When you play it too safe, you’re taking the biggest risk of your life. Time is the only wealth we’re given.
– Barbara Sher
Why Do We Fear Change?
Do you fear change? Does “change anxiety” hold you back from something you’ve always wanted to do? I’ll let you in on a little secret: for years, I allowed fear to stop me in my tracks from making a wanted change. Although I enjoyed practicing law, I’ve known from the beginning that I didn’t want to practice past age 55 (please don’t ask why age 55, as I can’t explain it). And by the time I was in my mid-thirties I knew I wanted to make a change sooner rather than later.
In fact, a tiny voice in the back of my head was telling me that I wasn’t using my gifts the way I should be. There was something else that I’d be better at (and happier doing). Something that could make a greater difference in the world. But I didn’t listen to this voice – at least not initially. I assumed that one day I’d miraculously figure out what else I’d do and make the change. Never mind that I had no clear idea how I’d make it happen (or what I’d do).
So, although I told myself that I’d make a change in the future, deep down I didn’t believe I’d ever do it. Why? I was risk-averse. And I couldn’t get past how much time and money I’d invested in my education and career. How could I change careers after all that time and money? And, to be quite honest, how could I give up the money that came with it? So, I pushed this voice away and tried not to listen to it. And yet, it kept whispering to me.
Like me, most people fear change. Change is risky, especially once we’re “settled” in what we do. We fear change because the future is unknown. And we’ve convinced ourselves that the unknown is scarier than our current state. Even if we aren’t happy or fulfilled. Even if we’re miserable.
Lucky for me, I’ve overcome my fear and left my legal career behind. You may be asking how I did that. One word: cancer. My cancer battle changed my perspective on virtually everything. And that includes how I view risk. Much of what I considered risky before no longer seems so risky. And I now see that there’s risk in NOT making a wanted change – even when this change is immense.
So, I’m sharing with you how and why I shifted my perspective. Because it shouldn’t be necessary to have cancer to overcome your fear of change. Especially when we’re talking about a deep desire within you that could lead to fulfillment.
How to Overcome Fear of Change
If there’s a whispering voice in your head that you’ve been ignoring, I’ve got some advice for you. First, listen to the voice. Let it come to the surface. By pushing the voice to the back, you’re making these changes seem much scarier than they really are. Besides, listening will permit you to think about what you want to change, why you want this change and how to best make it happen. It will give you some much-needed guidance and allow you to plan in a way that isn’t so scary.
Second, imagine what your life would look like if you do and don’t make a change. What will you gain and how will your life look if you make this change? What will your life look like if you don’t change anything?
Finally, ask yourself what you’re losing out on if you don’t make any changes. Is the unknown really scarier than not changing anything? If the answer is no, then you’re ready to move past your fear.
These questions have been bombarding me the past few years. And, once my perspective shifted, I realized that change wasn’t so scary after all. In fact, I knew with certainty that I was ready to listen to my whispering voice. Because changing my career no longer seemed risky to me. Not changing it did. Funny how a change in perspective can turn things around.
Because of my cancer battle, you may think it’s easier for me to perceive change as less risky. And you’re right. But that doesn’t mean that you must face your mortality before your perspective shifts. The truth is, no single decision is as important as we believe. We can always change course. And we have complete control over whether and when we change course – including right now. This simple truth can change everything. Empowering, isn’t it?
Besides, change happens in our lives regardless of whether we choose it. To believe that change won’t happen because you choose not to do something you want is crazy. The difference is that we’re talking about having control over something that changes.
This realization allowed me to make a huge change to my life. March 31st was my last day practicing law (at least for now). I’m starting a life and business coaching business – which I’ll explain in more detail over the coming weeks/month. Many people I know have told me that I’m brave for making this change. But I don’t see it that way. I’m not being particularly brave. I know that I’ll never regret this change – but I would regret it if I didn’t try. For me, it’s much riskier not to try than to continue to ignore the voice in my head and allow fear of change to hold me back.
So, the question is whether you’re going to listen to your whispering voice. In the comments below, let me know what changes you’ve been too afraid to take action on. Go public with it. It’ll make it seem much less scary. Then, let me know whether you’re re-thinking your position. And if you are, I want you to tell me what your first step will be to make your change happen. Be specific and make sure its something you can take action on immediately.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Until next time…