The fear of change is something we can all relate to. The unknown: What is to come? How can I be sure of this? Is this the right path? These are common thoughts that stem from our fears. “It will all work out”, “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”, “There’s a reason this is happening.” These are common phrases to ameliorate our fears. As someone who has gone through a significant amount of changes in half a decade, I have reflected on how I cope quite a bit. I realized coping can be summed up with one word: box.
Whenever I have a major change approaching, the number one thing I know I’m about to do is check off a box. Now to backtrack a bit, we spend our whole lives in a box concept, physically and metaphorically. We live our lives in a little box that we’ve planned out. We check off a box for our race, our highest level of education, our tax bracket. We make lists with check boxes on them. “College – check.” “Live abroad – check.” “Go skydiving – check.” “Get married – check.” We have grown accustomed to believing that this box is what makes society either accept or reject us. When things change, we think of how that affects our box. A new job – we call this diversifying our resume. “Check.” Time to move – acclimating to a new environment. “Check.” Taking a class – enhancing our skill set. “Check.”
Now, the box concept isn’t a bad thing. It is how we have been molded as people as a whole. Whenever we are about to alter the box’s homeostasis, we panic. It’s human nature. In my opinion, however, there are two ways to look at change. Run like hell from it or embrace it. Running is certainly a possibility but change will always find its way towards you. Boxing in emotions and not acknowledging change will only prolong the fear and make it harder to deal with. Embracing change can help you adjust to it. People use the expression “dive in” for good reason. If you dip your feet into a pool, the water will consistently be cool compared to your overall body temperature. If you dive in, your whole body adjusts at the same time and the water won’t feel so cold.
I’ve come face to face with some big changes in the past five years or so. I volunteered abroad. I went back for my graduate degree during the recession. I made a cross-country move to a place I’d never even been for a brand new job. I got married. I started my own side business while maintaining a full-time job. I helped my parents downsize their house thus saying goodbye to a home I’d lived in for 15 years. So, how did I cope with all this? It’s been a whirlwind for sure.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up along my journey:
- Surround yourself with people that have made similar leaps of faith for inspiration. Hearing their stories will help you know you’re not the only one with a dream in your heart and a head full of fears. It will also give you someone to admire on the tough days and appreciate on the great days.
- Find a hobby you can do anywhere and continue to do that. You’ll remember why you love it and enjoy trying it in a new place.
- Don’t hold onto every memento. I used to scrapbook and keep every card, gift, photo, etc. that my friends gave me. As you move onto each new phase of your life, those memories will still be with you but you won’t look back on those items as often as you might think. Save yourself some time and start to purge now rather than 20 years down the line.
- Bring your favorite candle with you when you stay somewhere new. This is something one of my close girlfriends has done for years and still does. She says that it brings a consistency to her life and helps her stay calm in a new setting.
- Start a new bucket list. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much we’ve actually done and accomplished. Everyone has a Pin board of place they want to visit. Well, what about all the cool places you’ve already been? I like having two boards because it’s like a visual “check” box on my list that makes me feel proud of the things I’ve done.
- Stay active! It’s so easy to get bogged down on how much we can’t control around us. We can, however, control our minds and our bodies. Exercise sends endorphins or “feel good neurotransmitters” to our brains. We feel more satisfied, in control and thus more level-headed. It doesn’t hurt to burn some calories along the way either!
Believe me, change isn’t easy for anyone. But these tips have helped me conquer the fear of change the past few years. Once I realized that my major check boxes (see section 2) were complete, I felt confident to complete any task at hand. Yes, the fear of failing will be there with any endeavor. But we are always our own worst critics. And if things don’t work out, there will always be more opportunities. This is America where an education and a positive attitude can get you anything you want.
Don’t box yourself into just one way of living your life. If you can try something new without breaking the bank, then go for it. If you have at least one person to lean on for advice and support, go for it. If you want to do something that doesn’t fit inside your box but will exhilarate you, GO for it. Life is short and I don’t believe in regrets. Each experience adds a colorful piece to my life story. Take a leap of faith. You just might surprise yourself! And always remember to stay positive, stay humble and stay true to yourself.