“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” – Tony Robbins
Have you ever had salt in a wound? That Canker Sore in your mouth you feel every time you go to take a bite of something. Ouch! The remedy? You grab a finger full of salt and dab that sucker. It hurts… Bad. But, after doing that a few times it becomes tolerable or disappears. Isn’t that how we receive most positive changes? For an alcoholic to quit drinking, an unhealthy person to change their lifestyle, for a beginner to walk into a Jiu Jitsu school for the first time, the task at hand can seem like climbing Mount Everest.. Grueling.. Hard. Impossible. You wonder why you are putting yourself through this. But only because you can’t see the breathtaking view from the bottom of the mountain. So if we know it’s good for us, why don’t we do it? The obvious answer is pain, the underlying answer is change, we don’t like it.
If change makes you nervous, it should. This is a protective mechanism for survival to make us aware of changes in our environment. This is “supernecessary”, as UFC fighter Jorge Masvidal says, but unhealthy if we allow it to rule our decision making. In the book “The Gift of Fear”, Gavin de Becker highlights the importance of fear and it’s necessity in our interest of survival. Neuroscience research teaches us that uncertainty registers in our brain much like an error does. It needs to be corrected before we can feel comfortable again, so we avoid it whenever we can.
We also fear change because we fear that we might lose what’s associated with that change. An example may be losing our feeling of comfort at the cost of asking a girl on a date in order to win her affection. Another way to say this is “fear of failure”. Research shows that gamblers who are having a losing day are most likely to bet the long shots. This demonstrates how our aversion to loss can cause logic to fly out the window.
Understand it is natural to have fear, we all have it, and having a healthy amount of it will ensure you make better decisions. My dad never laid hands on me but I always had a healthy fear of him which caused me to behave (most of the time). Kids who don’t have fear are a danger to themselves and potentially others or they are just downright spoiled brats. Fear can be good. Change can also be good. Pain can too. Below I will list four things I’ve studied that may help you understand how to deal with pain, fear and change.
Having a “why” may be our biggest influence when it comes to decision making. For example: You want to get stronger so you can attract a mate but you have never been to the gym. Your “why” is what will get you past the uncomfortable stage of entering a new environment like the gym, assuming your desire is strong enough.
You must believe you can change. Studies show that about half of the people who struggle from fear of change simply believe they won’t be able to. This is why it’s important to win battles daily big or small (get up early, make your bed, exercise, apply for a job/keep your job/get a promotion) . A big part of your ability to do new things is your past successes.
If we are clear on why the change is happening, we are less likely to view it as an error or something that is happening to us. Unhappy people fear change, while happy people create positive change. Don’t victimize yourself. If you don’t believe you are the creator of your circumstance, true or not you, have lost all hope. An example would be you know it is going to “hurt” to accomplish your goal of 100 push ups. Because the burning in your muscles won’t come as a surprise to you, you are more likely to accomplish your goal and endure the pain to make the change.
One thing that will remain is your core, your principles, your values. It is more likely the change will add to your character and strengthen who you are than take from it. Change is capable of affecting external things but rarely the internal. Example: You want to move and take this job but are worried you won’t like it and won’t find new friends or fit in. If that turns out to be true and you hate it, you will still be who you are plus the lessons and experience. Control what you can control, yourself.
Understandably, things like pain, fear and change are not so easy to overcome. After all, the best artists in the world still have stage fright before a big show. But they endure the pain of change and overcome their fear of public humiliation because they crave the end result. By becoming aware of our aversion to the pain of change we can learn to endure many of life’s struggles that will ultimately lead to our happiness and fulfillment.
“If it is endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining.” -Marcus Aurelius