Is there a change you’ve been wanting to make since very long?
Have you still been stuck in your situation somehow?
Do you get anxious when you think about change?
Do you altogether avoid thinking about change?
If you are in such a space, you are certainly not the only one. You only have to ask a few others before you realize that managing change is real hard work for many people, or maybe, for most people.
Considering how common a situation this is, we at Inner Space decided to get together and write about change, why it is difficult, how it feels to be stuck and how one can settle into change a little more easily.
Contributors to this article are: Sadia, Kunjal, Nandita, Megha, Anusha and Malini (Know more about the team here)
When does Change become Difficult?
Every moment of our lives, if we look closely, change is occurring – in yourself, with people you are related to, with the work you do.
Yet, change becomes difficult when it is:-
- Out of your comfort zone
- One you have not opted for or
- One you find too difficult to undertake
Naturally, you would resist change initially in such situations. Making a change is not one step; rather, it is a series of stages. However, what if you don’t initiate change at all? Or, what if you are stuck in one of these stages?
Staying Stuck: What does it Feel Like?
If you feel stuck, you know internally that something needs to be done. But the catch is, if the effort involved in the change is huge, you are likely to rationalize and give yourself reasons why you are unable to make the change. Sometimes, you are not even aware when you are making rationalizations.
“Observe yourself. When you discuss your situation, and when someone makes a suggestion that requires you to put in effort, do you find yourself getting angry? If this happens often enough, it may be because there is some obvious change that person is hinting at, which you are resisting”. – Sadia
If you are reading this, and you know you feel stuck, just take a few moments to introspect right now, how you feel. You may feel bitter about life or the situation you find yourself in. You may also feel anger towards others or even towards yourself. You may slowly move away or disconnect with people who somehow remind you of the situation.
When you know your reactions closely, you will understand how stuck you really feel, or, how unhappy the present situation is really making you.
An inevitable, almost paradoxical question that follows is – ‘If I am so unhappy in my situation, why do I avoid change still?’
That’s exactly what we explore next:-
Why is Change Difficult?
There are many reasons why change is sometimes so difficult that you avoid it:-
Avoiding the Unfamiliar:
As Anusha says:-“ Change is inconvenient”. Change brings with it a lot of doubts, questions and the unfamiliar, which is scary. Even if you are in a messy space in the present, the known still feels better than the unknown. The anxiety and inconvenience that change brings with it can be overwhelming, to an extent where you put off or postpone the change.
The Pull of Your Comfort Zone:
In your day to day life, you tend to follow a mental routine, you build a comfort zone. When change knocks, this comfort zone gets a rude shock.
A departure from the comfort zone can even bring about positive changes but you fail to enjoy that. Any movement feels uncomfortable, even if it is healthier for you. Then starts this whole game of trying to dodge the discomfort, provide justification to yourself and to others and defend your reasons for avoiding the change. This gets you even more stuck.
Loss of Control:
When there is a sense of change, there is a loss of control. You feel like you no longer have control over the situation, or that the situation isn’t in your hands anymore. This in turn makes you hostile towards the change.
Nandita shares an example:-
“If a woman gets pregnant suddenly, without being ready for it, she might feel that she has no control or choice over the matter. This feeling can lead to her blaming her husband or her child and can hinder her adaptation to the new situation.” – Nandita
Fear of Failure:
With the unknown comes the fear of failure – ‘what if this was a wrong step?’, ‘what if it doesn’t turn out as I imagined it?’ ‘what if it makes things worse?’. This can be so scary that you would rather not try than know what would happen – Anusha
Change might trigger feelings of incompetence. You might wonder whether you will be able to adapt to or match up to the new situation. Not many people admit to themselves that this fear is what is holding them back. What happens then is, the root issue remains unresolved and you continue to feel stuck.
Underplaying the Need for Change:
Do people around you keep telling you that you need to make a change? And you just don’t feel as convinced? Sometimes you don’t understand the change, or the need for it. Then, it naturally becomes difficult to initiate and accept the change.
Indirect Gains of Old Habits:
Often, your present situation, even if unhealthy, has some gains for you, which sustain the old patterns and prevent change. For example, even if you know that you need to cut down on socializing and devote more time to yourself, you may find it difficult to do so. Being the ‘life of the party’ makes you seem like fun and makes you popular. This impression is rewarding and so, you slip back into socializing even when you are fatigued, physically and emotionally.
