by Catherine Pratt
The thought of making a life change can be so intimidating that even though you want to be the master of your own destiny you'll end up doing nothing or settling for less than you deserve simply because you're so afraid of that change.
Here are the 6 main reasons you can end up paralyzed with fear and what you can do about it:
We’ve all heard of the old proverb, “The Devil you know is better than
the one you don’t”. This great fear of the unknown causes people not to
take chances and to stay in situations where they’re not very happy.
As soon as people think about change they start playing the “what if?”
• What if I make a mistake?
• What if it’s worse than what I have now?
• What if I fail?
You tell yourself the “grass is greener” and bury any thoughts of changing your situation for the better. You think you should stay where you are, just in case. You don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future so you can’t tell for sure what the consequences of your actions will be. You do know what you have now and you tell yourself that if you think about it, it’s really not that bad. Right? The fear of the unknown is what stops most people from ever making positive changes in their lives.
If you let it, your imagination can dream up a never ending
supply of terrible things that could happen. But let’s think about it.
You have the ability to imagine the absolute worst thing that could
happen so that means you also have the skill to use your energy to
imagine the absolute best thing that could happen. It’s a matter of
focus. Why do you waste so much time imagining the worst when there’s
just as much of a chance of the best outcome happening? All you have to do is overcome your fear.
In Susan Jeffers book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, she says that whatever option you choose will provide you with new opportunities and surprises that you may never have imagined happening.
As she says, there is no wrong decision, there’s just different opportunities. It makes it far easier to face the unknown if you think of all your options as exciting and worthwhile. You just need to decide which one you want to do right now. There is no wrong choice. Doesn't that make you feel better when you think of it that way?
When you're contemplating making a life change you'll usually begin to doubt whether you are up for the challenge. Things can also seem a lot bigger and harder than they really are. The task seems overwhelming when we look at it in the big picture. We’ll ask ourselves, “Who do we think we are thinking we can do that?” “I can’t do that. That’s too much.”
If you want to achieve great things or even just achieve inner peace, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and try something totally new. At least you'll have tried. You won't have to live with the regret that you’ll never know what you could have been if you’d been able to just take that one step forwards. Also, you will learn so much by trying different things. Even if you only end up learning that you don’t like it, you've learned more about yourself and where you want to go in your life. You will have new knowledge with which to use as stepping stones for the future. Usually afterwards as well, we realize, “it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we thought it would be.” You have also increased your self confidence in having another situation under your belt that you were able to handle successfully.
Sometimes when you're going through challenging times you tend to feel isolated like you're the only person in the world going through this decision. You feel you need outside reassurance that you’re doing the right thing. You’ll ask everyone for their opinion so you don’t have to take responsibility for making the decision. I can tell you from personal experience that the absolute hardest part of making a huge decision is during the time when I’m agonizing over it. I will make myself sick with worry and wondering if it’s the “right” thing to do. I’ll be on the fence for such a long time sometimes deciding to make that big leap of faith and other times telling myself to “be sensible” and to work with what I have. I slowly drive myself and everyone around me completely insane. But the moment that I finally take the step that makes my decision official, I’ll suddenly feel like a huge weight has been lifted from me. I’ll then feel quite liberated and excited about my choice. It’s the agonizing part that can stop you in your tracks though. It’s the hardest part of making a big decision. It’s much easier if you can make the decision and then move forwards as soon as you can.
Do An Internal Test
Sometimes I find it helpful to do an internal test when I'm trying to make a decision. I sit in a quiet place, close my eyes, and then imagine making one of the decisions I'm thinking about. How does that feel? Are you excited or repelled by the idea? Now, think about your other option. Are you excited or repelled by the idea?
Listening to your gut is a great way to get a better idea about what internal conflicts you may be dealing with.
Sometimes when you’re trying to make a big decision, you think you only have one choice if you don’t want to accept the current situation. For example, you can stay in a job you hate or you can quit and be unemployed. And if you’re like me you’ll add things like “unemployed and starving to death and I'll never be able to find another job.” I’ll mentally paint myself into a corner (motivated by fear or uncertainty) and feel there is no way out. I’ll feel like I have to stay in the situation because there is no other option. The truth is there is always another option. Sometimes it can take a little brainstorming to come up with a list of possible solutions but rarely are you truly ever without any choices.
Another problem people face when contemplating change is that we tend to focus on external things to define our identity and worth (what kind of job we do, what kind of possessions we have, how much we make). We put an emotional weight on stuff like this. If we don’t have the latest t.v. system, we feel like a failure. We can’t take the risk of losing all our possessions. It’s who we are. People always ask us, "what do you do?". When we answer, our job is a huge part of our identity.
A much more important thing we should focus on is the value of all the relationships we have and how we can help others - it's really a wonderful symbiotic relationship. When you help someone (and see their appreciation or know that you are helping them) you feel good yourself - and it's a more genuine feeling of contentment than buying the latest gadget. It provides us with a much greater sense of self worth.
Also, being able to live the life you truly want if far more important than feeling trapped in a job you hate because you have to pay the credit cards for all the stuff you’ve bought. I think I can also guarantee, before we take our final sleep (which I'm sure will be when we're 105) we will be thinking about the people that have touched our lives, and not the corner office we had, nor the car we drove.
Along with focusing on the external world comes the fact that we cling to certain possessions, statuses, and perks we’ve been given along the way as some sort of safety net. People will "handcuff" themselves to jobs they hate with thoughts like “I'll stay until I use up all my vacation days" or "I’ll stay until I’ve got my pension". It’s the “I’ll stay until…” mentality. There's a lot of people who won't leave a job because of the promises of holidays, pension and severance pay. “If I leave I won’t get 3 weeks of vacation anymore.” Think about it. When you’re 80 years old, are you going to be happy that you wasted your life for a few weeks of vacation? Also, it’s limiting thoughts like these that keep us trapped in situations we don’t want to be in. Turn it around and if something like vacation really is important to you, you can bring it up in any interviews you go to. At least you won’t be letting a crutch stop you from facing the fear of change. It’s far better to keep the big picture in mind of what do you really want out of life? You need to keep moving towards that and not getting caught in the mental safety nets along the way.
The worst part about being afraid of change is that you can end up settling for whatever happens. It seems less scary that way. The truth is that this is a far more frightening way to live because you don’t have the feeling of being in control of what happens to you and you live in fear of what might happen. Having the confidence to take action in the face of fear not only provides you with a sense of control, ultimately it will also provide you with a life full of purpose and joy. And isn’t that really what we’re all trying to achieve?
To overcome fear, think of it like a double-edged sword. Read more about the two sides and how to choose the side that will enable you to slash your way to success.
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