourself to yourself and observe how far you have already come, because every week you will clock up more hours, more experience and more confidence.
Mine #3 : Fear of the unknown
Worry is often a small thing that casts a big shadow; a shadow laden with stories of what you fear will happen. If you cast your mind back to those times when you faced your fears and stepped out anyway, how often did the stories you had concocted actually come to fruition? Most likely, not often. You changed your perspective and so the dynamics also changed.
I recall once needing a large sum of money in a very short time in order to travel to the other side of the world to attend a six-month programme. There didn’t seem any possible way to get this money in the time available. However, I made the decision to do everything I could to get the money and then to let go of the outcome and trust the best would happen. Amazingly, through some fascinating and previously unseen ways, I managed to accumulate the entire amount in this short time, whereas, if I had allowed my mind to talk me into staying put, many of the wonderful things that happened to me in the next decade may not have occurred.
It’s not easy to let go of fear. You believe your mind knows what will be safer, so you resist and come up with all the reasons why you shouldn’t move forward … “what if it doesn’t work?”, “what if I feel humiliated?”, “what if I just can’t do it” … and you believe that if you stay where you are you’ll remain safe in your comfort zone. It’s important to look at these fears, question them and find ways to move beyond them.
You will only move on from the fear thoughts by seeing the outcome of your actions. As you move into your stretch zone and achieve success you will notice that it starts to become more comfortable – and when this happens it’s no longer a stretch zone – you have now grown your comfort zone. By moving beyond your fear you are able to see opportunities and possibilities you couldn’t imagine when you were locked into your ‘what ifs’.
Mine #4 : Am I the only one experiencing this?
Most of us think so, but in reality you’re no different to many people who struggle with decision making. Like many of us, you’ll sit on the fence, procrastinating over whether to take the big leap, while telling yourself you should be sensible and stay with what you know. Meantime, you continue to question everything, work yourself up, and still avoid the decision.
When I’m faced with a big decision I find it useful to quiet my mind and look at both options … and how I feel about each of them. I did this when I was struggling about whether to come back to New Zealand or stay in Europe, which I was enjoying, but I had a feeling it was time to move. As I quieted myself and thought about staying where I was I felt a little uneasy and when I thought about coming back to NZ I had a feeling of peace; my feelings about it were quite gentle. Some people may have a stronger reaction, feeling enthusiastic about one and repelled by the other. Sometimes it’s just about listening to your gut.
Mind #5 : No choice
You may feel you have no choice, like having to stay in your present job because you fear you won’t get another one. As with most situations, you have intermediate choices – you can research what’s out there, update your cv, set up interviews etc. Believing there are no other options will only apply if you keep thinking this way.
The worst part about being afraid of change is you end up settling for whatever happens. This is a far more frightening way to live because not only do you continue to fear what might happen, but you have also given up control of your life to some extent, and have to live with whatever comes next. Having confidence in yourself – even while you are facing your fears – gives you a sense of control and in the long term it will give you more peace.
Taking risks and setting out into uncharted territory can be scary, but it inspires new beginnings and creates the opportunities to grow. When you start focusing on new circumstances and new reasons to be happy you’ll stop focusing on those ‘what ifs’ that prevent you from taking the next step.
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture … examine your ‘minefield’ and look for ways to remove the power of those mines that have been getting in the way of you taking the next steps to a more enjoyable, exciting and pleasurable life with fewer self-imposed limits.