Often, coaching clients come to me wanting to make changes in their lives but feel either overwhelmed or paralyzed. They have a sense of wanting to move towards something that feels positive, such as a new career, better communication in their relationships, an exciting new project, more fitness and self-care, etc., yet they don’t understand why they are so afraid and stuck.
Once we begin to unravel the thinking process, a few key issues become clear with most people:
*When considering change, people often focus on the ultimate goal as if it has to happen right now. “But, I am scared to just quit my job and start something new. It feels like jumping into the unknown,” many say. This kind of thinking is definitely terrifying! If you are assuming a career change means that you have to give up something safe and familiar for something completely un-charted, your whole system will naturally revolt.
I find that mapping out the process of change can be incredibly helpful for most people. Because we don’t usually leap from Step A to Step Z, having a clear plan for all the steps in between calms the mind. For a person changing careers, the first step might be something as simple as exploring interests or brainstorming ideas. By starting with something that feels safe and doable (and even fun!) resistance is lowered.
*The sympathetic nervous system responds to change as if it is life-threatening, even when it is not! Any perceived stress can trigger the “flight or fight” response in the amygdala of the brain, a response that was regularly needed to kick us into gear when that tiger pounced out of the jungle, and is still with us today. So that frozen feeling you get when you think about speaking up in a conflict or the heart-racing panic you feel when thinking about your new venture are just natural protective mechanisms.
The easiest way to work with this unconscious reaction to change is to move so slowly that your system does not notice it! If you want to take better care of your body but feel totally overwhelmed at the thought of heading to the gym four times a week, start with walking down the block for five minutes every day. This might seem silly but once you get the momentum rolling and bypass your own resistance, you will create a pattern that is much more sustainable.
*Change brings up our limiting beliefs. For most people, anything risky causes us to open the whole file we keep in our brains about failure, needing to be accepted/loved, being seen/exposed and more. The challenge is that we often believe these messages and they keep us from trying anything that might prove them right. Unfortunately, this can also keep us from trying things that could make us incredibly happy too.
The good news is that limiting beliefs are all in your head. You formed them at some point because they kept you safe but they aren’t serving you anymore. By acknowledging and questioning them and then finding more supportive ways of thinking, you can override this autopilot in your mind. Read more about transforming limiting beliefs.
If you are considering a change but feel terrified or stuck, take heart! Your fear means that you are human like the rest of us! And, with careful awareness, you can move forward despite the inner resistance. Remember, change is actually the most predictable element in your life!