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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 is no certainties or guarantees – you then realise 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 are 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’ll be too hard”, “I won’t have enough support”, “I tried that before and failed”, “I won’t be able to pay the mortgage”. Fear has lots of different voices – doubt, criticism and self-recrimination – but it 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 big goals do turn your knees to jelly and make you break out in a sweat. You just need to want it more than you are scared of it.
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 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.
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 pounds? Make more time to see friends? Downsize and pay off your mortgage? Then structure a timeline: what landmarks along the way you’d like to hit for yourself? Three months from now, what will be different? Maybe you will be booking in for a specific exercise class every Monday, or have made space in your diary for a night out with friends, or registered with estate agents and a financial adviser.
Visualise The Outcome
Don’t think about the hassle of decluttering, instead visualise your 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 an inspiring image of what you are looking to achieve and stick it somewhere you’ll see every day to keep you focused.
If you do 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 – a tiny change that you commit to right now. So instead of saying “I will lose three stone by summer”, 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 too start getting ready for bed at 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.
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 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 who you can phone for a weekly check in and be accountable to – and who can be your cheerleader.
Remember that it’s not plan 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 it”. Don’t allow yourself to be the victim!
One tiny step
If you’re having trouble getting started and can’t face even a small step towards a 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 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 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. See it as making the journey as enjoyable as possible.
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 an Instagram and Twitter account 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 and keep an open mind and bend like a reed in the river – rather than being a stick that will just be broken. Theres 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.