The thought of making a big change or shift in our lives can be downright scary. For some, it can come along with a paralyzing, all-consuming anxiety or fear that our investment of time, energy, and money won’t pay off—or even worse, that our hopes and dreams for a happy outcome won’t materialize.
As part of my role at iPEC Coaching, I often talk to people who want to make a change in their lives but who can’t quite take the leap of faith just yet.
Our brains are awfully good at “helping” us analyze risky situations and pointing out alllll the things that can go wrong. Our prehistoric instincts scream “Danger, danger!” whenever we encounter something new and different.
Then our brain shoots into overdrive, shooting off “what ifs” at an adrenaline-filled rapid-fire pace:
… what if my family thinks this is a bad decision?
… what if my kids resent me for taking time away from them?
… what if I’m not as smart as I think I am, and I pay a lot of money for information I can’t learn?
… what if I lose my current job, and this training doesn’t turn into the career I hope it does?
The trouble is that fear sneaks in where we least expect it, influencing everything from small changes like trying a new hairstyle to bigger, life-altering decisions like buying a house or committing to training for a new career path.
It feels a whole lot safer to stay in our safe, familiar comfort zones.
When you repeat the same behaviors and activities within your routine, everything feels under control, and you’re limiting the stress allowed in your life. There are no sudden surprises to deal with in your comfort zone. You know exactly what to expect… but it also won’t lead to more money, more freedom, or more happiness and fulfillment.
While a lower stress level does do wonders for our health and happiness, a little healthy stress is actually good for us.
A small amount of anxiety sharpens our wits and helps us perform better than we otherwise might. And taking on challenges, setting new goals, and reaching a little further than we’re comfortable with keeps our brains sharp, enhances our creativity, and keeps us evolving as complex, multi-layered personalities.
All that being said, it’s still really scary to leap out into the unknown.
I have a few suggestions for gently easing your way into any new challenge, and the beautiful thing is that you can follow these steps for ANY goal you might set. (Plus, the more you practice shaking things up, the easier it will become!)
1. Establish what it is you want (and how you want to feel during the process).
What is the ultimate goal you are trying to reach? Don’t be afraid to think big when you’re deciding. Is your dream to completely change career paths? Take an extended vacation? Lose 30 pounds?
Your goal might seem completely unattainable, even with circumstances completely in your favor. But if you don’t look at how far down the road you want to go, you won’t be able to create a map to get yourself there.
2. Identify what’s standing between you and your goals.
This step should be easy. When we want something, the logical part of our brain is quick to jump in with all the reasons why we “can’t” or “shouldn’t” achieve our goal. Write all those reasons down!
The other benefit to this exercise is that you can begin distinguishing which of your obstacles are legitimate challenges and which your brain is making up for your benefit. Many of our fears turn out to be based on false logic or on unfounded predictions about what the future will be like. Eliminating those “fake problems” from the list can go a long way toward making a goal attainable.
3. Identify one small change you can make, and make it!
Our language is full of adages about how much time and effort anything worthwhile takes. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” “no pain, no gain,” “tomorrow you’ll wish you’d started today…” The lesson, of course, is that small, consistent actions move you forward faster and more reliably than trying to do everything all at once in a rush.
So take a look at your goal and break it down into a list of small actions will help you get there. Then pick one of those actions, and implement it!
If your goal is to obtain a degree, you might start by simply researching which type of degree you want to pursue. If your goal is to travel, set up a savings account with an automatic transfer to save $1 every day. If you want to change your diet and lose weight, start by making one different choice at breakfast for a week.
Each little action creates forward momentum that reinforces itself, helping you snowball each choice into a sustained, successful effort. Before you know it, your goal will seem much more attainable and you’ll be on your way to achieving it!
Is your dream to become a successful coach, but you’re afraid the risk might not pay off? Why not complete the steps above, and as your “small action,” schedule a call with one of our admissions coaches to discuss your goals and hesitations.