Am I the only one who wonders why life changes are hard?
When the ancient Greek philosopher said, “the only thing that is constant is change,” he must have had a crystal ball looking right into this year that is upon us. I don’t know about you, but I feel as if the world around me is changing faster than ever. And, to keep up, I feel the need to change quickly, too. Does this ring true for you?
Do you want to make certain changes in your life, yet you’re not sure where to begin? Or, you may have a plan in place, but you can’t seem to make any progress toward achieving the change. As a result, you find yourself in the exact same place you were a month or a year ago. Frustrating, isn’t it?
Let me assure you, you’re not alone. The challenge is to understand why life changes are hard to accept, so you can find ways to work through them. After you figure that out, then you’ll want to discover how you can make change easier.
If you’ve done any research on the subject, as I have, you’ll find many explanations for why change is hard. Here are some that make the most sense to me:
Playing Within Your Comfort Zone
Most people are happiest when things are running smoothly. On autopilot, so to speak. That means you are operating within your familiar habits, following daily routines, and feeling content with the way things are—comfortable.
And, then something happens that changes everything. It could be something small, like the neighbor boy throwing a baseball through your window, that causes you to be upset temporarily, move outside your comfort zone for a minute, and you can go back to normal relatively soon. No major change required.
Or, it could be a more serious event that requires you to change every routine in your day, perhaps even the way you think. An accident, a serious diagnosis, a career upheaval. Each of these occurrences could tear down the walls of your cushy comfort zone in a hurry. Change is hard when it comes fast and furious, and all you want to do is dive back into your cocoon of comfort where you know it’s safe.
While you’re in your comfort zone, you entertain the same company each day—the way you think about things, what you feel, and how you behave—long-time friends. They are the familiar habits you have created over time and they become a part of who you are. Everyone needs habits, don’t get me wrong. But, it’s friends like these that can get you into a behavior rut. And, from a rut like this, it can be hard to climb out.
When life changes and becomes harder, it may be because you are stuck in old habits and the change requires you to revisit the way you think or behave.
When Changes Are Hard, Do You Quit?
How many New Year’s Resolutions have you set? Do you meet them every year? Have you ever set one (or two) in January, with every good intention, and by March your motivation to keep up the good work went out the window? It’s because change is hard.
Change Can Be Painful
I don’t know anyone who likes pain. Our brains even warn us to avoid it. Consequently, we learn to fear pain. So, if change can be painful, why would we even want to participate in any of that?
Do you remember the “growing pains” you went through as a teenager? They could be physical, or emotional, or mental, or spiritual. Regardless of how you felt the pain, it hurt.
When life experiences ask us to change, we feel the same growing pains, and we would rather avoid pain than work through it until we get to the pleasure part.
Take On Too Much
Let’s, for a moment, imagine that you have set an intention to face the pain head-on and make this change that you want to make. So, you plow forward, full steam ahead. You are knocking down barriers, rushing through decisions, and making some progress. All of a sudden, you meet an obstacle that pushes back. You push and push, and it won’t budge. All that you’ve accomplished feels as if it was for nothing.
Frustrated. Disillusioned. Defeated.
In this case, making changes is hard because you have taken on the entire elephant at once, rather than one bite at a time.
Unclear About What You Want
Another reason why life changes are hard is due to a lack of clarity about where you are heading. When you decide to make a change, or one is forced upon you, the easiest way to meet detour after detour is by not mapping out your route from the start.
Just as you would to prepare for a long road trip, you would decide what you want to see along the way, how long you want to drive each day, and where you want to hang your hat each night.
Making a life change is no different. When you are clear about where you want to go, even if you make route adjustments along the way, the likelihood of getting to your destination increases immeasurably.
Lack of Commitment
One of the easiest people to let down is yourself. Why is that? First of all, no one will ever know. Secondly, if you are diligent about keeping your commitments to others, everyone will think you are an amazing, responsible person. And, it is what other people think of you that’s most important, right?
If that’s what you think, I would ask you to reconsider. Life changes are hard enough without giving cause to beat yourself up. When you make a commitment to yourself to change something or an event requires you to change, keep the promise and find the best way to make the change stick.
How You Can Make Hard Life Changes Easier
Now that you’re thoroughly demoralized about some of the reasons why life changes are hard, I’ll share some of the ways you can choose to make it easier. Coping with life changes and transitions is not for the faint of heart, yet there are strategies that are proven to work. Here are a few:
Have a Big Why
This needs to be much bigger than you to work well and be sustainable. Your big why will motivate you on the days you want to quit. Even more than that, it will inspire you to stay the course.
Create a Clear Vision
I mean C-R-Y-S-T-A-L clear. When you have a clear view of what it is you want, it will be so much easier to determine the steps you need to take to make it happen.
Set Small Goals
You may have heard me say, “course correction is much easier when you take baby steps than when you take a giant leap.” Setting small goals and taking baby steps toward them will soon result in major progress toward your biggest goals and your vision.
Adapt Old Lessons
Unless you’ve just crawled out of the womb, you’ve learned a lot in your life. When life changes are hard to accept or adapt to, it is the perfect time to examine all the lessons you’ve learned that will help you in this time of need.
Plan for Next Steps
Don’t leave anything to chance—plan your next moves. Creating short-, medium- and long-term goals will help to keep your motivation and momentum in full swing. To say nothing of keeping your commitments in play.
Engage an Accountability Partner
It is so much easier to move through change when you have a trusted partner and advisor to support your journey. Choose wisely and find a coach or accountability partner who understands where you’re heading and is committed to having your back the entire way.
Reward Your Achievement
This journey is not always easy, and you deserve to be rewarded for your achievements along the way. You don’t even need to tell anyone else about them, or you could include others in the celebration. The point is, celebrate when you have reached small and large milestones to mark your progress. Self-care is a critical element for your success.
Be Kind to Yourself
Above all else, don’t judge yourself. Keep doing the best you can and love yourself for every effort you make. Keep your vision in view and be gentle on you.
Making hard changes is a marathon, for sure. The habits you developed took time to become part of you. Changing those habits and behaviors will also take time. Set reasonable expectations and give yourself the time you need to make the change meaningful and sustainable.
Changes are hard, for sure. There is no doubt. However, there are ways you can adapt and make it easier. And, you never have to do it alone!
When life changes are hard and they suddenly flip your world upside down, you may not know who you are anymore or what comes next. I create a bridge for women to walk from that chaos to a place where they can find calmness and clarity. They build resilience along the way and learn to live a life guided by their own values and vision. To learn more about the impact change can have on your life and how to move through it with more dignity and grace, request my free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.