You thought you'd get away easy, huh? Slip silently past the pain, the uncertainty -- the fear that awaits you, just down the road a bit.
Not so fast, my dear.
You feel that dull, nauseating feeling in your gut? Any minute now, you're going to have to dance the tango with that thing you've been trying to avoid for so long. Your heart beats faster, your palms sweat a little, you keep step with trepidation, knowing that each move brings you one step closer to the inevitable.
Stop trying to ignore it. Of course it's inevitable. You can tell by the way your boss averts her eyes when she walks past your desk, or the way your co-workers suddenly stop chatting when you walk into the break room to pour your morning coffee.
You can tell by your husband's pronounced disinterest in you. He's always held grudges; that's nothing new. But something about this time -- this silence, is so much...more silent.
What's up? In all these scenarios, "what's up" is Big. Life. Change. The proverbial line in the sand that divides "what was" from "what now is" or "what's about to be." It's frightening. And unavoidable.
Everyone goes through it. Sometimes, the career you've built is snatched from under you. Sometimes, your marriage dissolves. Sometimes, a loved one gets sick or passes on. Maybe our children are preparing to leave the nest. Or perhaps everything in your life looks great on paper, but inside... you're slowly dying. So you initiate a big life change -- fearful people may even resent you for doing so.
Whatever our "change" might be, we've all been there. Problem is, we spend so much time resisting what we already know intuitively to be true and imagining worst case scenarios that we forget we have the strength to endure the storm and emerge resilient and powerful, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.
We put off speaking to our boss or communicating with our spouse or calling the doctor and having more tests done, because we're afraid. We put it off and put it off, always awaiting the day when we'll no longer be afraid -- or we keep hoping it will all just go away.
But fear never goes away, and big life changes never fail to manifest. Both are constant; both are guaranteed. All we can do is lean into the change -- albeit fearful and trembling -- determined to emerge healthy, happy and whole on the other side.
Sound easier said than done? Here are some ways you can move fearlessly through fear when navigating a big life change.
Realize no one accomplishes anything worthwhile and honorable in this world without facing some element of fear. Those folks who just buzz along appearing so confident in how they navigate life are fearful, just like you and me. The entrepreneur launching a new solo business, the woman facing a health battle that's threatening her life, the mom struggling to raise her kids after losing her spouse, the student raising her hand declaring she's totally lost. The differentiator is acting in spite of that fear. Moving forward in the face of fear is a decision. It takes courage. It's what's going to get you there. So decide to get moving, take a deep breath and lean into it.
When your mind chatters with the potential negativity people will think about you after this change, write it down. Then, with conviction, erase your need to please your personal Board of Directors (who appointed them The Boss of You, anyway?). Ask yourself why you feel the need for their approval? Why do you feel any obligation to do things their way? Moreover, what might you hope to accomplish by being in someone else's business? Stay in your own business -- it actually feels really good when you do!
Think about worst-case scenarios that could happen as a result of this change. Then, write them down and use a giant dose of reality to turn them around. A lot of times we conjure demons that never come to pass. We self-sabotage, talking ourselves out of love, success, money or happiness because those inner voices tell us we're undeserving. These thoughts, these lies are what cause our suffering. As Byron Katie states in "The Work": "We suffer when we believe a thought that argues with what is."
Think back to a time in your life when everything just "flowed." When did you feel freest? When were you the most radiant, most alive, most fulfilled version of yourself? Where were you? What were you doing? Who were you with? That joy was generated from your genuine, true, authentic self. Reclaim your power to define yourself and your life according to what's true for you.
Give yourself permission to think bigger and to want more. Thriving after a big life change is a conscious decision. You don't just wake up one morning and start cruising on all cylinders. Decide to dream a bigger dream for yourself, and want more for yourself. Without wanting, we stagnate. Wanting fires up the perseverance that powers us to take the next step. Wanting fires up the imagination. Wanting fires up our life.
Create a plan, set milestones and celebrate successes along the way. So often, after a monumental life change, many people may be able to envision a new life, but aren't clear on how to get there. Accepting change, embracing fear and creating A Zestful Life are all part of the blossoming process. Create a plan, set milestones and goals so you can measure success in increments.
Then, celebrate! You've met change head-on. And although fear remains, trying to block your progress, you're dancing along, cutting a rug right through it.
Want practical tips and motivation on moving fearlessly through fear to build A Zestful Life you'll love? Subscribe to "Fierce Grace for Bravehearts: A Practical Crash Course in Navigating Change."
And for more, watch: The Courage & Brilliance of Midlife Women.
Examine your life up to this point: What fascinates you? What, even if I don't fully understand it, really lights me up? What is worth doing? What's most rewarding and where can I make a contributions? Dr. Shep Nuland, a retired surgeon-turned-author who was interviewed by Mark Walton, author of the book Boundless Potential, suggests, "...look back, begin to rediscover who you were when you were 15, 25, or 30 with all that wide range of things that fascinated you that you gave up to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, business executive and so forth, to care for a family or whatever."
Explore ways in which your personal fascination can be translated into action -- into real-world work you would deeply enjoy, and that would empower you to succeed, Walton writes. Track all the different activities you do, both at work and outside of work, and write down whenever you find yourself experiencing "flow," Walton advises. This concept, created by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is characterized by a sense of being so engaged in the activity that time disappears; a sense of clarity, energy, creativity and joyful mastery. What aspects of your work or leisure activities evoke a sense of flow?
"After being a 'grownup' for 20 to 30 years, there is a certain 'tranquilized obviousness' to our lives, to who we 'hold ourselves' to be," writes Mark Walton, author of Boundless Potential. "We have become, in many ways, what we print on our business cards... Psychologists call this 'institutional identity.' It took us a long time to develop these roles for ourselves, and if we have been successful, they have served us quite well. ...Recognizing our fascination necessitates looking behind the labels we have adopted, penetrating our own PR." Flickr photo via: Needoptic
As you weigh your reinvention strategy, consider work that leaves a legacy. Psychologist Erik Erikson said "In adulthood you learn to know what and whom you can take care of." As author Mark Walton writes in the book Boundless Potential: "...Erikson held firmly to the conviction that by creating a legacy through our love and work, by paying it forward, we generate, for ourselves, a higher order of existence -- a level of well-being and self-fulfillment that is otherwise rarely experienced." Flickr photo via: TinyTall
Whether your reinvention involves a project, a role, a career, a business or a nonprofit, think like an entrepreneur, advises Mark Walton, author of Boundless Potential. Consider marketplace structures and unserved niches of demand that will allow you to pursue your new work. On the financial side, pay off any revolving debt, such as credit cards, and figure out exactly what you are spending each month. Then, set aside at least six months' of living expenses to help fund your transition. Don't buy into the illusion of safety of a full-time job, Walton adds, noting that the unemployment rate for post-midlife workers doubled from 2007 to 2009, to the highest level in at least 60 years.
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