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  • Michael Philp

Making a change means embracing uncomfortability

The topic in my office in the last couple of weeks has been around change. I've had a few clients be incredibly brave and admit they have been avoiding tasks that will ultimately lead them to have a more positive life. It got us to talk about change and uncomfortability.

"Change is a word for a journey with stress. You get the journey and you get the stress. At the end, you're a different person. But both elements are part of the deal." - Seth Godin.

Seth sums it up nicely - you can't have one without the other. But let's break it down further. Often we are wanting to make a change for a reason. We're unhappy in our current situation or we want more opportunities in our life, career, whatever. However, to get to where we want to go, we have to go through a period of uncomfortableness - anxiety, uncertainty, stress - before we get the pay-off. And this is where typically most people fall down. We make excuses; rationalise with ourselves; or avoid. "I don't have the time"; "no-one told me about it"; "it's too expensive"; "it's not a convenient time". This is because, even though the current situation might suck or be unpleasant, the alternative is often seen as worse. It's uncomfortable. There will be anxiety. There will be stress. There will be pressure. You might fail. You might succeed!

From a psychological point of view, change is often where we see old, unhelpful core beliefs come to the surface. "I'm not good enough". "I'm not worthwhile". "I am not likeable". "I am a failure". When these core beliefs get activated, for example going for a job promotion or changing jobs, then typically avoidance follows. To try and be unsuccessful is worse because it confirms the core belief. Or, you successfully get the new job, but now run the risk of being exposed as not being good enough.

However, just as we run the risk of failure, so do we run the risk of success. What I mean by that is, if you roll the dice and take a chance you have the opportunity to be successful, and therefore disprove the old core belief. But to do so is to embrace the uncomfortability of change. To recognise that the reasons you haven't followed through are cop outs because you've been afraid of that period of uncomfortability. Now, this is often easier said than done. Particularly if you have one of these core beliefs. This is where therapy can help address these unhelpful beliefs if they continue to hold you back. However, ultimately, you will need to be brave and sit with the uncomfortableness while going through change. Because nothing will change if you don't. If you can embrace uncomfortableness, you can progress to personal growth and come out the other side glad that you were able to persevere.

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