Why is change so hard?
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Last week, I made a big change. I took a risk that had been hovering in the wings for a long time now, waiting for its turn but being held very firmly back. As I did it, I felt a myriad of emotions. It’s too soon to see whether the risk will pay off, but when I took it I knew that I was okay with whatever happens, either way. Good or bad, success or failure, I just knew it was time to do it.
Making changes like this is hardly ever easy, but it’s not difficult to see why humans find taking a risk so difficult. Many, many years ago, there was a Caveman. Let’s call him Steve, just because I like the idea of a Caveman called Steve.
Steve didn’t have a job with long hours, a demanding boss or low pay. Steve didn’t have a girlfriend he needed to make time for or children who screamed when they didn’t get what they want. He didn’t have Facebook, or a mother-in-law, or Brexit to worry about. In fact, for Steve there was only one priority; staying alive.
Every day was a battle to hunt and avoid being hunted. His emotions were raw and uncomplicated. He acted on what his body told him. If Steve emerged from his cave and spotted a strange shadow one day, what was the most likely thing to go through his mind? His options were really only these; is this an innocent object such as a bush, or is it a dangerous animal waiting to pounce? So Steve, with his basic human instinct to stay alive, really only had one option. He needed to assume the worst because if he didn’t, he would be dead.
Much of what we do now is still based on these basic, cavemen instincts. We see risk and we see two outcomes. One is good, and one is bad. Our fear takes over and we decide the bad is just too much, far outweighing the good. Sometimes that serves us well, sometimes it really doesn’t.
There is a common misconception that many of us have a fear of the unknown. This isn’t strictly true. In fact, everything is unknown. We aren't afraid of not knowing what could happen, but we are afraid of the worst thing that could happen. For Steve, that made sense. The worst was death and that’s definitely not a risk worth taking.
But remember, you aren’t Steve. Whatever you decide to do, the worst isn’t going to happen, you’re not going to die. Even if things don’t go to plan, everything can be undone, nothing has to be permanent.
BUT more importantly, what if it goes right? What if actually, you get everything you hoped for; everything you ever wanted? Do you really want to close yourself off to that? Never experience something amazing because there is a tiny chance it may not happen?
So what helped me finally take the risk? Every day I work with amazing people. I see them battle with the Steve inside them, wanting so much for better things but so scared it might not work out. And then I see them overcome that fear, take huge leaps of bravery and welcome change and happiness into their lives. It would be impossible to not be inspired by them and I decided it was high time I did this for myself too. I can’t guarantee that taking my risk is going to work out, no one can of course, and I’m sure I will have times of panic and doubt.
But I will also never look back on my life and wonder what could have happened, and for me that would be so much worse. I don’t regret anything I have done, only the things I haven’t.
So what about you? What is it you want? A new job, a better relationship, a dream of a different life? That fear you are feeling is normal and it’s what makes you human. But if you listen to it too much, you are taking a much bigger risk. The risk of living a life where you never truly get what you want.
What are you waiting for?