How can we support ourselves through times of change?

An image of a young person in a confident pose

There’s nothing as certain as change, so they say.  So you’d think we would be able to navigate it with ease, the more we get used to it.  But of course, we know that change can be uncomfortable, and we may even actively avoid it.

But there are ways in which we can support ourselves to make any transition a little easier.

Accept that change is an inevitable part of life.

Our mindset can be the most important tool, so the more comfortable we get with the idea of change, the easier it can be for us to anticipate the changes that will be required.

Take control where you can.

Not all change will be of our own making, and it can be challenging when change gets forced upon us.  And when we feel that things are happening outside of our control, it can feed all sorts of negative thoughts.  But there is always a choice in how we react to the situations we find ourselves in.  We can choose to feel defensive, or we can choose to give it a chance.  If we are really unhappy with the situation that change has led us to, we have the choice to look for an alternative path.

Accept that failure or detours are normal.

Along with being comfortable with change, our mindset around failure is also really important.  If we spend a long time avoiding change because of our fear of failure, we can become stuck and feel hopeless.  Similarly, if we spend a lot of time going over and over our failures, without learning the lessons that comes with them, then that can hold us back too.

The bigger the goal, the likelier it is that you will have a detour or two along the way.  So again, anticipating that our plans may need reviewing from time to time will set us up to deal with hiccups as they arise, and ultimately get us to where we want to be quicker.

Stay in balance.

When we are going through a transition or change, it can be helpful to find some part of our lives which is stable and settled that we can retreat to.  Whether that is spending time on activities that we can lose ourselves in, or spending time with positive and uplifting people, having some time away can help us to process and rebalance.

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Why Do We Resist Change?

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None of us want to stay the same forever.  But it can be hard to make changes, even when we know we need to.  So why do we resist change?

Some of the most common blocks and barriers are quite obvious when we think about change.  Namely fear.  And more fear!

Fear of the unknown.  Fear of failure.  Fear of getting it wrong.  Fear of looking stupid, or worrying about what other people will think.  These are the most common ones that we all experience at some point.

If you’ve ever experienced change, then it’s likely that you’ve come across many feelings like this.  And it’s completely normal.  When we choose to step outside of our comfort zone, we are entering into the world of the unknown.  And when we’re faced with the unknown, our brain can go into overdrive, as it tries to keep us safe.

This is a good thing, because it can stop us from taking unnecessary risk or putting ourselves in harms way.

But some element of fear can also be beneficial, because this is where we learn the most.  And overcoming that fear can be lead to a new level of confidence.  Adrenaline sports and activities for example give us a big old dose of dopamine, and give us a natural high.  And if you’ve ever challenged yourself to do something really scary, the confidence buzz you felt afterwards was possibly worth all the worry beforehand?  Maybe.

But there can also be some other side effects of change that we may not have considered.  For example, sometimes making a positive change for ourselves, can affect how others see us.  And we might (consciously or otherwise) not want to put ourselves in a position where we stand out.

Rather than worry about what people might think if we fail, we also worry about what they’ll say if we succeed.

We might feel that if we succeed at something, other people might not accept us, or we might not fit in anymore.

Again, this links into the fear element.   But a fear of success is probably less talked about.  It could be something to consider, if you’re feeling some resistance to change, but can’t work out why.

Either way, accepting that feeling uncomfortable is a part of the change process can help us to anticipate it more, or put in some safety factors.  If we anticipate what might happen, we can plan for it.

We can’t foresee everything that could possibly go wrong of course, none of us are fortune tellers.  But we can be more welcoming to change with a little practice.

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How Do We Transition Through Change?

An image showing the stages of transition from chrysalis to butterfly

Change.  We all experience it, whether we like it or not. 

And even when it is change of our own choice, it can still be difficult to transition through it.  

This month, I’ll be looking at the theme of ‘change’, because it seems that no matter how often we experience change, or how welcome it is, there are still blocks and barriers that we might encounter…or even put up for ourselves.   Even when we know change is going to bring something positive.  So why do we do it?

There are a number of models of change, and what they all have in common is that they talk about the various stages that we go through, if we want to make change work.  You might recognise some of these phases in some of the situation you’ve encountered:

Pre-contemplation

This is the phase before change,  when we’re either blissfully unaware or blinded to the fact that we need to change.  But we are most likely feeling the impact, either we feel stuck or we’re getting negative feedback from our life, which alerts us to the fact that something needs to  change.

