I’m not someone who’s traditionally been all that comfortable with change.
My mom likes to tell a story from when I was 10 and we were having some work done on our house. We needed new doorknobs, so she took me to the doorknob store (or wherever it is that you buy doorknobs from) to help her make this critical decision. Out of the huge selection of doorknobs of all shapes and sizes, I somehow managed to find the exact same ones we already had and thought they were perfect.
So yeah, I like things to feel familiar. Familiar is comfortable. And it’s often hard for me to make a change when the familiar option is still right there in front of me, even when I think the change will be positive. For whatever reason, I resist it.
But the past 11 months have seen some BIG changes my life. Here are some of the biggest:
- I lost the only job I had worked since college (November 2013).
- I decided to start my own business (November 2013).
- My second son was born (December 2013).
- We moved from Boston, MA, my home for 29 years, to Pensacola, FL (March 2014).
- My wife’s counseling practice here in Pensacola had been so successful that we’re now adapting our plans to allow her to work more days, which means I’ll be spending more days with the kids (ongoing).
Some of these changes were forced (losing my job). Some were chosen (starting a business, moving to Pensacola). None of them have been easy, but they’ve all taught me a lot about how to handle change and the benefits of being willing to make big, uncomfortable changes.
Why am I scared of change?
I think my fear of change is the same as a lot of people’s. It’s basically a fear of the unknown.
As long as my current situation is bearable, there’s a comfort in simply knowing what to expect. I know the pros and cons. I have all my little workarounds for the things I know are broken. I know what steps I’m going to take tomorrow because I’ve already taken them thousands of times before.
Change flips all of that on its head. I don’t know what this new situation is going to be like. I don’t know how to cope with the problems that are going to come up. I don’t know what my next steps are or whether I’m capable of taking them. There’s just so much uncertainty, and that uncertainty has a way of paralyzing me and causing me to avoid the change altogether.
Familiarity feels safe, even when I don’t really like it or when I think there’s something more enjoyable or more fulfilling out there. Change feels dangerous, even when there’s the hope that it can lead to something better.
For years I’ve let the fear win out over the hope. But my experiences over the past year have me thinking a little bit differently.
What I’ve learned from all this change
Over the past 11 months I’ve been trying to embrace the change instead of running from it. It’s not that I’m more comfortable with it or less afraid of it, it’s just that I’m trying to acknowledge the fear and move ahead anyways.
It’s been challenging. Some of the change has been harder than I thought it would be (like having a second child). But some it of has been a lot easier than I expected, and all of it has taught me some big lessons.
Change will happen whether you choose it or not
The truth is that we don’t really have any say over whether or not our lives will change. They will.
Your life is going to be different in 1 year than it is today. It will be even more different in 5 years, and even more so in 30 years.
The question isn’t whether or not your life will change. The question is whether you’re willing to take control over what that change will be. You can either let it happen and live with the results, or you can make it happen and decide the results.
Even difficult changes can be handled
Probably the hardest change for me to make was moving to Florida. More than anything I hated leaving my parents. They mean the world to me, and I love being close to them. And in the two years that my son Aiden was alive before we moved, he had developed a really special relationship with them.
Even though I knew it wasn’t completely true, moving to Florida felt like I was taking their grandkids away. I knew how special it was for them to be so involved in Aiden and Nolan’s lives, and I knew how much it hurt that they wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. At least not in the same way. It killed me.
And you know what? I like it here in Florida, but that part of it still hurts. A lot. I still wish it was different. But even so there’s also the reality that we can handle it. We were able to spend 2 weeks with them up in Cape Code during July and August, and they recently came down to visit us for an extended weekend. And there are regular Face Time and Skype sessions that keep us in touch.
It’s not the same, and it’s definitely not ideal, but it’s manageable. Most change is.
A good support system is huge
After I lost my job back in November, I had a big decision to make: find another job (the safe and familiar route) or start my own business (the exciting and terrifying route).
It was a tough call, but what ultimately made the decision for me was the support of my wife. She knew that what I really wanted was to start my own business, but that I was scared that it might put our family in a stressful financial situation. So she took it upon herself to tell me over and over that we could handle it, that she believed in me, and that we would be fine. It was that support that pushed me over the hump and got me to overcome my fear of the unknown and start my business.
Similarly, the move to Florida has been much easier because my parents are so supportive. Even though it hurt them a lot to see us go, they have done everything they could to show their love and help us with the transition. My mom actually watched Aiden while my Dad came to our Boston apartment to load up the moving man. Talk about support!
And my business is more successful because of the people I’ve met who are on a similar journey and are willing to share their experiences and advice with me. I’ve learned much more from them in a much shorter period of time than I possibly could have on my own, which is making it more likely that this business will actually succeed.
Change is a lot easier when there are supportive people around you helping you through it. I wouldn’t have been able to manage everything that’s happened in the past year without that help.
Change is the only way to make things better
This is a pretty simple reality. If there’s something in your life that you wish was better, the only way to make it better is to make a change. You simply HAVE to face the fear of the unknown if you want to improve your situation.
This is true of money. It’s true of our relationships. It’s true of our hobbies. It’s true of our careers. It’s true of anything we could possibly want to improve.
And really, this is the biggest lesson I’ve learned. I can spend as much time as I want dreaming about something better, but the only way it’s going to happen is if I’m willing to take action and make a change. I can either change or remain stuck. It’s up to me.
So I’m doing my best to face my fears and embrace the change. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I’m finding that it’s a much more fulfilling path.
What about you? Are you generally afraid of change like me or do you embrace it? What’s something in your life that you would like to be different but haven’t been able to make the change happen yet?