The Risky Business of Change

Trying something new means trading the security of a routine path for the exhilaration — and terror — of the unknown.

It’s not just our own terror that requires facing down. No one is an island. Any change you undertake will ripple through those closest to you. Here are three things to bear in mind that may help you temper your enthusiasm with a little empathy.

  • While you are feeling empowered and glorious in having just made the decision to shift something in your life, those around you are having your change thrust upon them. They weren’t with you as you moved through the stages of dissatisfaction, curiosity about what could be different, investigating options, and then making the final decision.
  • Your announced change could seem like a statement of condemnation about something others value or enjoy. Decisions around losing weight or giving up alcohol may not be embraced by your friends if overeating and drinking are a big part of your social life. At work, deciding to out-perform yourself or striving to win a productivity contest could put you in bad stead with those who see your new behaviours as threatening to their own standing – especially if your improved output raises the bar for the rest of the team.
  • Finally, there are those for whom any kind of change is traumatic. They may view your announcement with the same trepidation as a news bulletin stating the Earth will stop turning and your part of the planet will be thrown into a perpetual winter. For them, change is a big bad C word, second only to cancer in its negativity and guaranteed devastation.

While it’s important to be mindful of others’ feelings and help them adjust to your new goal or behaviour, this is not where your greatest resistance will come from. The hardest person to keep on the right track will be you. Old habits will begin poking at you as soon as your initial momentum flags or when you hit your first real obstacle. Negative self talk is a marvelous sabatoge method to get yourself off the hook. Watch what you tell yourself and be quick to substitute doubt-inducing thoughts with strong statements about what you want and what you are willing to do to make it real.

Managing change is not all doom and gloom and difficulty. The rewards are huge.

  • There is nothing like knocking down a few barriers and powering through obstacles to give one a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Exerting control over something in life is a great stress buster.
  • Each time you undertake and achieve a new goal, you increase your chances of success with the next.

So what do you want to make happen? Here are some of my favourite coaching questions to get you started.

What would you like to accomplish that looks impossible, but if it could be achieved, would change everything?

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do differently today?

What should you stop doing that is no longer working for you?


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