Have you ever asked yourself “Why is change so difficult for me?”? If your answer is “Yes”, I invite you to sit back and allow me to tell you a little story about change.
A few years ago, I was working in a workforce development role in the Dairy industry. There were a few things that attracted me to the role; working in a small organisation (I’d been working in government), engaging with a familiar industry in a new way (melding my interest in people with my experience of working with farmers as a Vet), the opportunity to study a Diploma in HR Management, and the flexibility of making the role my own. All of these things appealed to me at the time, but 12 months into the job, the organisation underwent several big changes, including in leadership, and the culture quickly became toxic. During my second year in the job, things got worse, and they appointed a mediator to sort things out. Despite the challenging work environment and the fact I had outgrown the role, I decided to stay on and provide stability and leadership, supporting my fellow workers who were struggling. Eventually, things were resolved and I felt more able to leave. I didn’t. I was underemployed, not playing to my strengths, and sometimes dreaded going to work.
But still, I stayed. Change does not come easily to me.
Eventually, I did resign, when finally the thought of staying was worse than the fear of leaving, and I wished I had left sooner.
Why is change so difficult?
Whenever we are moving from one type of behaviour or situation to another, we are potentially losing something as well as gaining something. It is this loss that we fear, no matter how unhelpful or unproductive the old behaviours or situations we are leaving behind are.
Making real and lasting changes in our lives is about so much more than deciding to change.
We need to change our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and set up the environment so we are supported in making the change. Changing just one of these four things will not bring us the results we want or at the least, the change will not be lasting. If we don’t attend to our thoughts feelings, behaviours and environment, then very soon we start to feel as if we can’t continue and we will probably give up. Change also involves energy- enough energy to overcome the inertia you are potentially feeling.
Most people think that making changes is simply a matter of making a decision, but if it were that easy, dieting and weight loss would not be a multi-million dollar industry!
Sometimes the changes we need to make are just small ones, leave home earlier, prepare healthy snacks the night before work, eat more vegetables, go to bed earlier. Sometimes they are momentous, life-changing decisions- a career change, move house, have a baby.
Whatever the circumstance, all change is at some point accompanied by ambivalence, and ambivalence can be very uncomfortable, especially if we are prone to feelings of regret.
When you choose one thing you automatically lose something and you need to be able to cope with that loss. Do I have any FOMOs in the audience?!
The cost of not making a decision.
Not making decisions is exhausting and keeping all your options open eventually becomes impossible. We have to make decisions!
A wise person once told me “You have to make a decision then make it work.” In other words, make a decision then resist the temptation to keep looking over your shoulder for evidence that you should have made the other decision! It’s been helpful advice to me, as someone who tends to over analyse things!
Choose one thing and move on. You can always choose something else the next time. If you spend your time continually playing with all the alternatives, you will never be able to move forward! Hello, overwhelm!
Like so many other things in life, decision making gets easier with practice. Exercise your decision-making muscle and it will get stronger.
We have to find that out for ourselves and be prepared to learn and grow through every experience, focusing on the positives instead of fearing the negatives.
Once I decided to leave my job in the dairy industry, I didn’t look back and have not regretted it. I learnt from the experience, and gained confidence knowing that, although there was no guarantee that I was making the right decision, that I could “make the decision and make it work.” It was through leaving this job that I was able to spend more time on my training and facilitation business Aspire Connect and build my passion project Wise Women Ride, which eventually led me to become a professional coach. Not a pathway that I could see or imagine at the time, but one that has been life-changing in so many ways.
Tell me about a time when you have faced the need to make a change but felt stuck. How did you move forward?