The Only Constant In Life Is Change
Fall is coming. We can feel it in the air as the nights become cooler and the days grow shorter. The change of seasons reminds us that change is part of life… and inevitable. This is a natural, wonderful process. Change means we are alive and growing. Yet many of us fear and resist change. The very thought of it can make us cringe, withdraw and isolate ourselves, or have a panic attack. We go through life as if it’s a white knuckle flight, holding on for dear life! We are creatures of habit and prefer what is comfortable and familiar, even if we’re not happy where we are. While we wouldn’t choose to be stuck, that’s exactly what we’re doing when we try to stop the natural flow of change. Life actually begins at the edge of our comfort zone. Challenges and changes push us to grow into who we are meant to be.
One of my clients recently reflected on the changes she has made in the past year. She recalled how angry she was when I encouraged her to work on changing her negative thoughts. She was miserable, but also invested in continuing to have a pity party. Even if we are unhappy where we are, we do what is comfortable and familiar because it is easier. It takes no effort to remain where we are. Change takes hard work and commitment. Unless we take action and do something differently, we remain stuck. Although this client had great resistance, she started saying and writing positive affirmations. She was often angry saying the words through gritted teeth, not really believing what she was saying. But she stuck with it. Eventually she started to believe what she was telling herself… the truth about who she is. She started to feel better. This was the beginning of taking charge of her life and changing the things that weren’t working for her.
As Michael Jackson once sang, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” This is a great message! However, many people prefer to be victims, blaming people, places and things around them for their misery. This is exactly what keeps us stuck. We have the ability to change ourselves and create the life we desire. But it will not happen if we put our energy into trying to change someone or something else in order to be happy. You cannot change someone else, especially if they are not interested in changing. Use that energy to change yourself and you’ll be amazed at the results.
So what can you do when the thought of change creates anxiety that immobilizes you? Perhaps these suggestions will help.
- Assess your comfort level. Think of something in your life that involves change that seems frightening. It might be something simple, like changing your routine, or something more difficult, like a move or career change. Pay attention to how you feel when you think of this. Notice what your body is telling you. You may experience anything from mild anxiety to terror. What thoughts do you have? What are you telling yourself about this change? Exactly what is so scary? What do you imagine would happen if you make this change? Sometimes it’s the thought that is frightening, and then our feelings respond to the thought. That’s actually something we have control over. We can change our thoughts and our perspective. Once you identify the fearful thought, create a positive affirmation. This is something you’d like to be true, even if it’s not true at this moment. For example: “If I change my job, it may not work out. What if I make a mistake?” A positive thought could be, “I am willing to take a chance. I learn from all my experiences, even if they don’t turn out the way I think they will.” As you work with your fearful thoughts, you may find they fall under the category of “fear of the unknown.” The truth is anything beyond this moment is unknown. As we become more comfortable with this concept, life gets easier. We are more resilient than we may realize!
- Take action. Choose something small that seems scary and actually make the change. You want to be successful, so don’t pick something that might be too overwhelming. Here are some examples. Take a different route to work. If you eat the same thing for breakfast every day, change it up. Then assess how you feel when you change your routine. Usually what we imagine will happen is much worse than how we actually feel after making a change. We can get very creative with our imagination! Most often reality isn’t even close to the drama we create in our mind.
- Fake it ’til you make it. Fear and excitement feel the same physically. We can experience tightness in our stomach, a racing heart or shortness of breath when we are afraid and also when we are excited. How we react and respond depends on the label we use. Start saying, “I’m excited” instead of “I’m afraid.” You can train yourself to see the positive potential in any change, even if it doesn’t feel true yet.
You can learn to welcome and embrace change. See it as a necessary — and exciting — part of life. Change is inevitable. If you resist it, you may find yourself sitting on the sidelines watching life pass you by. Change your perspective, and you just might notice that a whole new world opens up for you.