How to Embrace Change

As human beings, millions of years ago our primitive brain needed predictability and control. We only had to deal with the feeling of fear if we were running from a predator. Because of this, our brains are designed to try to make us stay comfortable. 

For me, my comfort zone is when everyone I love is happy and healthy. As a mom raising two teenage boys and a pre-teen girl, I am often uncomfortable because my mind has a really bad habit of worrying about the future. That's the voice that I call the Inner Critic. 

When my Inner Critic is running amuck in my mind, she's constantly worried about the future. Are my kids rotting their brains with their obsession with their devices? Will my oldest son get into the college he wants? How is my daughter's first year of middle school going to be? Will my middle son ever come back around and decide he actually wants to hang out with us? 

...And then my mind will go through other future scenarios, like what's going to happen with my parents' health declines. The thing about my current life is that I am constantly having to embrace change. I change with my business as it grows. I change with my kids as they grow older. I change with my parents as they age. 

When we're going through change in our lives, this is where fear and uncertainty come into play. Some of you may be going through changes right now. You might be getting married, getting divorced, having kids, becoming an empty nester, or changing careers. 

The bottom line is that life never stays predictable. Our lives are always changing, whether we like it or not. And with changes comes a lot of discomfort. 

But here’s the thing--the only way you are ever going to have the life you really want is if you are willing to embrace the discomfort that comes with change.  Let’s say you are trying to change your marriage and create a marriage with more love, connection, better communication, and better emotional and physical intimacy.  You can’t create a different marriage than the one you already have unless you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and start engaging in some behaviors that maybe you’ve never engaged in before.  You might have to start expressing more feelings of love and appreciation, which for some of you (if you’ve not really done this in a long time) can seem very uncomfortable.

Imagine your comfort zone as a box you live in.  If we grow and expand up to the limits of our comfort zone, we either have to step outside of our comfort zone and make the box bigger by taking different actions or we have to shrink and contract away from the discomfort of living on the edge of our comfort zone and take the actions we’re comfortable with and used to. 

And here’s the problem so that many people face: We associate happiness with comfort. 

We resist being uncomfortable which leaves us always contracting away from taking actions outside our comfort zone. We are always searching for comfort. We live in a world where we are taught to avoid risk, stress, and anything that sounds uncomfortable. We are taught to avoid discomfort but everything that we have ever wanted (love, happiness, connection, success in business, weight loss, tackling addiction, or overcoming anxiety) can only happen if we are willing to feel some uncomfortable emotions like fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, failure. 

We have to be willing to embrace the risk of vulnerability and embrace feeling discomfort on purpose. The best things in life require sacrifice, uncertainty, and being with the unknown. Anyone who is truly living the life they desire will tell you that what was required to create that life was the willingness to get uncomfortable. If you are someone who has created a successful business, who has created the body that you want, who has created the relationship that you want, who has made any major changes in life, I am sure that what was required of you was to repeatedly be willing to fail, be rejected, feel inadequate, and bump up against some pretty tough emotions. 

The reason that I know this is because I have been on my own 30-year journey of feeling discomfort on purpose. I am beyond grateful that I am passionate about learning how to master my own mind so that I can use my discomfort as an opportunity to grow. Because without that, I would be living a life where I would be resisting instead of embracing change. (And I promise you that if I did not learn how to embrace change, you would not be listening to this podcast right now!) My life would look very different--my business, my marriage, my parenting, my relationships with my friends and family are all a result of embracing the discomfort that comes with change.  

What I have worked hardest at is breaking the habit of worry by letting go, keeping my mind focused on the present moment and trusting the universe, even if life doesn’t look like I think it should look. 

We have the expectation that life should always go the way we want it to so this is a muscle that I am constantly working. Daily (and sometimes hourly). 

We have a context that it’s scary if we don’t know where life will take us.  But the truth is that we don’t know where life is taking us! You have to shift the context as to why it’s scary. Ask yourself: “What would I have to believe that change isn't scary?” 

As human beings, we chase happiness and comfort. It’s a part of our culture. So why would we even want to invite discomfort into our lives? Here’s the thing: We don’t have to be governed by our hard wiring. I want you to think about what makes you uncomfortable. Pull out a piece of paper and write at the top “what makes me uncomfortable?” And then write down every single thing that you can think of.

I’m here today to help you get more comfortable with your discomfort. Life is actually the place to experience stress and anxiety.  We know this intellectually but not emotionally. We are very skilled at avoiding discomfort and your Mind gives you the illusion of control. We don’t want to experience the thoughts and feelings that make us feel afraid but the more we don’t want to experience these feelings, the more our minds focus on it.

