Anyone who has had intentions to change has most likely discovered that making lasting change isn’t always so easy. Often, much of what makes change so difficult isn’t anything external, but rather our own fears and doubts. In this article I’ll share with you some of the strategies that I use myself and with my clients to overcome fear of change.
1: Have A Dream
Psychologist Jerry Wesch once said, “If you have a big enough dream, you don’t need a crisis!” I couldn’t agree more.
The truth of the matter is that anyone who’s afraid of change is likely to experience one crisis after another. Fear of change typically express itself in your life as repeatedly running into the same challenges over and over again, be they physical, emotional, mental or spiritual in nature. There is an old saying that says, “If you do what you’ve always done – you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Or, as Einstein said, “you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.”
It is important to realize that anything you could be afraid of, be it change or otherwise can only be an idea you have in your head or body. People who are afraid of snakes will be frightened if they come upon a loosely coiled rope laying in their yard at night. They may scream, run, or beat the rope with a rake. Soon enough though, they realize that it was only their idea that they were afraid of, not the rope!
When we have no compass bearing, it is very easy to get lost in ourselves. Identifying a dream bigger than you is a necessary first step to overcoming fear of change. This dream need not be grandiose, or seemingly unachievable. It can be the dream of a healthier, more beautiful body. It can be the dream of becoming a better lover, friend, parent or business professional. Many triathletes I have worked with are very afraid that something in lakes, rivers or the ocean will bite them on the swim leg of their race or in training. But because they have committed themselves to the dream of being a triathlete (which requires that you finish the race), their dream of finishing, completing and fulfilling their dream gives them a solid compass bearing. They swim through their fears to get to their dream. Soon enough, they come to realize that their fears of the water were largely unfounded and manufactured in their heads. Each such step teaches us of the impermanence and limited power fear has over anyone who knows how to use his or her mind effectively.
The first essential to overcoming fear of change then, is to choose a dream or a goal that requires you to overcome one or more of the fears you are willing to work through at this time in your life. My father drowned when I was eight years old, which left me with a haunting fear of the water. When I was a soldier, I knew that there was a very real chance that should I have to enter battle, I could end up in dangerous situations in water with equipment strapped to my body. I knew that would be a terrible time to try to overcome my fear of the water. Therefore, I chose to take swimming lessons in the army. I set a goal for myself of swimming one mile comfortably. I found that as I became a better and better swimmer, my fear of the water diminished. Eventually, I not only became a triathlete, I swam across the Chesapeake Bay, which was just less than 5 miles in open water with strong currents. The fear of the water is now well managed.
2: Start With Your Body
Our bodies are filled with innate wisdom. We are a collection of some 100 trillion cells and the intelligence of these cells is a product of all biological life on earth. As you can imagine, every living cell needs:
Intelligence comes first from the body as instinct, and secondly from the mind as idea. Finally, we grow into the intelligence of the heart as intuition. There is no fear of change at the heart level, for intuitive intelligence is “open” and receptive. The fear of the mind is rooted in brain and biology, which is essential for the existence of our ideas, be they fear of change or otherwise. When the body is imbalanced for any reason, the entire organism works together to try to correct the condition. Any threat to the needs of the cells generates an instinctual fear of death. Such fears create messages that typically come as desires – desires for more water, better or more frequent food, temperature regulation, or the need to move and breath more effectively.
If your body is imbalanced in any way, and you’ve lost touch with it, the instinctual intelligence of your cells rises to the brain where it is often misinterpreted. This occurs because any message sent to your brain comes by way of energy, just as it does when you watch TV or use your cell phone. When the energy of cellular communication reaches your brain, it energizes your dominant “ideas.” If fear-based ideas are typically on the forefront of your mind, the cell’s message for help becomes interpreted as a greater reflection or awareness of your fearful ideas.
When I teach my students how to begin the change process, I always begin by encouraging them to love and nourish their body. Many are very surprised that as their body heals, many of their previous fears (including fears of change) simply vanish. In the process of loving and nourishing their body, they begin the change process in a way that is comfortable for them. Once balanced in body, they have the energy to let go of the body while they witness the activity of their mind; is it a snake, or is it a rope?
With a healthy body, we have the energy it takes to overwrite old programs that no longer serve us. Have you ever noticed how much energy it takes to truly pay attention? The term “pay” literally means that we spend energy to give our senses the energy to connect to any thing, be it an object or an idea. With your healthy body, you will have a safe foundation and the energy from which you can pay attention to any and all the ideas connected to your issues of fear of change.
