Why Change Is Difficult for Us (and Ways to Overcome It)
“In the new year, many of us will be contemplating changing a behavior or an aspect of our lives. Some will dream of it, while the brave ones will get ready to take action. There is a reason you feel that spark. Life is finite. Don’t squander it. Here are four tips to help you be brave, conquer your fears, and pursue the spark.”
My favorite spot to practice yoga at my neighborhood studio is next to a big window overlooking several trees. From there, I can appreciate the birds and the natural variations of the seasons while I practice.
I admire the way nature so readily embraces change. Trees don’t complain about losing their leaves or being too cold. Flowers don’t desperately attempt to prolong summer. Animals gracefully accept aging.
Life is comprised of transitions. Yet, most of us try to avoid change at any cost—even by maintaining a present that isn’t wholly satisfying. If we are not careful, fear of change can prevent us from realizing our full potential.
Why are we so fearful of change?
Change is uncomfortable. Habits feel right to our neurons even if they are no longer serving us. Change requires a creative process that is always a messy journey into the unknown, a zone that can be terrifying.
But along with the terror there is often a spark of excitement, a spark that we suppress.
What can help us to pursue the spark?
We need to shine a light on our shadow side. This is the side of our personality that contains all of the not-so-appealing parts of ourselves—all of the fears and attachments that keep us in status quo although we feel the spark directing us elsewhere.
Acknowledging and accepting our shadow allows us to integrate it into our whole being and move forward. My own experience meeting my shadow led me to uncover three of the biggest reasons we fear change.
One reason is that our society doesn’t embrace failure or disappointment. It has been given a negative connotation. We ignore the fact that many of the world’s greatest successes emerged out of failure: J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, and Vincent Van Gogh, to name a few.
Another reason is that evolution has left us with an unconscious bias towards negativity. For most of human history, we focused on survival. Staying alive favored those with an overly cautious (i.e., negative) view. Negativity bias prevented us from being the lunch of a lion. This behavior protected our ancestors, but it entraps us.
Lastly, since childhood, we have been conditioned to take on the expectations of our tribes—beliefs, behaviors, and desires. We were also introduced to the rules and pragmatism that will often limit us later. As a result, we tend towards conformity and ignore the spark. But your life is meant to be a unique experience. Conforming clouds its extraordinary nature.
In the new year, many of us will be contemplating changing a behavior or an aspect of our lives. Some will dream of it, while the brave ones will get ready to take action.
There is a reason you feel that spark. Life is finite. Don’t squander it. Here are four tips to help you be brave, conquer your fears, and pursue the spark:
1. Cultivate Presence
Practice mindfulness to anchor yourself in the present. Fear doesn’t exist in the now. When we feel fear, it is because our minds have projected a (negative) future scenario that doesn’t exist in the moment. The minute we leave the now for an imagined future (or a past that can’t be changed), we live in fear. This is why it is so critical to be present.
Mindfulness practices also have transformative power. They encourage you to respect your intuition and understand that discomfort can be navigated, is only temporary, and is a rite of passage to a better place.
2. Redefine Failure
Choose to redefine failure as an experience that didn’t turn out as you envisioned, but one that is natural, temporary, and a creative opportunity.
Most of us would never make a change if we didn’t have to. Failure is frequently the only opportunity we have to upgrade ourselves. Navigating change results in personal growth. When we grow on a personal level, we begin to feel more passionate about life in general.
3. Define Your Purpose
We have a finite amount of time on the planet. What do you really want your journey to be about?
A good place to begin is to ask if you are living a life that is true to yourself. Think about the person you were as a child. What did you value? How did you want to live? Are there parts of yourself that have become buried? Will the change you are contemplating bring you closer to your authentic self?
Set the intention to uncover and work towards your ideals. Hold yourself accountable, which is not always easy to do; it helps to work with a supportive friend or professional.
4. Allow Yourself to Mourn the Life You’re Leaving
Accept that it’s natural to feel sad about leaving anything we have put our heart and soul into, no matter how alluring the new chapter seems. I’ve cried every time that I’ve moved to a better apartment. Although my living space was going to improve, a part of me didn’t want to part with my past.
New beginnings are often bittersweet.
Dare to move towards the spark. That is the direction of your heart.