Fear

How to Overcome the Fear of Change

Become the author of your own life.

Posted Sep 18, 2018

Grant Ritchie/Unsplash
Source: Grant Ritchie/Unsplash

We fear change because we can’t anticipate the outcome.

However, staying put can be riskier than changing. Whether it’s in your career or a relationship, you risk being left behind if you don’t continue to grow.

The paradox is that although we reject uncertainty, we have the skills to change and evolve. Fear is an emotion that gets in the way—we lose clarity about our potential.

On one hand, we are hardwired to resist uncertainty—our brain prefers a predictable, negative outcome over an uncertain one. On the other hand, our mind is flexible and adaptive—it can be trained to thrive in change.

Our fear of change is based on stories—both real and the imagined ones we tell ourselves. We narrate our lives as if they are out of our control—we feel as we are playing a part someone else wrote for us.

Your life is not a book written by others—create your own storyline. The fact that most outcomes are out of your control doesn’t mean you can’t play a more active role.

If you want a different outcome, start by changing your mentality. You are not just a character; you are the author of your life.

Stories: Why We Fear Change

1. Uncertainty feeds our fears. 

Your brain likes being in control. The hunger for certainty is one of the brain’s five functions. Uncertainty generates a strong alert response in our limbic system; that’s why we worry. That’s why we speculate—we’d rather create a fictional story than not know what will happen.

2. Accepting life’s impermanence makes us suffer too.

We have a hard time moving on. When a job or a relationship—even the summer—is over, we get stuck. We keep rehashing old stories instead of opening our minds to what’s next.

A study on building bridges between Buddhism and Western Psychology shows how embracing impermanence counteracts the negative cycles of rumination. When we accept that every story in life has an ending, we can relax.

3. Our fear of failure also feeds our aversion to change.

But striving for perfectionism can have the opposite effect. When we are under pressure, we make more mistakes. To become the author of your life starts by reframing your relationship with uncertainty, impermanence, and perfectionism.

Here are some steps you can use.

1. A chapter is not the book.

To start a new chapter in your life, you have to finish one first. Sometimes we resist the end of a particular phase in our lives—we confuse the chapter with the book. You can write endless stories in your life. Leave room for new chapters—move on from past stories.

Life is like a book—you have to turn the page to start a new chapter.

2. Your storyline is full of choices.

When you approach life as a writer, you start seeing possibilities. You learn to put expectations aside and focus on what you can control. Become the creator of your plot, not just a spectator.

Your life is not the product of your circumstances; it’s the product of your choices.

3. Embrace being imperfect.

The first paragraph is the most difficult. It takes courage to cross the line of uncertainty. Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is sh*t.” The Nobel Prize winner kept track of his daily progress on a wall. Hemingway wasn’t just talented—he was committed to writing every day.

Every story can be perfected. But first, you must write the first draft.

4. You can’t control others.

Great movie characters—just like real people—have a life of their own. A screenwriter can define their names, lines, and personalities. However, once actors start playing their characters, they will take a life of their own. They follow their instincts, not the script.

If you want people to give you their best, set them free.

5. Be ready for unexpected twists.

Even the best authors suffer from writer’s block. They know they must try something different. The same applies to you. Experiment. Change your routine. Go for a walk if you feel stuck. Do something outside your comfort zone.

If you want a different outcome, add a plot twist.

6. Failure is a stop, not a destination.

Not every chapter or episode will be successful. And that’s okay—you can always write a new one. The beauty of life is that you can course correct. Richard Branson said, “In business, if you realize you’ve made a bad decision, you change it.” Don’t feel frustrated about what didn’t go your way. Use that energy to write the next chapter.

Decisions are impermanent, just like life.

7. Let go of your manuscript.

We fear the unexpected. However, most surprises in life become great memories. You can’t control your life. Write your script one scene at a time; don’t anticipate the whole plot. Bring your ideas to the real world and see what happens.

Don’t resist the unexpected—use it as feedback to live a memorable life.

Don’t close the door to new chapters. When we want to protect ourselves from uncertainty, we lose awareness of the present moment. And we stop enjoying what life gives us.

Avoid living on autopilot—every day is an opportunity to write a new chapter in your life. Stephen King’s novel Carrie was rejected by 30 publishers before it saw the light of the day.

Don’t give up and enjoy the ride.