A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

08 June 2009

Fear, Episode 3: Fear of Change

When people have a life-threatening event, like a heart attack, that has a significant "lifestyle" component as its cause, their doctors will tell them they will die if they don't change their habits.  Changes to diet, exercise, destructive habits like smoking, or reducing excessive stress are the prescription for preventing the next occurrence.

The number of people who actually make the prescribed changes, when the directive is literally, "change or die," may surprise you.  It works out to about 10%.  The other 90%, by their behavior, indicate that the prospect of dying is not as scary as the prospect of change.  To be fair, death is certain whereas change is uncertain, but this hardly seems like a compelling case in death's favor.

Fear of change is related to some other fears.  Of course, the fears in the previous two episodes - fear of failure (what if I change something and it doesn't help/get better/improve my results?) and fear of the unknown (I don't know what it will look like if I change it) figure large in the equation.  There's some fear of inadequacy (If I have to change it must be because I'm a bad person now), and some fear of leaving your comfort zone (I like it here where it's safe!) as well.

But let's think a minute about change.  Things around you, and inside you, change all the time.  You probably don't eat the exact same food every day, right?  You get a new (or at least a different) car from time to time.  You buy new clothes.  You probably complain if your work gets too predictable, and if you respond to "how are you?" with "same old, same old," you say it with a long-suffering sigh.  If you're like most people, you love to have something new in your life -- new shoes, the new NYT bestseller (it's even called a "novel"!), the latest techie gizmo.  We don't go into the store full of fear of new things.  So why do other kinds of change bother us so much?

The key to embracing change is to buy a new attitude about it.  Notice I said "buy new," not "change."  Of course, a new attitude won't cost you a penny, but using this "buy new" metaphor could make the difference in whether change is something you look forward to, or something you dread.  Align your attitude about change to match your attitude about having something new that you want.  Want good health?  A promotion? A new job or career?  To go back to school?  All those things are new things you want.  So go shopping for them!  You'll need to shop in a couple of different "stores" to get everything you need:
  • Go to the grocery store to pick up some great-tasting healthy foods.  I suggest you start in the fresh produce section, with your favorite fruits, veggies and juices.
  • Shop in your closet for clothes that dress you for success.  If you're looking for a promotion or a new job, make sure you look like a million bucks every day.  And if you need a little refresh, hit the mall with a clear idea of what you need and a sensible budget.
  • Shop at the library or the bookstore for guides to healthy living, resume writing, applying to the best colleges, or any other skill set or information you need to succeed.
  • Shop in your network of friends, family and colleagues for help and support in achieving your goals.  Look for people who've done what you want to do, so they can mentor and coach you.
  • Most important, shop in your head and your heart for the motivation and passion you need to get what you want.  You may have to paw through the racks of outdated ideas and self-defeating beliefs to find the good stuff, but keep looking until you find your confidence, drive, and excitement.  You know they're there, just like that perfect shirt you found on sale last fall.
Change isn't all fun and games, just like shopping for jeans or a bathing suit is a love/hate exercise sometimes.  But by focusing on the reasons why you want, need, and deserve better results in your life, you'll get past the stuff you don't need and be able to fill your shopping basket with the goods that will get you there.

If you need a "personal shopper" to help clarify your goals and your best course of action, give me a call!

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