3: Keep it Simple
Many people suffer fear of change because by the time they come to realize that change is needed, they are often very entangled. This typically shows up as addiction, eating disorders and/or diseases. The task, if you wait that long, can seem daunting; some find it easier to die than to change!
I encourage my students to keep it simple. If you look at your behavior with an honest eye, you are likely to find some or all of the following observations to be true:
- Most people have a tendency to eat the same foods and consume the same drinks over and over again, even when you know they aren’t good for you. Why? It gives one a perceptual sense of security. The devil you know seems better than the one you don’t know!
- Most people have a tendency to sit at the same place at the dinner table and if someone sits in their chair, it makes them uncomfortable or irritated. If one regularly goes to restaurants or a favorite coffee shop, you will notice that they probably go at roughly the same time of day, and that they prefer to sit at the same table every time. And, if someone is sitting in “your chair,” you get irritated. “Don’t they know they’re in my chair!”
- No matter where you travel to, in short order, your hotel room looks just like your bedroom. If your room is clean at home, it’s clean on the road. If your room is dirty at home, in short order it’s dirty on the road too.
To learn to overcome fear of change simply, easily and without threat to your being, I suggest you:
- Try new foods and drinks. Adding variety is not only a great way to learn the change process, it increases the likelihood you will bring in nutrients your body needs, which gives an improved sense of safety and security.
- Practice purposefully sitting at a different place at your table and in places you frequent. You may well find that there are two or three other spots with a better view! Once you’ve got that mastered, I suggest you start holding your fork in the opposite hand. This will show you how out of balance your body is with regard to left (female energies) and right (male energies). This is a simple process I’ve used with athletes to improve their awareness and motor skills and it’s very effective. Once you are balanced, you again feel more comfortable and capable in your body. Soon, you realize that indeed, you do have the ability to change your mind and the fear of change is now well on the way to being managed and transformed into a love of change.
4: Know What F.E.A.R. Is!
Fear is really an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Remember the snake…or was it a rope? By the very nature of mind, all ideas exist as partial realities. Each and every idea can only be 50% true. If you say you like something, this means that there is an equal opportunity not to like it. If you say something is hard, you are saying it is hard in reference to something else that is less hard. Therefore, the idea, any idea, is always incomplete. You couldn’t possibly make a hardness judgment unless it was rooted in a relative softer or harder judgment. If I pointed to a tree and asked you, “What’s that?” you would be likely to say, “that’s a tree.” If I said, “Is that all of it?” you’d probably be pretty convinced it was until I showed you a picture of a tree complete with its root system, which is typically bigger than the tree itself. If you were open to seeing the truth pointed out, you’d soon come to realize that all ideas are partial truths at best. That a rope looks like a snake is false evidence appearing real. That you can see the whole tree is false evidence appearing real. That your muscles are firm is only true until you touch someone who’s in much better shape than you.
To overcome your fear of change, it is essential to be willing to see more of the truth. What you will find is that all fears contain greater truths within them. Being willing to look into your fears and be honest as to whether they are real or not is a very powerful tool for overcoming fear of change. If you find that they are indeed legitimate fears, then one need only ask the right person for help. Knowledge is the best tool for overcoming any legitimate fear and I can assure you, when you are ready to change, you won’t have to look far to find the knowledge you need. You might find it at the other table!
5: Choose A Mentor
When we get clear on our dream(s), we gain levity. That levity helps us overcome the gravity produced by fear of change. Mentors should be people that have demonstrated mastery with the subject matter and nature of your challenge. They need not be alive or physically present. Most of my mentors, such as Rudolph Steiner, Buddha, Bill Timmons, ND, and many others are no longer alive. When we read books on any subject, that individual’s knowledge and love are there, but their body isn’t.
There are hundreds of living mentors alive too. The key to choosing a mentor is that their teaching style is amenable to your learning style. For example, if you have anger in you from being raised by a demanding, “do it now!” military father, you are unlikely to respond to a mentor with a military presence or teaching style. At the P~P~S Success Mastery Center, we have mentors of different styles and specialties so that students can choose the one that feels right for them.
A successful mentor has first hand, practical working knowledge of the change process—they themselves have lived the change process. To become worthy of being considered a mentor first, one must overcome his or her own fear of change. Choose the one that knows the path you choose to travel and one that suits your learning style and fear of change will soon be gone forever!