So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change. Probably because I just made a big one in my life and I’m crossing my fingers and toes that it’s the right move, even though I’m pretty sure, deep down, that it is.
Am I going to have to wait awhile to see how my decision plays out before I’m sure, though? Of course. But that’s the essence of change, right? We’ve got to leap off the cliff in the dark and pray the landing is soft.
The reality is, change is hard for most of us. It represents the unknown, it’s intimidating, it usually involves a learning curve, and, in a lot of cases, it scares the crap out of us.
But change is also good. Change is also healthy. Change is also refreshing and inspiring. And in my opinion, change is very, very necessary. And that’s because, the way I see it, if we’re stuck (and I’m using that word very deliberately) in the same place for too long our tires just spin, they don’t actually go anywhere. There’s movement, sure, but no forward motion. And without forward motion we have the potential to stall.
See, when we follow the same path all the time, we’re not exposing ourselves to everything else that’s around us—stuff like new people or professional experiences or places or adventures. Or, most importantly, new challenges. And I think that’s the fundamental key with change. I mean, how can we possibly reach higher ground if we don’t go vertical? How can we excel if the bar stays at the same height all the time? We can’t. We can fear change, which I think is most peoples’ natural inclination. Or, we can embrace it and suck as much as possible out of it.
Look, in most cases, change involves risk and risk is naturally unsettling. But you’ve got to get over yourself and double down every once in a while. Because that’s how you win big.
Remember, comfort zones got that name because they’re, well, comfortable. We rely on them because they’re safe and reassuring. So naturally they’re appealing. But comfort zones can also swallow us up and keep us from changing directions. And changing directions is good. No, it’s great.
The tough thing about it, though, is knowing when it’s the right time to shift gears and go off-road. And therein lies the problem for a lot of us.
Just for fun, let’s dissect change and look at it from the inside out. What is it about doing something new and different that always freaks us out?
- We’re afraid of what we don’t know.
- We doubt ourselves and our abilities.
- We think ourselves in circles until we’re tied in knots over our decision to move forward.
- We forget that nothing is forever and that if one thing doesn’t work out, we can make another change.
- We’re afraid of losing control (my personal favorite).
Now, in the interest of being fair, let’s look at the upside of change:
- We grow a little every time we try something new.
- Change unearths potential we never knew we had.
- Change is exciting and dynamic and stimulating.
- Change ensures that we’re always engaged with what’s going on around us.
- Change is empowering because it proves to us that we’re adaptable.
Not quite so scary now, huh? So how, then, do we force ourselves past all of the intimidating aspects of change and embrace the good side of trying new things?
We use this simple trick. (Designed it myself.) From now on, I want you to think of all change in this one harmless, relatable way. And if you do, I think it may make all future change a little less unnerving.
I want you think about the feeling you have when you get into a new car. The smell, the new technology, the crispness of the dash, the storage compartments—all the little bells and whistles and conveniences. For the purposes of this conversation, that new car symbolizes change. Any kind of change.
Think about that feeling of excitement you have when you’re sitting in it for the first time.
Now put the key in the ignition and try to turn on the A/C and the radio and adjust your seat. Can’t do it, can you? Don’t know where anything is or how to control it, right?! A little frustrated that you can’t just turn the key and go? Wishing you could just slide into the seat and know how everything operates? Well, that’s the learning curve. And it’s unavoidable in most situations. But the good news is that with very little time and effort you’ll eventually feel at home and you’ll understand how everything works. See what I’m saying?
So from now on, whenever you’re scared about making a change, just think of it like sitting in a new car for the first time. Deep down, you know how great it is, but it’s gonna take a little time to adapt before you can really appreciate its greatness. But once you do, you’re off.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.