The illusion is that if we worry about how the future will go, somehow we can avoid the discomfort that the unknown brings or predict it or control it or manage our emotions about it. But the truth is that all of the future is completely unknown. We can take actions in the here and now. That’s it.

I can eat healthy and exercise now and I may choose to do that repeatedly in an attempt to control my health. But the truth is that all I can do is take that action right here right now. Whether or not that action controls my health is completely unknown.  I could take those actions and worry from now until I’m 80 what my health will be. But the worry won’t change what my health will be.

We worry about change because we think that somehow it will keep us away from the unknown. But when we resist change and uncertainty, all we do is waste our emotional energy and waste our lives. When we worry, we are focused on how the future will be.  Our lives are only taking place in the here and now. Our lives are flashing before our eyes and we’re missing it because we’re focused on how to predict and control the future. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s what we do when our Inner Critic mind is in control.  

We need to address fear and anxiety from a new perspective. We need to remain committed to action. When we try to protect ourselves from discomfort, we become rigid and inflexible.  We have to take action that is in alignment with the life we desire and take these actions no matter how we feel. That is the key.

Feel the fear and act anyway.

Become your own personal neurosurgeon to stop being haunted by perfection and the need to get it right, and never fail, and never get hurt. Your brain tries to protect you from the stress of anxiety and pressure. It’s exposure to the uncomfortable emotion where the opportunity for growth lives. 

The bottom line is that life is uncomfortable. You have two options--either you fight being uncomfortable or you face the uncomfortable. Facing your fear is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

The first step is to stop fighting discomfort. People fight discomfort by avoiding taking action, making excuses, numbing themselves with staying busy, overworking, drinking too much alcohol or eating too much, shopping too much, putting so much of yourself into your kids that you lose yourself, blaming someone else or something else as to why your life looks the way it does. Many of my clients, before our work together, were blind to all of the ways they designed their lives to avoid discomfort. Only those who are willing to embrace the discomfort are the ones who move forward. 

The truth is that usually only when you have exhausted all of the options of staying comfortable does life force you to walk straight into your discomfort.  When we don’t want to face our discomfort and vulnerability, we all try to solve problems by doing more and more of what is not working.  

If you’re worried that giving yourself permission to experience and engage with emotion will turn you into something you’re not or someone you don’t want to become—it won’t. It will, however, give you the opportunity to be your most authentic self.

We are wired to be emotional beings. When that part of us is shut down, we’re not whole. Your Inner Critic wants to keep you inside of your comfort zone. This is the voice of “what if”. What if I try to build my dream business and it fails? What if I go on that dating site and I don’t get any dates? What if I leave this relationship and I am alone forever? What if I take the steps to lose the weight and I still feel the same way about myself?

This is the voice you’ve been listening to for your whole life that keeps you in the places where you feel stuck. When we learn to stop listening to the voice of our inner critic and are outside of our comfort zone, we don’t even know who we are. 

When you live life inside of your comfort zone, you live a normal life. But if you live "normally", the feelings inside of the comfort zone are the best it gets. We keep living the same life. Ask yourself--if you move closer to the edge of your comfort zone, where everything is no longer balanced and normal, what would that feel like?

I can tell you that building my dream business to bring the principles and methods of dethroning your Inner Critic to the whole world, has brought feelings of stress, overwhelm, and pressure. But when I think about the possibility of creating a world in which people actually learn how to master their minds, to take control of their inner lives, to transform their relationships with themselves and the people they love, I am willing to embrace all of the discomfort because of what’s possible in the world.  

Possibility actually lives outside of your comfort zone.  

What would it be like if we took away all the fear of feeling discomfort, the self-defense, and going for the feeling good, and then put you in the unknown?  What do you think that would be like? What are you really protecting yourself from?  What is the cost?

When we don’t know where life is going to take us, it’s scary. Your life gets smaller and smaller when you avoid change and risk and try to fit life into the parameters of your comfort zone. We create so many obstacles because we are under the illusion of safety. The illusion is that we can actually create and keep ourselves safe. It’s the surrender and letting go of keeping ourselves safe and protected from the uncomfortable emotions that will have us risk change.  

I invite you to write out a detailed picture of your life if you were willing to embrace change. What would you be doing in your life? What would your job look like? Your health? Your relationships?  What would you be doing with your free time?

Write it out as if you are already living that life. Feel the feelings that would come with living that life. Because when you actually see yourself living that life, that is when you can embrace change. You can actually see the possibility of designing that life. You don’t know exactly how it’s going to go but you can see yourself no longer stuck.

That is the power of learning how to ongoingly manage your mind. It’s not easy work, because it involves discomfort on purpose.  But the reward of living a life in which you can embrace change is truly priceless. 

 

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