You’ve identified the need to create change, but you’re stuck and can’t get started?
Yet you’re convinced that this change is important and that it’s for the better?
Therefore, what’s stopping you from implementing it?
In this article, I offer you some concrete clues to help you understand what might be blocking you.
There are all kinds of reasons why it’s hard to change. Today, I’d like to draw your attention to the fears that may be at the root of your blockages: fear of losing what you have, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of others’ judgement, fear of your own judgment.
Let’s look at why and how these fears can get in your way, with a few tips on how to overcome them.
Fear of losing what you have.
I often meet expatriates or humanitarians who are not satisfied with their personal or professional life, but who are afraid that a change could jeopardize the reassuring and positive aspects of their current situation.
For example, an expatriate spouse who is thinking of going back to work, after taking care of her children full-time for many years… and who is afraid of losing being there for her children. A working expatriate considering a career change… and afraid of losing financial security or status. A humanitarian who is considering the idea of leaving this sector but is afraid of not knowing how to evolve elsewhere.
Change doesn’t have to mean calling everything into question and doing a 360-degree turnaround. More often than not, change means putting in place small new habits that allow you to flourish, while keeping what’s important to you.
If sometimes a drastic change is considered, it doesn’t have to be implemented in 24 hours. It’s more a question of initiating a process of change which, depending on the goals defined, will take several months. Therefore, it’s not going to turn your life completely upside down immediately, rather, it’s going to happen gradually and gently.
With my clients, what most often happens is a combination of both: immediately changing small habits to enhance their well-being, while moving forward, one step at a time, towards a more significant change.
In both cases, you’ll want to make sure that these changes enable you to maintain the desired balance and, above all, honor your core values.
“The secret of change is to focus your energy on creating the new, not to fight the old.” Dan Millman
Fear of the unknown
Your brain likes to stay in its comfort zone, in what it already knows. Its first reflex is to resist change. To change is to try something new, to enter the unknown, without any real certainty of succeeding, or even of having made the right choice, of having taken the right direction. The unknown is notoriously scary!
What you’re afraid of here is not knowing how to handle what lies ahead, what you’re going to face. And yet, I assure you, you’ll manage… just as you’ve always managed everything life has thrown at you up to now!
In the face of the unknown, you must learn to let go and trust yourself: believe in your ability to bounce back, find the best solutions and face whatever the future holds. As Susan Jeffers says: “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”
“If you never try, you’ll never succeed; but if you do try, you may astonish yourself.” Albert Einstein
Fear of failure
To change is to take a risk: the risk of failure. It’s a common fear, but one that shouldn’t hold you back.
In fact, the process of change is never linear: you move forward, then you take a detour, sometimes you go back, often you fail, then you start again in a different way… to finally, one day, achieve the change you want.
Failure is part of the change process. The good news is that it’s full of learnings. It’s failure that allows you to correct course, readjust your strategy, plan differently, start again more intelligently. Rather than second-guessing yourself, you learn from it.
“To fail is to have the opportunity to start again more intelligently.” Henri Ford
Fear of others’ judgement
Like many people, you may lock yourself into a role, repeating to yourself, without realizing it, injunctions about what you should or shouldn’t do: your “I must…, I should…” which are generally inherited from your childhood, your culture, or the society in which you evolve. Of course, there are obligations you can’t escape; but there are also those you impose on yourself, simply because you think that’s what’s expected of you.
For an expatriate spouse, these might include beliefs such as: “I have to work to fulfill myself and fit in with what’s expected of me.” “I have to earn money to have value.” “As a stay-at-home parent, I have to think of my children first.” “As an expat, I have a privileged life, I have no right to complain.”
For a working expatriate, this may involve injunctions such as “I have a good professional situation that brings me financial security and status, even if I’m not fully fulfilled, why should I want to turn everything upside down?” “Being self-employed is madness – I’ll never be able to provide for my family!” “I’ve got diplomas and experience, why should I want to do anything else? “I’ve imposed my choice of expatriation on my family, I just have to be satisfied with my current job.”
