Mastering the Fear of Change
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear – Mark Twain
Feeling fear is one of those universal human conditions that everyone has experienced at one point in their lives. Fear of failure, fear of being punished or even fear of bodily harm. Interestingly, one of the most common causes of fear is change. Which is why the hardest part of change is taking that first step.
So many things swirl through your mind:
- Is now really the right time for this?
- Will this break the good thing we already have?
- Will we really be better off in the end?
The answer to all these questions is a resounding “YES”! If you believe it is time, then it is probably time. It will most certainly break what you’ve got, as one must often destroy something to create something new. Especially if that something new will result in you being better off in the end.
However, it is easier said than done and many people fear the move towards change. The reality is anything new is scary.
- Get comfortable with ambiguity
Transformation and change can be sloppy. While the directional vision must be clear, the path is often not a straight line. So one must be comfortable operating and making decisions with less than perfect information. The key is to keep going.
- Maintain momentum
Speaking of keeping going, the adage that taking the first step is the hardest is true. Once you start, don’t stop. As with many things, it is far easier to adjust while you are moving than from a standing start. Few things in life or in business are irreparable, so take a chance and if you make a misstep, fix it and move on, but keep going and don’t give up. Don’t fear mistakes, fear not going fast enough.
- Plan for the worst, strive for the best
Scenario planning is a technique common in strategic planning, but it can also be used to help reduce the fear of change. Consider the various options along the way and think about the worst thing that can happen. If you plan for the worst and know you can overcome it that goes a long way to reducing fear by building confidence in your ability to cope with situations that might arise.
- Score some early wins
Nothing eliminates fear like success. For this reason, when undertaking change – personal or professional – strive for early wins. If you want to lose 20 pounds, strive to lose two. This can often be achieved in a week or two – early win. If you are looking to increase profitability by 10%, look at both costs and revenue and try to make a 1% adjustment in the first month or two. These small steps will help motivate you and those around you as well as increase confidence that successful change is possible.
- Be mindful
Stay focused on the end goal as well as how you and your team is feeling. Don’t let negativity or discouragement creep in. If it starts to, remind yourself of what has been achieved (early wins) and stay positive and focused on the end goal. This is also where Emotional Intelligence (EQ) comes into play and can help. For more on this here is a great primer on EQ including what it is and how to improve yours.
- Collaborate & Communicate
Whether the change is personal or enterprise-wide, work with others. Declare your intent to change, publicize your ultimate goal or destination. Then, ask for help in getting there. It can be something tangible such as resources or intangible such as coaching or support. Whatever you need, journeys of change are more enjoyable and successful when undertaken with others.
- Manage your well-being
Finally, take care of yourself. This means physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is amazing what a good night’s sleep can do, as well as exercise, meditation, or simply an enjoyable night at home with family and friends. Whatever helps you unwind, relax and gives you energy be sure to do it. Change events are marathons not sprints, and it is hard to run a marathon without recharging your energy stores.
Doing these seven things won’t guarantee success, but it will certainly increase the odds and make the journey much more enjoyable.