One thing that’s common among all human beings is our desire for the new and the novel. New experiences actually trigger the release of dopamine in our brains, which causes us to feel pleasure. It seems we can’t get enough. Something else we share as humans is an absolute aversion to change. I mean, we will actually stay in an undesirable situation for longer than necessary just because we are afraid to find what’s on the other side once we make the change. It makes no sense right? But there it is.
So how can you change your life, bringing in the new and the novel, without taking those major steps that absolutely terrify you?
Simple: Start small. I like to call it exercising your change muscle.
Do more things. Cross more lines.
Ok, let’s do a quick exercise. Write down one action you have been wanting to take in order to improve the quality of your life. Yes, that thing that just popped into your mind before you pushed it away! That’s the one.
Here are 3 ways to make it happen:
1. Visualize yourself doing it—You’ve spent hours imagining, in detail, how scary it is and how many things could go wrong if you take this step. Now ask yourself another question. What could go right? Create the movie again in your head again but this time, instead of making it a horror film, turn it into an adventure flick or a documentary. Remember, you have the power to create. Use your power for good. Make a list of all of the great things that will happen as a result of you taking this step. Make sure to incorporate as many senses as you can. What will your success sound like? What colors are around you? What smells do you notice? What physical sensations will you have? Be creative. The sky’s the limit.
2. Feel the feeling and do it anyway—Do you feel guilty for putting yourself first? Do you feel afraid of how your new life will look? Do you feel sad about the people you may need to leave behind? Is something telling you you’re going to fail? Acknowledge those feelings and voices and thank them for their input. Then do it anyway. Move yourself physically and definitively into the new thing. You may be surprised at how quickly those feelings fade, and how much quieter those voices become.
3. Be ok with just being ok—One technique that helps me try on new things is to set my expectations low. Since I tend to be a perfectionist by nature, my instinct is to avoid doing things until I can do them perfectly. I overcome this by reminding myself that my goal for the first time is just to finish. Period. Then I can step back, assess my performance and make any necessary adjustments. The next time, my goal is to do it better than the first time. By then I have successfully overcome my inertia and fear. Some people call this the “ready, fire, aim” technique. I used this technique three years ago to complete my first sprint triathlon. Last year, I finished first in my division.
Once you create the momentum of change and newness in any area, you free yourself to make changes in other areas as well. You’ll notice that several opportunities will begin to open up in your life.
I’d love to hear your story! Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what new thing you did this week and how your life was changed. Your story may inspire others to take the leap!