How to Embrace Change and Reach Your Goals

A planner, meeting notepads, and black pencils on a white table.

Are you good with change?

When it comes to achieving our goals, we know that the process involves a certain degree of change. We have to adjust our routines, behavior, and mindset in order to transform positively.  

If we know that change is inevitable, and a precursor to success, why do we work so hard to resist change? 

  • We want a good night’s sleep but instead of modifying our evening routine we stay up late scrolling our devices.
  • We want to set work boundaries to maintain work/life balance but we answer emails on the weekends. 
  • We want to read more books, but we use our free time to binge watch another show.
  • We want to make more friends, but we make excuses to stay in and keep to ourselves. 

Why do we resist change even when we know that something good might come out of it?

In her TED Talk “How changing your story can change your life,”  writer and ltherapist Lori Gottlieb explains that when people say they want to change, what they really mean is I want someone else to change.

This can help explain why we get angry with work colleagues for texting us at all hours of the night for disrespecting our boundaries. Or why we resent our families for gifting us with junk food when we’re trying to eat healthy. We expect other people to change and assume responsibility, instead of doing the hard work ourselves.

If you’re struggling to accept change and having difficulty sticking to your goals, don’t despair. We’ll explore why we resist change and how we can modify our mindset to embrace change and adversity, so that we can come through the other side of it and reach our goals. 

Why we resist change

In order for us to embrace change, we first need to examine our fears and anxieties that  surround it. 

Fear of the unknown. For starters, human beings love routines and we take comfort in the familiar. We would rather stick with an unfulfilling job or situation because it’s easier than exploring the unknown. We make up excuses and think: “a new job won’t be so different”  or “a new job might even be worse than my current role.” Or if we’re looking for a new home, we think “Oh I’ll never find something as good as what I have now.” Sure, these outcomes might be a possibility, but by resisting change, we’re also denying ourselves the opportunity to explore other options and upgrade our lives.

Fear that we’ll lose control. Another reason we fear change is that we feel like we have no control or power over our own lives. As the past year certainly taught us, change makes us feel unmoored, as if the ground caved in under us. When we experience such a huge shift like that, we feel unsafe. But we also have to think rationally. We have to remember that not all change is huge and earth shattering. 

Fear that we’re not good enough. Change also makes us question ourselves and our abilities. Whether it’s attempting to learn a new skill or start a new project or apply to a new job that’s above our current level, we convince ourselves that we’re not talented or experienced or good enough. It’s important to remind ourselves that success doesn’t happen overnight and that progress is a zig zag, not a straight line. And unless we change, we’ll never allow ourselves to improve and grow. 

How to embrace change 

Create a sense of safety. If change makes you feel vulnerable and exposed, then the antidote is to create a sense of safety and comfort. So if you’re building a new writing habit, create an environment that feels protective and serves your new practice. Make that means having writing tools that brighten your desk. Or drinking a soothing cup of tea before you write. Or reading a mantra that inspires you. Make a list of things that nurture you and incorporate those items into your new routine. 

Practice mindfulness. When we detect change, our fight or flight instincts tend to kick in. We have to remind ourselves that decluttering our home is not the same as confronting a saber tooth tiger (although it may feel like it at first!). When our stress reactors go into overdrive, it’s time to take a pause and be more mindful. Maybe that means taking a long walk to clear your head or using a coloring book or just closing your eyes and taking deep breaths. Find an activity that centers you so that you can feel calm and grounded. 

Journaling. Everyone from Marcus Aurelius to Joan Didion to Spike Lee had a journaling routine to help them gather their thoughts, reflect on their days, and use this knowledge to power through obstacles. We fear change because we can’t predict the outcome. But examining our thoughts and anxieties on paper can help us feel more connected to the present. We may not be able to control or predict the future, but through writing and reflecting, we can get a better handle on our thoughts and emotions. 

Accept adversity. We’ve all heard the saying “no pain no gain” and while it’s definitely easier to recite that mantra than actually embrace pain, we do need to accept that with change comes adversity. Maybe by acknowledging the existence of obstacles and challenges, it will make the goal setting process less scary or surprising. When we experience a setback, we’ll know that this is a normal part of the process and that if we just stick with it, we’ll be better off in the end. 

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Atomic Habits writer James Clear over here and in his recent newsletter, he included a wonderful quote from Alice Walker on the subject of change and growing pains. This particular passage resonated with me: 

“But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be… for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”

Maybe instead of seeing discomfort and adversity as bad things, we should view them as an opportunity for our potential to reveal itself. We are defined by how we overcome adversity. And it’s through our patience and resilience that we strengthen our resolve and develop as a person. 

Take baby steps. We fear change because we think that we have to upend our lives. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will our goals. Instead of trying to transform our lives or routines in a single session, try taking micro steps to reach your goal. 

You want to write your first novel but you’re overwhelmed and scared. Take baby steps and write for 10 minutes a day. 

You want to train for a marathon but you can’t get past running the first mile. Take baby steps and run the shortest distance that you possibly can and slowly build your way up. 

You want to set a work boundary but you feel nervous and anxious whenever you speak up for yourself. Take it one day at a time and incorporate change slowly. You’re building a new habit, so you’re not going to feel like Brene Brown after one interaction. :) If it feels painful, recite a mantra whenever you incorporate a new boundary. 

Embracing change may seem painful at first, but if you stick with your new routine or habit, you’ll gain more confidence and experience over time. 

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