Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about change. Though it’s the one constant in everybody’s life, it’s also the thing that many of us dread the most.
I have a kind of love/hate relationship with change. A piece of me craves order, constancy, and security, the comfort of knowing what will come next. But when things get too predictable, another piece of me craves adventure and the unexpected.
I know I’m far from the only one who feels this way. Such is the irony of the human condition.
Of course, there are a few people out there who relish change. But no matter how you feel about it, change happens. Even at the molecular level, every single one of us is changing every single second of every single day. There’s just no avoiding it. This being the case, we might as well embrace it, right?
Yeah, I know. Easy to say. Harder to do.
Change Isn’t One Size Fits All
A lot of change is stuff that occurs naturally – time passes, kids grow up, wrinkles appear. We might go along with it or we might fight it but, eventually, change wins.
Many changes are imposed upon us – falling in love when you least expected it, getting a promotion, or demotion, moving to a new town for a new job, health challenges, a change in financial, marital, or parental status. For good or for ill, we deal with it. Because, really, what else can we do?
But then there’s that other type of change – the change we choose. This kind of change can be the most exciting. And the most frightening. Often at the same time.
Moving toward the change we choose is usually a fairly slow process. It begins with a niggling sense that something is missing in our lives, an uncomfortable tug-on-the-sleeve awareness that, while things might not be that bad, they could be better, or more significant, or more fulfilling. Over time, the gentle tug becomes a continual pull that’s impossible to ignore.
Finally, you realize that something has to change and that you are the only one who can change it. Finally, you realize that it’s time to make a move, maybe reinvent yourself entirely.
That’s when things get scary.
SHAKE HANDS WITH YOUR FEAR
That slow progression from discomfort, to awareness, to conviction is something I’ve been dealing with for the last year or so.
Why has it been so slow? Because I’m human. I like it when things are comfortable. But the truth is, I haven’t been comfortable for a while now. I’ve just been pretending to be comfortable, hoping that things will get better if I ignore the problem. But that never really works, does it? At some point, ready or not, you’ve got to make a move. Still, you hesitate.
Maybe that’s where you’re at right now – aware but hesitant. I got there a few months ago.
The thing that got me off the fence and moving in a new and hopefully better direction (it’s still too soon to know for sure. I’m hoping to have an update for you soon) was taking some time to think about other seasons of change in my life.
Pretty much every good thing that has ever happened to me was preceded by a period of indecision and fear before I actually took the plunge that changed my life.
What was I so afraid of? Failure, of course. Just like everybody else.
I spent four years writing my first novel. Then, when it was finished, I put it in a drawer and tried to pretend those four years had never happened. I was afraid of rejection, afraid of failure. Eventually, however, I couldn’t ignore it. The drawer was closed but that story and my hopes for it kept tugging at my sleeve.
Finally, I took a deep breath and started sending it out. Just as I feared, my book was rejected — many, many times. Every time I sent it out and received another rejection letter in return, I had to overcome fear before trying again. Eventually, someone said yes. (Stubbornness is a gift that keeps on giving.)
Do it Scared
Eighteen books later, I’m incredibly glad I pushed past my fear and kept going. It changed my life in ways I could never have imagined, almost all of them good. But taking chances and changing directions still scares me, and for all the same reasons it did back then.
The difference now is that, having been around the block a few times, I know that change and fear go hand-in-hand. It’s just part of the deal.
The only way to move forward it to acknowledge your fears. Better yet, shake hands with them or even blow them a little kiss as you move on and move ahead.
Or, as Ruth Soukup, a blogger and nonfiction author whose work I admire says, “Do it scared.”
If you’re standing at the crossroads of action and complacency, teetering on the diving board of indecision, waiting for the fear to subside before taking the plunge, I’ve got news for you; it’s not going to. Fear isn’t like that.
Fear is rude. It’s the uninvited guest who sits on your sofa and simply will not leave the party no matter how late it gets or how many hints you drop.
Fear will never leave you. You’ve got to leave it. You’ve got to get off the fence and make your move. I know it’s scary. I do. I’ve been there myself, recently. The jury is still out on how it will turn out but I’ve made my move and I’m hopeful.
Could I fail? Could you? Yes. It’s possible.
But it’s also possible that we’ll succeed. The only way to know is to do it and the only way to do it, is to do it scared.