If you work in the humanitarian sector, you may be thinking, “I have to accept the jobs I’m offered, even if they don’t always suit me.” “As a humanitarian, I have to put the needs of others first, even if it’s to the detriment of my personal life!”
Behind these injunctions may lie your fear of other people’s judgement. Indeed, among the fundamental needs of human beings are the need to belong (to be part of a group, a community) and the social need (to connect, to exchange, to share). What drives you to attach so much importance to the judgments of others is your fear of rejection. That’s why you prefer to promote behaviors that facilitate inclusion, rather than risk a change that might be misunderstood.
And yet, among the five fundamental needs, there’s also the need for fulfillment. To reach this last need, it’s essential to learn to detach yourself from the judgement of others, even if your choice of change may provoke some reactions, sometimes misunderstandings. If it’s any comfort, it’s good to know that your change generally frightens other people; because they too have a brain that resists change: they’d rather see you stay with what they already know about you. Sometimes, too, their reactions mirror their own fears or difficulties in daring to change!
“To be free is also to not act according to how others see you.” – Frédéric Lenoir
Fear of your own judgment
Another often overlooked yet disabling fear is that of your own self-judgment. You’re afraid that your failures will lead you into a negative spiral of self-criticism and guilt. You’re afraid that, when things don’t work out as you’d like, you won’t be able to be kind to yourself.
I recently had a client tell me that she was reluctant to commit to a coaching process, for fear of once again finding herself unable to create the changes she wanted. It’s a real fear to disappoint yourself. Fortunately, coaching enables you to accompany the process of change, so you can learn to bounce back, offer yourself compassion and increase your chances of success.
Once you accept yourself as you are, with your imperfections, doubts, strengths, and weaknesses, only then can you change. Why? Because you’ll know that, whatever happens, you’ll be a good to yourself: even when things are difficult and complicated, you’ll be able to be your own best friend. You won’t be afraid to move forward because you won’t be afraid of how you’ll react to your own failures.
“The curious paradox is this, when I just accept myself as I am, then I can change.” Carl Roger
Ways to calm your fears and change.
- Whatever happens, you’ll handle it: that’s what I always tell the humanitarian and expatriate spouses I work with. You too, whatever happens, you will manage. When you feel fear rising, don’t hesitate to repeat this phrase to yourself!
- Clarify who you are: Become fully aware of your values, your strengths, your needs, your desires, your passions, your limiting beliefs, your qualities, your faults, your injunctions, your experiences, your skills… and of course identify your fears. This is what will enable you to accept yourself as you are, to know how to take care of yourself, to be kind to yourself and thus regain your self-confidence. A fantastic virtuous circle! You’ll finally learn to become your own best friend. This is what will enable you to initiate change and overcome your fears.
- Identify what you really want: What you need is a “why” that is bigger than your fear: a desire, a reason, concrete objectives, a well-defined goal that pushes you to overcome your fears. It’s this long-term vision that will help you to implement this change; to appreciate the non-linear process and the value of each small step towards your ultimate goal.
- Evaluate the price of inaction: Two questions you can ask yourself to help you overcome your fears are: “What is the cost of not changing?” “What is it cost of changing?” It’s also a way of reinforcing your “why”, your reason for moving forward and overcoming your fears.
- Value your small steps forward: To calm your fears, break down your goal into smaller pieces. A friend of mine illustrated this nicely when she said: rather than eating the whole sausage at once, let’s cut it up into small slices. It’s much easier to digest! The key here is to value every little action, every little step, towards your goal: that’s what keeps you enjoying the process and staying in action.
“A journey of a thousand miles always begins with a first step.” Lao-Tseu
Have you been able to identify the fears behind your inaction? If so, that’s a big step forward, but sometimes it’s not enough. If you still feel that these fears are preventing you from moving forward, from making the changes you need to make, you should know that this is normal, and that as part of my coaching services, I help you to overcome these blocks and create the changes you need to make. Take an appointment with me for a Free Discovery Session.