Many people spend a lot of time and energy—even years—on wanting to make life changes, but never bring those changes to reality. So why is it so difficult for people to achieve or sustain the change they want? All changes—especially big ones—require stepping out of your comfort zone. Because they lack the skills to do so, many people never leave their comfort zones unless a new situation demands it. It simply requires too much effort, they don’t where to start, they’re plagued with self-doubt, or they feel paralyzed by fear. Often what pushes them out of their status quo is a crisis of some kind: an illness, a financial setback, death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss. All big changes—even positive ones like a major move, getting married, or a job promotion—push you out of your comfort zone. And because most people don’t understand the underlying barriers keeping them from moving forward in their lives, without a crisis forcing them to do so, they remain in their status quo, unable to pursue their dreams and goals.
When you’re standing on the edge of your comfort zone, you don’t know what lies ahead, so you’re forced to imagine what lies beyond those boundaries. In the absence of knowing, most people imagine the worst-case scenario, and that induces fear. At worst, fear can be paralyzing; at best, it’s uncomfortable. It takes a lot of courage to step outside your comfort zone and into the jaws of discomfort. So people procrastinate, rationalize, make excuses, and find ways to talk themselves out of a change that will take them into the unknown.
To begin the process of mastering change, here are five things you can do to help you override fear and move out of your comfort zone:
Instead of avoiding it, acknowledge and identify your fear. For example: I’m afraid I will fail or I’m afraid I’ll be rejected.
Identify the “gloom and doom” movie you’re running in your head. Ask yourself: What am I imagining will happen?
Do a reality check. Figure out if your fears have any real basis in fact.
Change the movie you’re running in your head with one that supports your goal rather than undermines it.
Identify the limiting belief about yourself or others that set the fear dynamic in motion. For example: I’m not good enough or People will hurt me and can’t be trusted.
Whenever you’re making a major decision like ending or committing to a relationship, taking a new job, moving to a new city, making a financial investment, or having another child—the more information you can bring to the process, the better you’ll feel about it. Take the time to think things through and trust your instincts. A decision made from an emotional reaction or a whimsical impulse can be fleeting and is not necessarily your best choice.
Here are 3 steps you can take to help you evaluate if a change you’re considering is a grounded and viable decision.
Weigh the pros and cons. Make a list of all the pros and cons related to making the change and evaluate them carefully. Once you have all the pros and cons listed, go back and rate each item listed on the pro side, using a scale of 1 to 10, based on its importance or value to you (1 is the lowest importance or value to you and 10 is the highest). Next rate each item listed on the con side, using a scale of 1 to 10, based on its degree of negative impact (1 is the lowest negative impact and 10 is the highest—a deal-breaker). Then add up the total in each column and compare them.
Check in with your intuition. Ask yourself: How does this sit with me? Your intuition is your instinctive knowing—or gut feeling—about whether or not something is right for you. It’s not a conclusion you reach based on reasoning or emotions. Emotions and intuition are very different. Your emotions can change from day to day, even moment to moment.
Ask the right questions. Ask yourself: Is this a decision that’s aligned with my capabilities, with my goals, with who I really am? How will it affect other aspects of my life? What are the logistics? Is the goal within my reach?
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© 2011 Lauren Mackler
Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach and author of the international bestseller Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. Sign up for her free Live Boldly e-newsletter at www.laurenmackler.com.