We are faced with opportunities and risks all the time. Changing our thinking and behaviours, in order to take advantage of the former or avoid the latter, is therefore something we have to contemplate on a regular basis.
Of course, we don’t always have to change. There are aspects of our personality and well-honed skills set that serve us well no matter what the circumstances. However, often we do need to change if we are to continue to grow, move through a difficult time or take advantage of an opportunity.
Most times, with the right level of motivation and openness of mind, change comes naturally to us. Ours is a curious, adaptable species. We can prosper in times of uncertainty, just so long as we are prepared to change. So it is at an individual level.
But whilst most change is eminently ‘do-able’, some change can be very difficult. At times, creating lasting changes in behaviour requires significant levels of determination and courage. This post looks at why that might be and offers some thoughts on how it can be made easier.
I spoke about the need for determination and courage. Determination is needed to push through and beyond the inevitable comfort zone that surrounds every familiar habit.
Courage is needed because change comes with feelings of trepidation and fear. Occasionally that fear is strong enough to prevent change. This is because some change strikes at the core of who and what we believe we are.
Sometimes the fear is so strong, so palpable, we feel paralysed. This paralysis can be driven by a feeling that somehow our very being is at risk. To our subconscious, facing change, can be like facing the risk of death. Too dramatic? An exaggeration? I don’t think it is.
We need to look at what change involves to understand why we become so attached to current habits and why such strong feelings arise when faced with changing them.
As I’ve already stated, some change strikes at the very core of who and what we believe we are. Our current self is the result of years of experience and countless thousands of repetitions of well-worn habits. Challenging these habits is the same as saying what has gone before is no longer of relevance. You are effectively “killing off” an aspect of your character, who you are.
Pushing through, despite these feelings of paralysis, is possible. Simply understanding why the feelings are so strong is a start. Digging below the surface of these feelings and finding the root cause can also be useful. Seeing, wanting and believing in the benefits to come are all of paramount importance, otherwise, why bother changing?
These benefits could be a move away from pain or a move towards gain. It could be both. Sometimes the release from pain can be instantaneous. Weights can be lifted off shoulders and the pain of change is soon forgotten. Sometimes, realising the benefits of the change takes time. We need time to mourn our lost identity, our lost self. We have changed. We are a new person. We need to get to know ourselves again, to build a relationship with this new self.
When we understand and accept that life is a journey involving an ongoing process of death and rebirth, then we can re-frame change. We can accept and embrace life’s ups and downs more easily. Life is difficult because change is difficult. Change involves letting go of parts of our selves that no longer serve us well. Life is also rewarding because change opens up new opportunities. Change also involves giving birth to a new self that will serve us better as our circumstances evolve.