Change is about building the new, not fighting the old.
How many times have you heard the word change and winced? When someone talks to you about a change do you feel excited or does fear creep in first? Does change create self-doubt in you or self-assurance? Change was always the bad guy in my life. In fact, the comment “I hate change” fell off my lips pretty consistently in the past. What was it about change that held such a negative connotation for me? What is it for you? If I had to pinpoint one reason change created instant anxiety in myself, I would blame the unknown. Fear of it, resentment towards it, and a complete refusal to surrender to it.
The unknown is certainly a huge contributor to giving change a bad rap. If we knew the outcome of a change from the onset, we would likely not spend so much time bad mouthing change. What if we knew the outcome was going to be amazing? Our worries would vanish and change would give us butterflies. We fear instead the outcome is not going to be so amazing. THAT is what looms over us and gives change a bad reputation. The “what if” scares the shit out of us. Even though the possibility of change could mean the opportunity for an awesome outcome, the “what if” is so intimidating, we would rather have no change at all.
I know a little (ok a lot) about this. I spent YEARS in a more than lackluster marriage for that very reason. I thought by staying still and avoiding the change, I wouldn’t have to make a choice. On the contrary, I was making a choice to stay stagnant. I was so afraid of the unknown, I had indeed made a choice that my joyless relationship was good enough, and in fact better than what could be waiting on the other side. What if on the other side of my marriage was a relationship built on love and communication and mutual respect? I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. But I also thought, what if I am alone forever, what if I can’t financially cut it, what if my kids hate me? Those questions were enough to hold me back for a very long time.
So, here’s what really happened when I finally made the decision to make that scary change. First, I was afraid, I doubted myself, I faltered. When you make a big change, there will be obstacles. You may not fly through it all gracefully. You will want to quit. You will change your mind a thousand times. You will tell your loved ones, “I can’t do it.” All the while you WILL be doing it, more gracefully than you think. You will inspire people along the way. You will face the obstacles and find a way around them, then feel proud of yourself for your accomplishment. Before you know it, you will realize the change has created confidence inside of you that wasn’t there before. You may start to notice with your new-found pride, you are smiling more, you are braver than before, and lo and behold the scary change wasn’t so scary. And like dominoes, change spurs new changes that create a new life, a better life.
So how do we spark change? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Distinguish was needs change in your life. What is it you need to do? And why? Understand why you need or want to make a specific change to better yourself. Do you want to find a new job? Do you need to stop drinking? Do you want to make better choices about what you are eating? Ask yourself why and what positive outcomes could come from making a change. You need a big why to fall back on when the change feels like it is getting tough. Most changes will have those rough spots, but when your reason for change is important to you, it will be worth it.
- Drop the negativity. This may mean your own negativity or someone else’s bad attitude. Sometimes the people around us would rather we didn’t change. It triggers their own insecurity when we try to better ourselves. Put some distance between yourself and those people, and if you are the one with the negative mindset, work on ways to affirm yourself every day.
- Find a support network. If you want to make a change in your physical health and think going to the gym every day is where you want to start, find a buddy. Quitting smoking? Do it with someone. When an obstacle to change presents itself, having strong social support for advice, guidance, or inspiration will help you move past the roadblock to success.
- Take baby steps. Looking at the big picture is not always the way to go when making a change. If you have 100 pounds to lose, it may feel overwhelming and unachievable. If you look at the first 10, it becomes more management and possible. Consider how baby steps consistently every day can compound into one amazing payoff.
- Be kind to yourself. With change comes doubt, setbacks or even temporary failures. Remember these are times to learn and evaluate to determine how you can refocus. Stay positive and look at the possibilities. Never let a stumbling block deter you. Go back to number 1, why did you want to make a change in the first place? Use that why and don’t give up.
Through the process of change, be sure to celebrate your baby steps and small victories. Change doesn’t always feel easy but focus on building the new, not fighting the old. The first step to change is taking the first step. You can do it and it will be beautiful.