Humans are hard-wired to resist change. Our brains process a life-changing event, like a new job, a big move across country, or news of pregnancy, as being so unsettling that it registers as an error that needs to be corrected. Even when it’s a change that we desired and took weeks, even months to plan, we experience this fear. It may explain why the “cold feet” phenomenon happens to people right before their weddings. The nervous feeling in the pit of the stomach seems inevitable, regardless of intentions or planning.
What is it about change that we fear?
Think about a change in your life, especially a positive one, that you have made and all the steps it took. Moving across country, finding a new job, going back to college, getting married. There was probably a moment where you felt doubt or fear. Why? Can you put your finger on it?
Sometimes we just fear the unknown and hate the thought of leaving our old life, our old friends, our old habits behind. Sometimes, it’s just a mourning of that lost life in favor of a new one, no matter how bright and shiny its appeal was in the beginning. Sometimes, we know it’s the right choice and feel nervous or scared anyway. Our brains don’t like the unfamiliar.
It doesn’t matter that humans as a species are adaptable. It doesn’t matter that you’ve spent careful thought and consideration to make this choice and recognize that it’s good for you. We like the comfort of routine and that feels safe. A disruption of that, large or small, feels uncertain and scary.
Afraid to even try
What about the changes you’ve thought about, and know you want to make, like starting a new exercise plan, or pursuing a new career, but you just can’t pull the trigger? What are some of the reasons why you can’t?
“I don’t have the time”, “I’m too tired”, “I can’t afford the gym”, “I need to pay off this debt first”, “I’m not qualified for these jobs”, “I like my schedule at the current place”, “I know how the system works here”.
Do you recognize these for what they are? None of the above reasons are legitimate. Really, you don’t have the time to exercise? Even though it’s something you say you want and you know would be good for you, and you talk to your friends who work out and say things like, “I’m so jealous. I wish I could work out!” What’s stopping you?
We make time for the things that matter most to us. Time is usually the biggest bullshit excuse for not doing something in the world. This year, I decided I wanted to change my priorities. In doing that, I had to look at my own schedule and current priorities and how it reflected with my new goals. I didn’t think I had the time, but I really did. I just spent a lot of it playing video games. The reality here was that I didn’t want to give up that time. I liked doing it, and felt I’d be giving up “too much” if I only spent an hour playing instead of four. That statement is laughably dumb now. Four hours of video games was not getting me closer to where I wanted to be in life.
How to make the change
I encourage you to pull the trigger on the new workout routine, writing your novel, a new career path, starting a family, going back to school, getting your pilot’s license, starting your new business, pursuing your dream/hobby/goal–whatever it is! If something is calling you, but you’re too afraid of the change (or afraid to fail), here’s some scientifically-proven starter tips:
- Write down an affirmation related to this goal. Something tangible you can refer to and say, “this is why I want to do this. This is why I’m going through this scary stuff.” If you’re that passionate about it, you’ll continue to feel inspired. Make a vision board, if you’re more visually-motivated.
- Assess your current priorities. Not what you actually value, not what you dream of–where your time is currently going. As stated above, my goals and actual real-life priorities did not match up. I noticed video games were a time sink and I made the necessary adjustment. I didn’t quit them; I adjusted how much I played. I’m also prone to surfing social media even though it makes me feel like crap, time-and-time again. What is in your current routine that doesn’t sync up with your long-term goals or dreams? What’s taking up your time that you can get rid of or cut down?
- Cut through your other BS excuses. Working out is a good example. Saying the gym is too expensive or that you don’t have any equipment at home is just a fancy excuse. YouTube is full of free workout videos, including ones that don’t need weights or any other materials. I also encourage you to give yoga a try. They have styles for building strength, building flexibility, or for weight loss. I use a blanket, not even a real yoga mat. No equipment, no gym fees, no excuses!
- Find a mentor. It doesn’t have to be a real life coach that you meet up with, but it does help to have someone you can go to when you need advice and support. I use the term mentor because I find it helpful to seek out people who have done what you’re doing and been through what you’ve been through. If you have a great support system already, that’s awesome. But it is so amazingly validating and fulfilling to speak to someone who has been through what you’re going through, or about to go through. It can be online, with a total stranger. I’m such a big advocate of online forums. It’s a great way to get myriad opinions and backgrounds, while maintaining the comforting, introverted buffer of the internet.
- Get started, even if it’s not perfect. You don’t have to have every step in place. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge. There won’t always be details that you can flesh out to the very end. You won’t always know everything at the beginning. Sometimes you just need to get in, get the experience, and fall back on that mentor of yours when you run into a wall. And hey, that first step is usually the hardest anyway. You may be relieved at how it feels to just go for it.
I hope you go for the change you’ve been wanting. I hope everything works out the way you want.
What is it that you want to do but are too afraid to start? What has been holding you back?