How can we support ourselves through times of change?

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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 To Embrace New Challenges

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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 it all in the mindset?

When it comes to personal growth, our mindset is probably one of the most important tools that we have.  It affects the way we think, how we feel and therefore, how we act.   And we hear about mindset a lot these days.

You may have heard terms such as ‘fixed mindset’ or ‘growth mindset’, as these are now commonly used phrases to describe different ways of thinking (for more on these, read the brilliant book ‘Mindset’ by Dr Carol Dweck, where these terms were first discussed).

And the effect of mindset is also used to describe success or failure in specific areas of our lives, such as with the terms “scarcity mindset”, or “abundant mindset”.

Although these would seem to suggest that there are polar opposite modes of mindset, it doesn’t mean that we are one or the other.   We may have particular personality traits that lead us to be more prone to a fixed mindset, but there are other factors that affect this, such as our past experiences.   If we have had a number of setbacks, or if we feel unsupported or criticised when we get things wrong, then we will tend to have a lower level of confidence, which in turn affects how we think about new challenges.

But the good news is that we can learn skills and techniques that can help us have a more positive mindset, and which can lead to us being more likely to seek out new opportunities to learn and grow, and get out of our comfort zone.

My concern however is that a lot of the messages we hear right now are suggesting that this is a simple and instantaneous fix – we are surrounded by posts that say, “think positive” or “you can do anything you put your mind to”.

How often have you heard phrases like this and felt ‘ugh’.  If you’re in a place where you are feeling flat or uninspired, the thought of thinking positively can leave you frustrated. Or it may even make you feel worse, if you can’t seem to shift your mindset in that moment.

Undoubtedly, the way in which we approach any situation in our lives is affected by our mindset towards it.  If we go into a situation almost expecting it to be disappointing or that we may fail, then it becomes more difficult for us to be successful.   If we go into the same situation with a more open and relaxed mindset, we may not be any more likely to succeed, but we have less attachment to the outcome and can be more willing to learn from the experience, then we are more likely to give it another go the next time. And this is where we learn skills like resilience and strength – it isn’t about hitting the target first time, its about the journey we take to get there, and where that propels us on to next.

Over the next few weeks, I will be taking a deeper look into mindset – what does a fixed mindset look like and how does it affect our successes, how can we build a growth mindset, and also are there any other options around mindset – do we have to be going for growth all the time?

 

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