Beliefs about Old Habits:
Imagine you want to break a habit – it could be smoking, going back to an unhealthy relationship, sleeping late, eating unhealthy. Now think of times when you have slipped right back into smoking that cigarette, or staying up all night. Something happens in that moment of ‘urge’, something powerful, that ‘takes over’ and overpowers the logical mind.
What’s really happening is – through past experiences and past conditioning, a belief has gotten formed in your mind. You believe that if you give in to the craving, you’ll get your “fix” and feel a certain way which is more favourable than how you feel in the present. This is it. This is the crux: the need to feel a certain way – this compulsive desire to be contented at all times is the root cause of resistance to change, and of slipping back into old patterns – Kunjal
Once an experience has paid off with a fruitful or happy result, you start living in an “automode”. You tend to get into a habit, trying to recreate that experience, and seek the same joy again. It becomes a problem when you continue getting these “fixes” at the cost of your growth, and health.
These reasons are all genuine and are difficult to work through. However, avoiding change because of these reasons is far from healthy. Change is inevitable, and we need to adapt to it when it knocks. How can we go about this? The following section covers some ground about adapting to change.
Managing Change: Moving Ahead when it Matters
Be Open to Genuine Introspection
No matter what your reasons for avoiding change are, one thing is clear – at the back of your mind, you almost always know that only you can do something about it. However, because this introspection is not particularly pleasant; or you do not feel up to the effort involved, you may try to keep this realization out of your awareness.
The truth is that pushing a problem out of awareness never solves it. It only festers it.
So the first step is to sit with yourself and acknowledge the change that needs to be made. Next, accept that you are at this moment unable to make all the effort that may be required. Third, be compassionate to yourself in this process, since dealing with change isn’t easy.
Break the Effort Down into Smaller Steps
If the effort involved in the change is too big, break it down. Even if you can make a hundredth of the effort required, you’re heading somewhere. There is movement, which is still different from being stuck.
The Joy of Breaking Your Comfort Zone
Rigidity and resistance only make your world smaller. The more resistant you are, the more and more things you will have to fight against, and that’s not a nice space to be in.
As human beings, we are an adaptive species. We learn to adapt to the situation we are in. Although this serves a healthy purpose for survival; it can also become very unhealthy if you also start getting used to spaces that are actually harming you, or making you stuck. – Megha
Somewhere, you know that your comfort zone is your cushy space; it protects you from feelings you don’t want to face. But then, you also know that ‘comfort’ isn’t necessarily ‘growth’, or even ‘confidence’. Taking even small departures from that limiting comfort zone gives you a boost. Few things feel as freeing as the realization that “I just stepped out of my comfort zone.”
Work Through Feelings of Discomfort
When you are going through change, there are a host of uncomfortable feelings that come up. If you observe closely, you will even be able to feel the discomfort in your body – through restlessness, tingling or a sense of heaviness.
At such times, gently recognize that these feelings have come up. Don’t get into a fight with them. You can’t fight away what’s already within you. Be very gentle and compassionate towards yourself, and towards these feelings.
After all, these feelings are part of an old, entrenched pattern. It’s not going to be easy for this pattern to change. At the same time, also recognize that every attempt at making a new response is a step towards rewriting this pattern . Gently, very mindfully, go ahead and make the new response – Malini
There are Others in the Same Boat
Remember, you are not alone, struggling, while everyone else is breezing through life. Try to find some support. Even if friends and family have been nagging you to change, for some time, elicit their support. Get feedback. Ask someone you trust why they think you need to make a change. Share your experiences and be open to suggestions.
If friends and family are unapproachable, find a support group online, or maybe even see a therapist who can be a caring participant in your movement.
Lastly, Don’t be a Perfectionist
Changing is not about going all out or doing nothing. Every step counts. What’s best is that the very fact that you made a small change is such a reward, the next step gets easier.
Change, just like life, is a journey and not a destination. As far as you know you’re moving in a direction that’s freeing, where you feel less stuck and more flexible; as long as you’re walking a path of less barriers and more possibilities, you’re doing well.
Do share with us what your experiences have been, navigating through change. We’d be glad to hear your perspective.