Be prepared for the challenge in change; you may want to take a moment to read that line again. It’s short and simple, but it is some of the best advice I think I have ever given and have ever been open enough to receive. Most of the partners I see show up in the midst of a major life transition. It could be a divorce, a death, change in career, change in finances, change in a significant relationship, change in health, or a change in how they view themselves. No matter what the change is, 99 percent of the time people show up in my office or call me for support because they are experiencing difficulties managing a crisis that is born out of change.
The interesting thing is that frequently these changes are changes we’ve asked for, dare I say, some of us have even prayed for. Yet, when they arrive on our doorsteps we are at best ill prepared, or at worst, completely caught off guard. This inevitably leads to some kind of existential crisis that creates emotional confusion and chaos. Once we’ve exhausted all of our family and friends resources some of us finally decide to seek professional help. I’m not judging, I’ve been there, as a matter of fact, I am there right now. As I sit in this very uncomfortable state of change, I find myself wondering how do we end up here and why are we so surprised when we get here, considering how frequently “here” shows up during our life’s journey.
As I consider this predicament, the saying “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it” comes to mind. Sometimes, we ask for things without fully understanding what it is that we are asking for. For example, we just ushered in a New Year and many people begin to think about making significant changes in the form of a New Year’s resolution. A common change that many of us identify as desirable is to lose weight. While we may want the outcome of shedding a few pounds, that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to do the work that is required to achieve the desired goal.
Change is one of those things most of us resist. In some way; I think it may be in our nature. As humans we develop relationships not only with people, but also with things. The thought of changing the dynamics of these relationships, even if the relationships are unhealthy, can cause significant stress. So many of us decide to avoid change because we don’t want to deal with the challenges we are certain it will present. We do this despite the knowledge that the “change” is actually in our best interest.
What I have found to be the root of our resistance to change is fear. I believe that if we can understand what drives our behavior then we can effectively address it. I think that sometimes our approach is backwards when trying to motivate someone else or even ourselves to change. First, we consider the desired outcome (change) and then try to pump ourselves up with the reasons why we should change or we do the opposite and completely discourage ourselves by considering the reasons why we shouldn’t change. I think this is a backwards approach because often times the outcome is not the issue. The issues are related to our insecurities and fear.
Sometimes we don’t try because we are afraid to fail (what will people think), we are afraid to succeed (what will people expect) and here lately I’ve been working with partners who resist change because they are afraid to define themselves (the nerve of you, who do you think you are). They have lived in the shadow of someone else’ definition of them for so long that they are afraid to break free of that bondage and see themselves as God sees them.
How can we manage the challenges in change?
You can’t fix a problem if you can’t admit that one exists. Try these steps.
Step 1. Recognize that you are avoiding or resisting making a needed change in your life.
Step 2. Spend some time being self-reflective in considering what is preventing you from moving forward with this change. Now I want to challenge you to avoid considering external factors because in many instances we use those as excuses. In most cases, the real demotivating culprit is internal.
Step 3. Ask a trusted loved one or friend to provide you with some feedback in the form of their thoughts about your situation and be willing to listen and learn from their perspective.
Step 4. After you’ve identified what it is that you are afraid of, I encourage you to go against what your emotions might be telling you to do, and challenge “it”.
Your “it” may be fear in the form of low self-worth or it might be fear in the form of losing certain relationships and being faced with rejection. While I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that your “it” is fear based, I feel very comfortable saying that around 95 percent of the time it is our fear that paralyzes us before we even start the change process.
Change will almost always bring challenges; I believe it is designed to do so. Change usually requires that we stretch and grow, in some way; that can be difficult for even the most self-actualized individual. But if we are able to embrace the idea that change brings with it, new possibilities and new opportunities by activating dormant potential, I believe we might consider that confronting our fears and learning to control them instead of them controlling us may be well worth the challenge.
“Life is about relationships… your relationship with God, your relationship with yourself and your relationships with others”. – Dr. S.O.S.1