Contemplation

This is where we start to think about what changes we need to make.  And more importantly, we  start to identify the positive things that could come from making change.  If you’re looking to make a change in habit or behaviour, this is really key, because focussing on what we will gain  can be a strong motivator.

Preparation

The preparation stage is exactly how it sounds. This is when we start planning, research and collecting information in readiness for making change.  Being prepared is great, as it helps us to set realistic timelines or goals, but it can be an easy phase to get stuck in.  We can be in danger of putting all our time and energy into planning, without actually getting started.

Action

By this stage, we’re already on the way to taking direct action towards our goals.  Even if we start small, once we get started, it’s much easier for progress to build.  We might need to experiment or take baby steps at first.  The important thing is that we keeping moving forward.

Maintenance

Another key step in making lasting change, is being able to maintain it.  How often do we aim for something, then lose momentum once we’ve achieved it?  If our main outcome is reaching a specific goal, it can be very easy to let our habits and routine slip.  Having a plan for maintaining change can help to keep you on track.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be looking at how we can make change work positively for us, and how we can deal with the blocks that can get in the way.

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Watch out for those who don’t cheer when you win

An image of cheerleaders supporting each other

Going through any kind of change can be tough, even when we feel fairly confident.  So having a cheerleading squad of people around us can really help.  But what happens when those closest to us aren’t cheering?

We should feel supported by those who are closest to us, right?

Sometimes the people who are the most unhelpful are the very people that you would think should be there for you. Whether this is your partner, friends or family, it can really hurt when you feel like you’re having to deal with unsupportive, or even sabotaging, loved ones. Sometimes people don’t share your enthusiasm or vision, or for whatever reason they may feel threatened or worried that what you are gaining from achieving your goals, might take you away from them. Or maybe it highlights an area in their own life where they feel inadequate or insecure, and they could be jealous that you are doing something about it.

I love to see Instagram stories where people are sharing their big and little wins, and it’s also great to see the support that people (often random strangers) give each other.  So it’s sad when you read that people are talking about it on their page because they don’t feel they are getting that support from their loved ones, or they’ve lost friends who are jealous of their achievements or new found confidence.

Realising that not everyone has your best interests at heart is a tough lesson to learn, but you have to keep going to reach your own achievements.  Even if it means doing it alone, or finding support in another form – go find your cheerleaders!

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How To Embrace New Challenges

An image of a hand crossing monkey bars

If you’re looking to make some changes or if you’re feeling stuck, introducing some challenges can be a great way to kickstart change.  Here’s some tips on how to embrace new challenges, and forge ahead!

Accept that a new challenge should be hard…but not insurmountable.   

The purpose of actively choosing to stretch ourselves is the fact that we want to make some sort of growth.  And this will mean becoming uncomfortable.  So be prepared for this.  But it shouldn’t be so much that it completely overwhelms you.

Choose your hard. 

The key is to work out how uncomfortable you are prepared to get.  The bigger the stretch, the more likely it is that your new challenge will involve more time and energy.  So how much are you willing to invest, compared with what you want to achieve?

It doesn’t have to feel like it’s hard work. 

Try choosing challenges around things that you enjoy first, before hitting the really big ones.  We are more likely to stick with something if it involves what we enjoy.   

Appreciate that growth is important if we want to stay physically and mentally alert as we get older. 

If you’re used to thinking that someday in the future, everything in your life will be sorted and you’ll reach a plateau, then you might not see the point of putting yourself through new challenges.  But our bodies and brains need to keep going and as we naturally start to decline,  and our normal functioning will require maintenance.

The more challenges we expose ourselves to, the more we become used to dealing with change. 

The process of taking on a challenge can help to strengthen our resilience and confidence, which means that when we are faced with those unexpected life events or situations, we have a much stronger foundation, and sense of self.  We start to learn how best to support ourselves through challenges, and we become aware of what we need when we’re stressed.  We see that if we’re not getting enough rest or balance for example, then things become out of sync.

So, if you are thinking about making some changes or want to shift, try undertaking some form of small challenges.  Start small by looking at how you can improve on something you already do….this could be a fitness goal, or a daily activity.  Or start adding in some tasks to your weekly routine…start a conversation with someone new,  or visit an unfamiliar place.  

