How to navigate through fear of change
Have you ever wanted to do something, but let your doubts or fear; your reasons or excuses stop you? Well, you are not alone. It is common, and one of the main reasons why people turn down challenging opportunities and new experiences.
We all have an innate hardwiring to avoid things that are new, scary or dangerous. Change triggers danger. I saw this in action the other day while I was meeting with a potential client. She came to see me as she was feeling stuck in her life. She was working too hard. It was taking a toll on her health, relationships and in her business. She was feeling overwhelmed, stressed and upset. To cope and numb her feelings and to avoid facing them head on, she had been drinking too much alcohol and eating poorly. This meant she wasn’t sleeping well. Because she couldn’t sleep, she was too tired to get up and exercise. She felt like she was trapped on a hamster wheel; doing the same thing every day and getting nowhere. Running poor habits that she felt powerless to change. She was crying out for help, and I could see her desperation.
Despite being in this uncomfortable situation, and despite my absolute conviction that she could achieve her outcomes, and laying out a clear path, I could literally see her shrink because of this fear of change. She started to make excuses. It wasn’t the right time. She didn’t think she had time to commit to her growth. Perhaps she wasn’t ready and she wasn’t sure she had enough money, and blah blah blah. You see, she was responding precisely in accordance with her internal mechanism, whose job it is to keep us safe from danger.
Why do we have a fear of change?
Your internal self-corrective mechanism is like a thermostat. It pulls you back to your current set point; your current life. Even if it is comfortably uncomfortable! Any change we contemplate making, whether it’s in finances, career, relationships or committing to our personal development and growth, takes us out of our comfort zone. When this happens, a chemical signal enters our nervous system. Our brain picks up the signal as doubt, fear or anxiety and interprets it as a danger signal. The doubt prompts us to make whatever adjustments necessary to return us to our previous state. The fear of change stops our progress.
While this innate mechanism was helpful in days gone by – when we were living in survival mode and had a genuine threat of being chased by a wild animal, today it stifles growth, stops us changing and becoming a better version of ourselves, and cripples opportunities. It is our interpretation and meaning of the feeling that signals danger. We interpret it as doubt or fear, so we become scared to move forward, instead of choosing to recognise it is just a signal that alerts us to the fact we are about to change. We find reasons and excuses not to change. While a part of you deep down desires the outcome, your head jumps in and justifies precisely why you shouldn’t do this, can’t do this; don’t have enough money; will wait until you have more time, more money and any other reason that springs to mind. You make up stories to avoid that uncomfortable feeling, as we are also driven towards pleasure and away from pain. Yet, in life, to succeed in business, evolve personally or professionally, and live a meaningful life, risk and challenging ourselves are critical components.
Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 1950’s, made a fascinating through his work. He found that even after significant facial plastic surgery, many patients didn’t see any changes when they looked in the mirror. This internal self-corrective mechanism prevented it and kept them stuck in their prior self-image. He called this internal self-corrective mechanism our psycho-cybernetic mechanism.
The psycho-cybernetic mechanism is one of the reasons why 93% of New Year’s Resolutions fail, around one in nine people only attain their goals and around 90% of lotto winners lose all their money within a year. Their psycho-cybernetic mechanism does everything it can to pull them back to their regular set point. A time before they won a large sum of money. Winning money is new and unfamiliar. Danger signal!
Changing your inner set point
So, next time you want to take on a new experience, and you feel doubt, uncertain or fear you know that you are probably not in danger! (Unless you are in a real life-threatening situation.) Put a new meaning on the resulting feeling. Call it excitement instead of doubt or fear and focus on the outcome. Not the initial leap into the unknown, but the end result. Sit with it so it becomes familiar. Take some time making it feel less fearful by creating a different story around it.
Another great tool to help you recalibrate your set point step and embrace change is visualisation. Visualisation or mental rehearsal helps decrease the fear of change. It helps you make what you desire more familiar. Visualisation helps formulate new neural connections so you become acclimatised and more comfortable with your new experience. Slowly, you move your comfort zone towards your desired state, and you reprogram your subconscious mind. It also helps you create new habits.
The subconscious mind cannot distinguish between an external experience in the physical world, and that same experience conveyed to the brain by your imagination. Taking advantage of your subconscious mind’s blind spot and consciously creating the future you desire, is your secret asset. It helps you reprogram your subconscious mind. You see, your subconscious mind is the part of your mind that runs your life; the part that is a million times more powerful than your conscious mind and is the storehouse of your habits, emotions and memories. When you have a contest between the conscious and subconscious mind, fighting and willpower, the subconscious mind will win every time.
Mental rehearsal is a technique that is used by athletes use to help them achieve their goals. Visualisation is precisely what I did, every day, consistently when I was training for the Australian Ironman Championships. A new and somewhat daunting experience. Every night I visualised swimming, cycling and running strongly, focusing on crossing the finish line, over and over again. I even saw the time I wanted to achieve and heard the crowd cheering and a voice saying well done, you have qualified for Hawaii. On race day, when I crossed that finish line, I had a deep sense of knowing, an inner conviction that this moment had to happen and I would finish the race in a time that would qualify me to compete in the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships. I crossed the finish line in a time, engraved into my mind forever, 10 hours, 44 minutes and 47 seconds. I run the marathon portion in 3 hours and 44 minutes, and it was this run that led me to take third place in my age group and secured a spot in Hawaii! And Hawaii, well that is for another day!
If you need some help with making a change in your personal or professional life, then give me a call. It’s what I do every day! So, let’s talk and if we are a good fit, I can outline the next step. If we aren’t I will ensure you get a few tools and tips to help you take your next step. So, you have nothing to lose and lots to gain! Book a complimentary call now.
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