Are you afraid to let go of the familiar?

3 strategies to help you take charge of change

Did you set some goals or intentions for 2018? Perhaps you want a new job, plan to eat healthy and work out regularly or finally ask for that raise. We’re almost two months into the new year – how’s that going for you?

For most of us, taking action that requires us to show up and behave in new ways is hard.

According to a recent employee survey, almost half the respondents (45%) believe people generally prefer to remain in the status quo.

Change can be so uncomfortable that we unconsciously default to self-defeating habits and beliefs in an effort to stay safe. The result? We procrastinate and come up with very logical reasons why we haven’t taken that next step yet. And at the same time we feel discouraged and frustrated by our lack of progress.

This behavior reminds me of an old western tale about a bear who followed his nose to a campground where he discovered a big pot of stew simmering over a fire. The hungry bear grabbed the steaming pot and scalded himself badly. But instead of letting go, he squeezed the pot even tighter since this was his idea of defense. The more it burned, the more he hugged. What a painful, vicious cycle!

Sometimes we act a lot like that bear. Though we know change is inevitable, and we can see the real benefits of it, our ingrained self-doubt can override our own desires. As Deepak Chopra said:

“One way or another, we’re all caught between wanting change and fearing what the unknown might bring.”

Here are three strategies to help you slay your natural resistance to change so you can proactively make the shifts needed to achieve your goals.

  1. Notice. You can’t change what you aren’t aware of, so take some time for self-reflection. Step away from any distractions, take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind. Now ask yourself these questions: what is it I’m resisting doing the most? what do I think will happen if I do it? is there something in my past experience that is triggering these fear-based thoughts? See what negative scenarios and limiting thoughts surface.
  2. Challenge. Once you’ve identified the beliefs that are keeping you stuck, you can start to defuse their power by reframing your thinking. One of my unhelpful “stories” was: people will judge me if I say the wrong thing. This made me feel less competent so I rarely spoke up. By changing this thought to the more helpful mantra: “speaking up is an opportunity to get valuable feedback”, I gradually found my voice.
  3. Trust. Confidence is usually defined as a feeling of certainty or assurance. But it’s also an act of trust. It’s trusting yourself enough to take action even when you can’t be sure of the outcome. We don’t develop this kind of self-trust by relying on the approval of others to define our worth. It comes from finding the courage within yourself to take one small action at a time and viewing the outcome as a valuable opportunity to grow.

The next time you find yourself falling into old patterns that threaten to derail your progress, remember that burned out bear and drop that pot! Use that spark to ignite a positive thought cycle instead.

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