By embracing new challenges, rather than fearing them, we can spark a more creative and curious mindset.  And as you become more comfortable with change, the more you can expand your challenges.

Is Your Comfort Zone A Bit Too Comfortable?

An image of a person wrapped up in a comfy duvet

There’s no better feeling than being all cozy and comfortable, is there? But is your comfort zone a bit too comfortable?

I’ve been talking about challenge this month, as it’s an appropriate theme if you are looking for personal development. Because all of our growth comes through some form of challenge.

But sometimes we’re all good where we are.

Particularly if you’ve been through a rough time already. Maybe external events have taken the stuffing out of you. And goodness knows, we’ve all had our share of that.

In fact, we need some time to recalibrate and catch up with ourselves. Assimilate the learning, if you like.

And it can feel good to just relax and enjoy living for a while, without the stress of having to ‘do’ or ‘be’.

But it’s very tempting when we get into this state, to stay there. And the longer we do, the more difficult it can be to change.

If we’re not used to getting out of our comfort zone every now and then, we can become prone to not trying. We start to experience doubts about our ability. The fear kicks in. We may even actively avoid situations that we know will make us uncomfortable.

We might develop behaviours that we think are keeping us safe. But in fact, these may lead us to avoid taking any action. And because our fears aren’t being tested, we fuel the unhelpful thoughts that keep us stuck.

Have a think about the last time you took on a new challenge.

  • Was it by choice, or did it feel forced?
  • How did you feel before you started? Were you excited about the new opportunity, or did you feel some resistance?
  • How did you feel once you got going? Did it feel better or worse than you expected?
  • Are you more or less likely to take on another challenge now?

We will experience different challenges in different ways. And some will be more welcome than others.

The key is to find a balance between feeling comfortable, whilst still choosing to stretch ourselves.

Next time, I’ll be sharing some ideas of how we can introduce challenge in a more comfortable way, if you need a little nudge out of your comfort zone!

 

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When Does A Challenge Become A Problem?

A small child stands at the bottom of a staircase

We all know that in order to grow, we need to do things we haven’t done before, or that we’re not entirely comfortable with.  But when does a challenge become a problem? And what’s the difference between the two?

Often when we’re faced with a challenge, we see it as a barrier or a problem which is going to stop us moving forwards.  If we’re setting out to achieve a goal, then we’ve usually planned our route and have an idea of where we want to be to, and how we’re going to get there.

But things are rarely that straightforward.  Life happens, and other things get in the way. We might need to make a detour, or rethink our plans.

This much is fairly inevitable.  Think about some of the biggest achievements that you’ve experienced.  Would to say it was an easy and effortless journey?  Or did you need to make some adjustments?

And when you think about that achievement, would it have still felt as special if you hadn’t been tested, or overcome things that you encountered on the way?  I’m guessing not.

And if you have had an experience like this, then it may well have changed your opinion about how you feel about challenges.  Because the more challenges we experience and overcome, the more confident we feel about starting new things.

And we are far more likely to appreciate those things we had to work for, than those which didn’t take as much effort.

But what about problems?  A problem is also something that can cause a barrier or blockage in our progress.  But the real difference between a challenge and a problem is our mindset towards it.

Often when we’re faced with something we perceive to be a problem, we become far more despondent about it.  A problem can involve situations or issues which are outside of our control, as opposed to a challenge which might be calling on us to stretch our own abilities.

Or perhaps we have become so rigid in our thinking that we struggle to see a way around the problem, because we’re lacking in the creativity we need to change course.

When we are active participants in our self development, then challenges are vital in providing us with opportunities to develop new skills and build our inner strength.  It also helps us to be a more open thinker, and helps us to consider the various routes to meeting an outcome, rather than focusing on one sole possibility.

If you find that you get easily put off when things don’t go to plan, or you find it difficult to see how you can overcome issues, then taking some steps introduce challenges into your life can help you to work on growing your confidence.

The more we seek to actively welcome challenges, the more used to them we become.  And we become more aware of our limitations and our potential.

Be willing to take that first step and embrace challenge, and you’ll gain far more than you could by staying where you are.

