We all have things we would like to be different, but why is that so much easier said than done? Life coach and author Carole Ann Rice has some good tips to make change happen and kickstart the process…
Accept that all change is scary!
Ever heard the phrase, “The certainty of misery is better than the misery of uncertainty?” Deciding to change something feels scary because we fear the unknown. But when you accept that we have no idea what is going to happen each day – and there are no certainties or guarantees – you then realise that you cope with the unknown all the time. Do you remember learning to drive? At your first lesson, you didn’t even know where the brakes were. But soon you were driving without even thinking about it. However challenging a period of change seems, it will eventually become familiar.
See fear for what it is
If you want to make a change but feel held back, make a list of your fears. Supposing you want a job change, you might think: “I’ll never find someone else to employ me”; “It will be too hard”; “I won’t have enough support”; “I tried that before and I failed”; “I won’t be able to pay the bond”. Fear has lots of different voices – doubt, criticism, an d self-recrimination – but if you name your fears and recognise that it’s just fear rather than reality, you’ll have more room to concentrate on what you want to change. Remember that big goals do turn your knees to jelly and make you break out in a sweat. You just need to want them more than you are scared of them.
Pick your goal
It helps to clarify your aims, so actually write down what specific things you want to change. Do you want to lose a certain number of kilos? Make more time to see friends? Downsize and pay off your bond? Then structure a timeline: what are the landmarks along the way you’d like to hit for yourself? Three months from now, what will be different? Maybe you’ll be booking in for a specific exercise class every Monday, or you have made space in your diary to have a night out with friends, or you have talked to estate agents and met with a financial adviser.
Allow yourself to be a beginner
Most new things involve a certain amount of discomfort, so aim to become “comfortable with discomfort” to increase your tolerance. Accept that you won’t immediately be brilliant at something new – we all have first days: of work, at a dance or sports class, or of adjusting to a new family dynamic for all kinds of reasons. Be kind and allow yourself to acknowledge those ,. new girl” feelings. Start slowly, and adjust to build confidence.
Visualise the outcome
Don’t think about the hassle of decluttering; instead, visualise your new streamlined, organised space. If you are nervous of walking into a room full of strangers for your first book group, imagine how brilliant it will feel when you’ve made new friends. Find inspiring image of what you are looking to achieve, and stick it somewhere you see every day to keep you focused.
If you do just one thing… think micro
One of the reasons our resolutions to change things can fail is because we resolve to do too much – and are too general. The solution? Make micro-resolutions – tiny changes that you commit to right now. So instead of saying “I will lose 20 kilograms”, say “I won’t eat biscuits at work” or “I won’t eat after 8pm”. Instead of saying “I will keep the house neat all the time”, resolve to always make your bed before breakfast.
Instead of saying “I’m going to get more sleep”, resolve to start getting ready for bed by 10pm. Resolving to change one tiny thing makes it easy for that to become a habit. It also means that bigger, knock-on changes start to happen, too.
Remember that it’s not plain sailing for anyone
We all have knocks; the secret is how you respond to them – and not to let them be the blueprint for the future. If you are finding it hard to change something, whatever you do, avoid thinking things like “It’s all right for them! They’ve got a rich husband”, or “But they’re already thin. Poor me; I can’t do it”. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim!
Take one tiny step
If you’re having trouble getting started and can’t face even a small step toward change, aim instead for a millimetre of a step; the tiniest nudge in the right direction. I had a client who was scared of driving, and I suggested that she just go and sit in the driving seat. Nervous about public speaking? Go to the place where the event will be held and look at the room. It sounds like nothing, but starting the process of change will make the next step easier.
Give yourself a cashmere safety net
It’s so easy to allow your inner critic to humiliate you, to tell you that you’re useless, and likely to fail. But being gentle and compassionate with yourself means you’re far more likely to do something positive and have a better outcome. Try saying, “Whatever happens, I will forgive myself.”
And if something doesn’t work first time, don’t be afraid to have another go. Accept that change is a process, and an investment of time, and allow yourself to go through the steps of change without giving up or being self-critical. Simply see it as making the journey as enjoyable as possible.
Prepare for success
Doing things by yourself can be lonely. If you’re making a big change, try to find some support. Maybe you’ve left your job to go freelance, or are trying to start your novel: think about starting a Facebook page, or weekly group for other freelancers. Maybe you’re retraining or starting an exercise programme: find a buddy whom you can phone for a weekly check in and be accountable to – and who can also be your cheerleader.
Let go of the past
It’s tempting to look for evidence from the past that something didn’t work and therefore won’t work again: “I joined a yoga class last New Year, but it was too hard to get there, so I gave up after a few weeks”. Or “I got Instagram and Twitter accounts, but never used them because I didn’t have time to really get used to how they worked.”
But holding on to the past is a way of fighting change. So try to keep an open mind and bend like a reed in the river – rather than being a stick that will just break. There’s no point in saying “I can’t understand technology or social media”. Instead, say “I’m going to learn”, and remind yourself that your brain is capable of learning new things until the day you die.
Carole Ann Rice is co-author of the book Start Your Dream Business: Secrets of Successful and Happy Entrepreneurs