I have an oddity.
Or I guess, I am an oddity. I love change. I love new things. I love to change things up a bit just for the heck of it. This could be as simple as moving my office around or as major as moving to the countryside. There is something about the fresh perspectives that come with making a change that are very energising to me.
And yet, I know that not everyone feels this way. Many of us feel distinctly uncomfortable when it comes to making major changes. So much so that we might not even start.
This is interesting because it means we are willing to put up with considerable suffering or discomfort in order to avoid going into an unfamiliar or risky new chapter. “Why would we do this?” I hear you cry! Are we lazy? Unmotivated scaredy cats with low self-esteem?
If I know that something isn’t working for me, why would I not want to change that – relationship, job, life direction, habit?
Quite the opposite. It is your deepest wisdom and ancestral heritage that makes change feel unpleasant. Think about it. Back when we sat around the fire outside the cave, who was likely to live the longest and rear their next generation? The bold adventurers who headed off into the dark to see what was lurking in the night? Or the sensible types who stayed near the light and the warm and kept to a familiar routine?
So of course, we are now genetically programmed to resist the unfamiliar in an attempt to keep us as safe as possible.
OK so the fact I hate change is not my fault…so now what?
So now we can blame it on survival of the fittest. But how can we address the fear if we want to move into something new?
Tip Number 1: Break it down!
The first thing we need to do is to break it down into the smallest possible safe unit. So say, we want to learn to play piano or to run. But we never quite get started. Work out what is the smallest thing I could do to set myself on my way? Call a piano teacher? Download some music? Put my trainers on and walk down the drive?
We can help ourselves feel more comfortable with change if we start off with just a tiny dose of it and build up.
Tip Number 2: Notice How You Are Freaking Yourself Out!
The other way to work with anxiety about the future is to realise that it is all a story we are telling ourselves. With a bad ending. It is a fantasy or illusion about the future and where we will end up if we move away from the fire. But equally, we could tell a different story, with a happier ending.
To do this, first of all, write out the disaster story about what will happen if you leave your career, relationship or move toward living abroad or…whatever needs changing. Amplify the story. Make it as dramatic and disastrous as you can. But write it down, don’t keep it in your head.
Now read it over. Reading it over helps us see that we may have been a bit dramatic in our storytelling!
Tip Number 3: Tell A Different Story!
Now, write a different story for how life could be after you make the change. What will you be doing? How will you be feeling? You don’t need to take any action right now, just sit with this alternative possibility. And then, when you are ready, find the micro unit of it…and get going.
Have you got a proven trick for getting unstuck? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.
Erica Sosna is a Careers coach and Impact associate.