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How To Keep The Holiday Vibes Going

A beach scene recreated at home

When you’re on to a good thing, you want to keep it going, right?  But how can we keep the holiday vibes going?

I posted before the summer and asked about what memories you wanted to create, and hopefully you’ve got a few good ones to keep you going.

But the back to work/school routine and shorter days could well be starting to feel a drudge by now.

Here are a few ideas on how to relive the feel-good summer vibes, if the sunny memories are starting to fade.

Switch up your routine. 

Now we’re back in the old routine, you might need to inject a bit of novelty into your week to avoid things becoming same-y.  Try and think about how different your day to day routine looks when your on holiday….leisurely breakfasts or relaxing mealtimes, getting outside for walks, exploring new places.

Think about how you can incorporate this – even if it’s just planning a leisurely weekend brunch or walk, if the weekdays are too hectic.

Become a local tourist. 

Being restricted to our local areas during lockdown meant that we had to be a bit more creative about where we visit.  Perhaps there are some local attractions or activities that you’ve always meant to explore.  Or perhaps you’ve always fancied fruit or pumpkin picking?  Check out what’s happening in your local area and get some things in the diary.  Having fun things to look forward to can help when you’re having a dull week.

Dream on Dreamer. 

If your feet are itching to stuck into some warm sand, rather than trek around your local park in the rain, you can spend some time daydreaming of distant shores.  You might want to create a visualisation that you can use during meditation…you can imagine the palm trees rustling in the breeze as you’re swaying in a hammock, or feel the warm heat from the sun on your skin.  And if you want to make it a reality, why not start a vision board and plan your ideal break…sometimes planning an adventure can be just as much fun as going.

Immerse your senses. 

Recreate your favourite sounds, smells and flavours from your most memorable trips.  Make up a playlist of your favourite holiday tunes.  Buy a room fragrance or skincare scented with exotic florals or woody tones.  Research your favourite dishes and get cooking (or drinking, cheers!).

Some really simple little ideas like these can help to inject a little joy into the everyday, and can really give you a boost when you’re feeling a bit dull.

 

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Finally decide that you are an adult

Image shows an adult woman in thoughtful pose


“Finally decide that you are an adult who is going to devote the rest of your life to making progress”.

I love this quote from Epictetus, which was kindly shared in the London Writers Salon newsletter this week.

This well-known Stoic quote in its entirety is a call to action about examining our part in feeling unnoticed and unenlightened, and if you ever need a motivational kick up the bum, then check it out.

But I thought that this final sentence also sums up the concept of lifelong learning perfectly.  And how it isn’t ‘just’ about achieving, but also the pursuit of progress and taking responsibility that matters.

With the last 100 days of 2021 approaching, where can you decide to be an adult?

 

Photo credit:  @kalljet via Unsplash.com

Why not have a go this month?

Motorcycles with learner plates

Did you know that September is the Festival of Learning’s ‘Have A Go’ month?  In celebration of lifelong learning and self development, it’s encouraging people to try new things.

I have long been an advocate for lifelong learning and I believe that our education shouldn’t stop when we leave school.

And whether you consider learning to be education in the formal sense, such as gaining qualifications etc., or whether you are interested in learning more about yourself and how you can get the best out of life, education and evolving is key.

Just as the world around us evolves, so do we. So should we.  We’re not the same people we were when we were younger.   Situations and experiences shape us.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

We are constantly evolving.

The positive side of that is that we have the opportunity to choose what we become.  Our resources may be limited at times and we may need support to do it, but ultimately, we have the power to change our experience.

And without learning, we stagnate.  Physically and mentally.  We lose motivation and desire quickly if we’re not stimulated and engaged with the world or the people around us.  And it can be difficult to get it back.

Trying new things brings novelty, and our brains love novelty.

Research has shown that we are much more likely to stick at a new habit or skill if it involves something new.

During lockdown, many people have struggled with motivation, and after months of being stuck at home without routine or structure, it can be hard to get yourself back out there again.  So trying something new could be one way to take small steps.

Whether it’s a new activity we’ve never tried before, or perhaps doing something familiar in a different way, we can build our interest back up.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to have a go at?  Perhaps a new skill or ambition, or just greater awareness of self?  Something to improve your health or wellbeing, or open doors to new opportunities?

Sign up for a class, join a group, try a taster event…you never know where it might lead!

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