Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change

When you think of change, what images and feeling come to mind?  Do you think of the fall foliage of maple trees turning bright orange and red?  Do you remember the feeling of pure excitement running through your whole body the day you moved on campus and began a new life as a university student-- or traveled overseas for the first time-- or when you got your first acting break replacing the star performer in a major play?

Or does the word “change” bring back the sweaty palms and pounding heart of your first deep-sea dive-- or your first day at a new school in a new town as a child-- or when you knew deep inside that you were no longer satisfied with a way of life you’d lived for many years?

Are you afraid of the crack in the shell of your life?  Or are you eagerly peering through this new opening to a life with more expansive and fulfilling possibilities?

Whatever your perspective on change, one sure thing is that it will keep happening and knocking at your door.  The question is, will you embrace it and see what it offers?  Or will you turn away, vulnerable and fearful, from from this calling, trying to keep yourself small and untouched?

The people I’ve worked with as a career and life coach contacted me because they’d felt for some time that they needed to make a change in their jobs and the way they lived. How did they know this?  Some said they’d had significant dreams, body signals (stress, pain, illness), and other signs (e.g., lack of interest, burnout at work), forcing them to realize that their existing life patterns no longer felt meaningful.

They resisted change, however, because of the equally strong counterforce of fear-- of loss (of a job, a relationship, status, family/societal approval, control); of failure (not reaching their dreams); and of the unknown.

Their resistance to the upwelling clamor for change within themselves came at a high cost, though. One woman I worked with in a software firm kept taking sick leaves and had occasional difficulty completing projects for which she was responsible. She was terrified of being fired, though she also longed to be, and the emotional stress was overwhelming. As we examined her situation, I asked her what it was she feared the most. “Not knowing what I want to be doing instead,” she responded.

It’s understandable that we cling to the known for its predictability, comforts, and societal approval. However, when the emotional pain of this clinging becomes too great, we have the opportunity — with the right kind of support — to choose to move past fear into our potential for living and working authentically and well.

The urge towards change, which is natural and inevitable, can be surfed like a wave in a new way, to a new destination.  Change can also be mindfully observed and simply allowed to happen, as when turning leaves feel their hold on the tree loosen, and they float down to their next incarnation on the earth.

Change can be our inspiration towards transforming ourselves and our lives into the happiness of living and working from our true nature.  For most of us, however, embracing change requires outer support and inner attentiveness to face the fears that inevitably arise and to allow its gifts to manifest for us.  As Brené Brown says in her book, The Gifts of ImperfectionWe don’t change, we don’t grow, and we don’t move forward without the work.  If we really want to live a joyful, connected, and meaningful life, we must talk about things that get in the way.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic in more depth, please join me in my upcoming Teleclass, “Success with Soul - - Transforming the Fear of Change” on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at 12 Noon Pacific Time.  To register, click here!