5 Strategies for Embracing Change

05/29/2015 03:48 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2016

Few people thrive on change. In fact, most of us find change to be incredibly stressful. However, resisting change never works to our benefit. All of us know couples who have lost years of their lives because they didn't leave marriages that were effectively over. How many of us have remained in jobs in which we were poorly paid and under-appreciated because the job was comfortable? How many people have secret dreams that they never fulfill because they are overwhelmed by the idea of dramatically changing their lives?

We tend to prefer the known to the unknown. The unknown is scary. So even though life might be better if we make a big change, we don't focus on the likely positive outcome. We instead obsess over the tiny possibility that we could end up making life a whole lot worse.

But the only way to continually improve yourself and your life is to embrace - or at least not hate - change. To that end, below are some tips to give you the courage to change your life for the better.

1. Know That True Security Comes from Being a Person of Excellence: Very often we resist change because we fear losing either emotional or financial security. But the reality is that no relationship or situation is ever truly secure because we cannot control other people. As a result, marriages can fail, jobs can end, and savings can be lost, despite our best efforts. The only thing we can control is ourselves. So realize that the key to success is to consistently hold yourself to the highest standards. As long as you do your best in all things, from how you fold your laundry to how you perform your job to how you treat your family, change ultimately will work to your benefit.

2. Don't Listen to Naysayers: Even if you change your life for the better, your friends and family may not support you. Why? People like the security of everyone around them staying the same. For example, a family will say, "Sally is the smart one, Jerry is athletic, and Bob is creative." Even if Jerry gets his PhD in biochemistry, the whole family will ignore that accomplishment, and instead every Thanksgiving they will talk about how Jerry is a great tennis player. You have to ignore the boxes that people put you in, in order to be brave enough to do new things. Just because your family says you always have been great at math and should be an accountant, that doesn't mean you don't have The Great American Novel inside you. Resist the urge to satisfy everyone else's need to have you stay the same, and be brave enough to change your life - even if no one supports you.

3. Visualize Change in a Positive Way: The fear of making a mistake is what keeps many of us from changing our lives for the better. That fear needs to be replaced with the expectation that change will improve our lives. Visualization is a key to creating this new outlook. For example, perhaps you are in a bad marriage. You want to leave, but the idea of being single is intimidating. Visualize yourself living on your own and being happy and successful. See yourself meeting someone with whom you have a deep connection and who treats you beautifully. That life is possible if you are willing to risk the discomfort of change. Or let's say you are in a job where you work hard and are underpaid. Taking a new job will be challenging. You will have to prove yourself to a new employer. That is hard and uncomfortable. Visualize yourself being paid what you are worth, doing exciting work and being appreciated for your efforts. When you visualize a positive outcome, it will give you the confidence to move forward.

4. Strategically Plan for Success: When preparing to make a big change, don't just sit back and hope for the best. Get your ducks in a row. The more advance planning you do, the more sure you will feel when you leave a relationship or job. If you are ending a relationship, decide what you are going to do to make the transition smoother. That may mean picking up a hobby to fill your free time, sorting out your financial situation or lining up support from friends and family. When leaving a job and starting a new one, make sure you build time into your schedule for studying and extra rest. The better a foundation you lay for the future, the more successful you will be after making the change.

5. Don't Expect Perfection: Even if you make big changes and end up finding the person of your dreams or the ideal job, don't expect perfection. Life isn't perfect. Being single may be a whole lot better than being in a bad marriage, but being on your own has its challenges. Similarly, finding a terrific new spouse is a blessing, but no relationship is perfect. A great job can be incredibly rewarding, but any good job has some stress associated with it. The point of making changes in your life isn't to achieve perfection. The point is to keep growing and to become happier and more fulfilled with every passing year.

Being afraid of change is understandable. But don't let that fear prevent you from living the life of your dreams. We are meant to grow, improve and yes, change, into our best selves.