Change is hard isn’t it? That’s because any change worth doing requires discomfort of some description and unfortunately humans are very much hard wired to avoid discomfort.
Paradoxically however, not changing also involves discomfort – mostly in the form of unhappiness. And it brings to mind the adage: “change is hard, change is painful … but is there anything more painful than staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong?”
Since I spent a good two to three years of my life stuck ‘somewhere I didn’t belong’ (running a business when all I really wanted to do was create), I feel like somewhat of an expert on ‘not changing.’ And I know that while my reasons for ‘not changing’ were related to discomfort, there were a good few other mindsets that were also holding me back. I suspect if you’re in desperate need of change yourself, some or all of these mindsets might be to blame too.
So what are these mindsets and how do we go about tackling them so that we can effect change in our lives?
Mindset #1: We feel trapped/like we have no options
We’ve got families, mortgages, car loans and financial commitments galore. We’ve got people relying on us. All these things make us feel trapped – like we have no choice but to soldier on. Can I tell you from experience that soldiering on does not work well? And can I tell you from experience that you have So. Many. More. Choices than you think?
Got assets? You can sell them. Hate your business? Go work for the man. Struggling to pay the mortgage on your big house in the fancy suburb? Move to a smaller one.
If you’re reading the above and feeling an immediate sense of ‘no, I can’t do any of the above’, drill down to your core values. Are you about keeping up with the Joneses? Or having more time with your kids while they’re still young? Do you need to be ‘rich’? Or do you simply want to have ‘enough’?
Look, if you’re a relentless ‘keep up with the Joneses-er’, then apologies, you probably don’t have choices. You’re going to have to carry on living a life that’s making you unhappy. But if you’re not – take another look at the above. And note how freeing it is when you open your mind to just how many choices you actually have.
Often you don’t even need to make use of those choices – simply knowing they’re there is enough to remove that feeling of entrapment.
Mindset #2: I’ve tried changing but nothing works
Here’s the frustrating thing about change – it doesn’t yield results in a linear fashion. More often than not it is two steps forward, one step back. One step forward, one step sideways. You will make remarkable progress at some stage. And then it’s highly likely you’ll experience a significant regression. Don’t beat yourself up because this is normal. Make peace with this side of the process and remember the important thing is to just keep moving.
Mindset #3: This is just how life is
Us humans are nothing if not incredibly adaptable and it’s scary how fast a certain way of being can start to feel ‘normal’. I remember running my business and being mired in stress, anxiety and depression … and deciding that this was simply a part of being a business owner. So suck it up princess.
Being stressed out of your mind is not normal.
Being horribly unhappy is not normal.
When you find yourself in either of these states for a prolonged period of time, changes need to be made.
Mindset #4: I know changes need to be made, but I’m too exhausted
I totally get this one. Change takes energy and when you’re barely getting through each day, you sure as hell don’t have the energy to enact change.
In this situation you need to start small.
But please, do start.
Mindset #5: People won’t accept the changes I need to make unless things are desperate
I’m not usually one for regrets, but I did share this one with my therapist one day: I was embarrassed it took having a breakdown for me to make necessary changes in my life a few years ago. And a large part of the reason I pushed all the way to that point was because I felt people would be less accepting of the changes and/or feel really let down by me unless the reason I was pulling back was super-massive.
In other words, I felt extreme changes required extreme justification.
Ironically, last year I again found myself in a position where I had to make changes. This time I acted much earlier in the piece. And you know what? When I pulled back people felt let down by me and I felt really selfish. This was hard to deal with (because, you know, I want to be spectacular for everyone I come across in life). But in the end I had to remind myself that the changes I was making were to the benefit of the most important people in my life.
Those people who felt let down? They got over it.
Mindset #6: Surely if I just keep pushing I’ll get there
Where is ‘there’ exactly? And if you know where ‘there’ is … what’s going to be the cost of getting there?
Will the cost be worth it?
Mindset #7: I don’t deserve anything better than what I’ve got right now
This is a funny one isn’t it? We get so down on ourselves when we’re struggling that we truly think we don’t deserve better than what we have. Or we compare ourselves to refugees living in a war-torn country and think “well I have problems, but they’re nothing compared to what those people are going through …”
The pursuit of ‘happiness’ is often seen as a less than noble one so I offer this to you:
It’s hard to serve the world in a meaningful way if you’re unhappy; if you’re not able to be your best self. And lord knows, the world could benefit from as many of us as possible being our best selves.
Do you need to make some changes (big or small) in your life? What’s holding you back?