Have you been thinking about making a change in your life, but for some reason, you can’t seem to pull the trigger? You’re not alone. I’ve been there too, knowing there is something else I should be doing but not quite able to make the leap. After much, much soul searching, I’ve found that while there can be some very legitimate reasons to wait to make a change, there are other reasons that are a little less based in reality and more based on listening to the not-so-helpful voices in your head. Here’s how you can tell the difference, and what to do about it.
Fear and its antidote
Is it fear? This is the trickiest one to diagnose because fear is a shapeshifter and can look like a lot of other things. On the surface, your fear-based reasons can look entirely legitimate, and you can talk yourself into believing they are real. Here’s a hint: if your basis for not making a change starts with “I can’t…” or “I’m too (fill in the blank),” there’s a good chance that fear is behind it.
- “I can’t start a business…because I carry the insurance in our family.”
- “I’m too old…to change careers now.”
- “I can’t change jobs… because I’ll never match my salary anywhere else.”
Fear is natural. It’s normal. It keeps us from doing stupid things, like walking down dark alleys at night or petting alligators. But sometimes fear goes into overdrive and takes over.
A clue that big bad fear may be leading the way is that you can’t make a decision. Or you develop a bad case of “grass is greener” syndrome – you keep coming up with better ideas and never commit to any of them.
So, what’s the antidote for fear? Knowledge. Fear is always stronger in the absence of knowledge, in the unknown. Afraid you can’t make enough money to cover the insurance? Start researching insurance options. Worried that you are too old to start over? Take one online class related to your new vocation and see if it lights you up. Afraid you can’t afford to change jobs? Maybe you’re looking at the wrong positions. Start researching jobs at the next level up and throw your hat in the ring.
Read articles, ask questions, and take notes. Shine a light on fear and watch it scamper away.
Is it Guilt?
Still feeling queasy about making your move? Maybe it’s guilt. Trust me, I’m an expert at this one. This one may take some counseling. Some of us were raised to think that wanting more is a bad thing. If your reasoning includes the phrase, “I should just be grateful for what I already have…” you are in the guilt trap.
I’d like to tell you to stop. Immediately. You were designed for more than you are today, more than you can imagine. But I know from experience that it’s almost impossible to quit feeling guilty cold turkey.
Guilt is self-imposed, but the cure often comes from others. Get support from people who love you. Choose a few of your most encouraging friends and ask them what they think. Let them tell you how amazing you are. And here’s the key: believe them.
Are you Overwhelmed?
Is it overwhelm? Overwhelm is a close cousin of fear. Sometimes a big dream just seems too darn big and looking at it all at once makes for sweaty palms and heart palpitations. The best way to deal with overwhelm is to break things down into smaller, more digestible chunks. How do you do that? Start at the end and work your way backward. Take a piece of paper and write your big goal at the top. On the next line, ask yourself: for this great big goal to happen, what would need to happen just before that? And just before that? And just before that?
When you get to the bottom of the page (or pages), you have your first step. Take it. Finish it, then take the next. And the next. Don’t look up at the top of the list too often, just focus on what’s right in front of you and keep taking tiny steps forward. You’ll be amazed when you do look back at what you have accomplished.
Timing really is everything
Finally, is it a legitimate timing issue? Life is made up of seasons. You may be caring for an elderly parent and barely keeping your head above water. You may be ill yourself and need this season to focus on self-care. This is okay. It’s okay to put your dreams on hold, just don’t let them die. Journal about it. Keep a notebook and jot down ideas when you’re inspired. Tuck in articles that you’ve ripped out of magazines, business cards you’ve collected as “someday” connections, and anything else that gets you dreaming.
Tell yourself that you are in the due diligence phase. You’re researching, thinking, planning. Take days off from the research when you need to but have that notebook handy. When the time is right, you’ll know it, and you’ll have all your notes right there so you can jump in when you’re ready.
Listen to your heart
Change is hard. You must want it so much that you are willing to get past the scary stuff. Sometimes you have to want it enough to be patient for the right time. Keep focusing on your dreams, and don’t let anyone – especially yourself – tell you that you can’t do it. You can.
One of my favorite quotes is from the 18th-century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Be bold. Just start, and let the magic happen.