Change - When our Fear of Not Doing is Greater than our Fear of Doing

right side of 50 Mar 14, 2021
older woman studying at computer

Myself, and many of you who subscribe to and read Life Balance After 50, are redefining. We are figuring out what we want to do in the next phase of our journey. Some are looking to develop a new habit or hobby, others are starting a new career or business, and others are retiring and looking to travel and just be with family.

Whatever your dream or next step is, you will likely be looking at significant changes in your life and to your current routine. And that may paralyze you into doing absolutely nothing.

Don't let it.

THE FEAR OF CHANGE

So common and it even has a name - metathesiophobia! Who knew?

The fear of change has affected me my entire life. In its worst form, it has stopped me from doing things that I wanted to do. At times, it has even caused me to allow others to make important decisions for me that were not in my best interest or didn't align with what I wanted or needed at the time.

In its less severe form, it has simply caused me to take longer to make a leap than I really needed to.

YOU HAVE TO CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD YOUR NOSE, AND JUST JUMP SOMETIMES

When I was 8, I would sit by the side of the pool, dangling my feet in the water, and watch other kids jump and dive off the high dive. I wanted to join them in the worst way.

One day, I woke up and told my dad at breakfast, "Today is the day. I'm going to jump off the high dive."

Later that day I climbed the ladder up to the top. I walked to the edge and looked down. I turned around with the thought that I was going to go back down the ladder and maybe try again a different day.

But there was a whole line of kids at the bottom waiting for me to jump. And my dad was down there yelling, "Do it Leslie! JUST DO IT! You're going to be okay and I'm right here!"

So, I held my nose, closed my eyes, and jumped. And, I jumped over and over again the whole rest of the summer.

I felt empowered. I had done it!

JUMPING OFF THE HIGH DIVE AS AN ADULT

Fast forward to about 11-12 years ago - I was about 49 years old. I was in a relationship that was going on about 5 years and it wasn't good. I wasn't living according to my values. There was a lot of explosiveness. I didn't like who I was becoming.

But, I was 49 and the fear of living the rest of my life alone at almost 50 was daunting. What if I got really sick? The fear of going through that alone paralyzed me. (That's a whole other blog post - stay tuned.) What would my family say? Here I was 49 and going to be back out on my own again like some kind of high school kid. What would they think?

Tony Robbins said, "Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the fear of change." I found myself in that place. The thought of living the rest of my years in that dysfunctional chaos scared me more than the thought of being ill alone. And, the practical side of me knew that I had children and friends who would be there to help me should that unfounded fear actually come to fruition. I ended that relationship and never looked back.

I felt empowered and began to like who I was again.

WE ARE WIRED TO FEAR CHANGE

There is a part of our brain called the amygdala which interprets change as an actual threat to our physical being. This, in turn releases the hormones that are responsible for our fear flight or fight response.

The evil we know is better than the evil we don't. At least in our faulty thinking. Our brains and our bodies prefer familiar routine and control.

GLEICHER'S FORMULA FOR OVERCOMING OUR RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

David Gleicher created a formula for organizational change which can also apply to personal change. The formula is:

D x V x F > R or Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Concrete Steps > Resistance (resistance being the same as fear of change for the purpose of this post)

Let's take a look at an example using a real time after 50 redefinition.

Carla is a 57 year old wife and mom of 3, grandmother of 5 who has worked as a schoolteacher since she graduated from college at 24. She loves teaching but is tired of getting up early every morning and going in all day. She wants more flexibility in her days and weeks to be able to spend more time with her grandchildren. Carla also wants to not be as tired when she's with them. Carla is very creative in terms of coming up with fun activities when given a lesson plan. She would love to turn that skill into a part time online business. Carla has felt this way since her first grandchild was born 7 years ago.

If we insert the factors into Gleicher's formula, it might look something like this

Dissatisfaction (for 7 years, Carla has been thinking about retiring from teaching - she is tired and wants to be able to free up her days to spend more time with her grandchildren) x Vision (starting an online business for teachers around creating materials and activities when given their lesson plans) x First Concrete Steps (Carla talks to her husband about making this her last year of teaching. He is supportive and she is feeling nervous, yes, but also excited about her next steps) > All of those things became greater than the idea of continuing as she had been indefinitely.

Carla wasn't miserable in her existence. But she was ready to make some changes and move forward. I imagine many of us here at Life Balance are in similar situations.

STEPS TO OVERCOME FEAR OF CHANGE

JOURNAL

Sit down and free write. Plan out your ideal day, week, and month as you move forward. DO NOT CENSOR YOURSELF.

Lay out your plan for next steps - put them on your schedule. Put your head down and make it happen. Don't listen to any internal voices telling you things like, "you're too old."

REMIND YOURSELF THAT THIS FEAR IS NORMAL

And that it's your brain trying to keep you safe and in the status quo.

Practice affirmations that take away the power of the fear. Some examples:

  • "I am a woman who flips her hair and moves forward with her goals and plans;" (the flipping hair visual to me represents a big FU to fear and anxiety - it's a part of many of my affirmations);
  • "I deserve to live the life that I want to live every day;"
  • "I am a healthy, active woman every day."

Create some goal specific ones for yourself and make time to say them throughout your day.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPORTIVE

Find others who share your dreams. Talk with friends and family members who encourage you to do the "thing." Avoid those who feed you negative talk or reinforce your own doubts.

Being able to talk with supportive people about your dreams takes away the power of your fears. You need the people who will yell to you, "Just do it! You're going to be okay and I'm right here!" Like my dad did when I was at the top of that high dive.

SPEAK WITH A COUNSELOR

If you are really struggling with anxiety or even panic around changing things or moving forward, I cannot emphasize enough the value in talking to a mental health professional. Many of us as we get older, are more reluctant to do this for a variety of reasons. However, there are issues that surface after 50 that are often new and different.

Being proactive and getting help and direction with these can help us enjoy the journey as we move forward.

Don't ask yourself what's the worst that can happen. Instead, ask yourself "What is the BEST that can happen?" And sit back and allow yourself to really visualize it and go there in your mind.

"Change is only another word for growth, another synonym for learning." ~Charles Handy

And we must never stop growing and learning.

 

Free Mini Workbook to Get You Started on Your Redefinition After 50