In general, if we strive to change our lives, it’s usually in order to improve it. When we consider changing, we invariably think about changing for the better and we view change in a positive light. Why is it, then, that so few of us actually do change.
Authentic change takes a lot of very hard work over time and usually involves facing pain. The very nature of change itself, its unpredictability: while most of us want positive change, we also know that giving up the status quo means confronting the unfamiliar and all the unknown feelings that might arise. There’s no guaranty that change will be for the better; you don’t know for sure how you’re going to feel when your world changes. For this reason, many people have a strong fear of change; they cling to the familiar, even if it’s not especially satisfying.
Our fear of change is connected with the way we perceive a certain situation and the way we perceive ourselves. These perceptions can have a crippling effect on our ability to take action and often leads to the feeling of self-doubt and guilt. Self-doubt usually expresses itself in phrases like "I'm...not good enough", "...not clever enough", "...not qualified enough", or even "I'm stupid". Not only do we start believing this about ourselves but we also fear that others might discover how hopeless we “really” are. Resistance to change becomes a natural option in order to prevent this from happening. Putting ourselves down in this way stems from a lack of confidence and a fear of change that stops us taking any action. It literally stops us getting ahead in life.
Guilt usually expresses itself when often using the words "should", "must", and "have to". People who regularly put the needs of others ahead of their own are likely to experience guilt if they feel the change they need to make will affect others. Guilt effectively creates a fear of change in two ways: it makes us feel bad when putting our own needs ahead of other people's needs, and then it makes us feel bad because we don't take any action.
When fear stands in the way of change
Change, especially dramatic change, makes the awareness of time more acute and for that reason, unconsciously links up with the idea of death. In order to escape that knowledge, many people exist in a kind of stasis, as if time has stopped moving for them. Because they dread real change and where it will one day lead them, they cling to routines and repetition, as if every day was the same, as if time stood still. Often certainty is more comfortable than uncertainty and the fear of the unknown prevents them from allowing change to happen.
Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt etc. but the psychological condition of fear is irrational and separate from any true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now. You are in the here and now, while your thoughts are in the future. This creates an anxiety gap and if you are more identified with your mind than the actual moment, that anxiety gab will be your constant companion.
The time factor
Whenever you feel fear, your mind is often dragged into a hypothetical, future scenario where you think you might fail. Your brain is over-analyzing a possible situation, which for many of us leads to a negative, downward spiral of thoughts. This expands and empowers your fear to the point where you become almost paralyzed. So, how do you beat the fear in such situations? You surrender to it! Feel the fear and then accept the feeling. Don´t try to fight it or to keep it out like many of us have learned throughout life. As you surrender to the fear instead of fighting it the negative energy will pass and you can return to focusing on the present once again.
You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future. Focusing on the now not only reduces fear but also increases the chances of you succeeding. Because when your mind is focused, your confidence isn´t shattered and your thoughts become clear.
Basically it is much easier to succeed when you are in the present moment because you are not that self-conscious – something that quickly leads to insecurity – but you are focused on the outside world and the people you are interacting with.
Now you might ask how focusing on the present moment is different from clinging on to routines and repetitions? The secret is that there is always a flow in the present moment; also called the flow of life and by staying present you automatically tap into that flow and become aligned with your true being.
The delusion of time
Many of us perceive our lifetime as a line segment from birth to death. Where the present moment is a single point on that line moving slowly forward, the past is the part of the line behind that point, and the future is the part ahead of it. In reality there is no line segment, the present moment is all there is. The past and the future are illusions. They only exist to the degree we focus our attention on them right now. We create the past and the future by imagining them in the present. But we don’t even exist outside the Now.
Time is an elusion made up by our mind and both concepts are inseparable. When you identify with your mind you are trapped in time and live exclusively through memory. This creates and endless preoccupation with past and future from which we derive identity and fulfillment. Remove time from mind and all you have left is the present moment. So once we dis-identify with our mind and emotions we become present. When you become present you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. The mind in it self is not dysfunctional, it is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek your self in it and mistake it for who you are by letting your thoughts and feeling run your whole life.
The present moment is the only access point of change there is so if we want to influence our future we must create it in this very moment. It must exist in some form right now, or it won’t exist at all. So if your dream is to have freedom and wealth you will not create it by constraining yourself in the present. That future will never arrive as long as you are creating confinement and scarcity in the here and now.
Don’t wait for change, be the change
Do you ever catch yourself saying “Some day when I’m rich, or have more time I’ll do X”? Deep down you know that it isn’t a lack of money or time that’s holding you back though — its just fear. Why not find a way to do those things right now, if only on a small scale.
A lot of people are concerned that focusing too much on the present moment would make them shortsighted. You might worry if you are still able to make plans for the future and work on long-term goals. We are used to setting goals because we believed that achieving those goals would increase our happiness. Being in the Now we must accept that the flow goes in reverse. In other words we set goals to increase our expression of the happiness we are already enjoying. So don’t look to the change to make you happy. Look to the change to express your happiness outward and to share it with others and you will notice that the happier you feel, the less attached you are to outcomes. Ironically enough by focusing on expressing instead of acquiring, we end up doing the very things that enable us to easily acquire whatever I want.
Start by asking yourself, how can I experience more joy in this very moment? Begin focusing more of your energy on improving the quality of your present reality instead of projecting all those improvements into the realm of someday. By making our present reality as enjoyable as possible, we feel a natural motivation to engage in activities from a state of joy instead of a feeling of obligation. Stop sacrificing your present happiness for the hope of a better tomorrow? There is no someday, you know. There is only right now. If your current life path isn’t a joyful one, turn around and take a different path. And if people whine about your decision, just remind yourself that no one on the treadmill of unhappiness likes being reminded that it’s possible to get off at any time.
Take control over your mind by practicing mindfulness.
First, accept that in order to become more mindful, we must recognize that we are solely responsible for the thoughts our minds produce. While we can’t stop our thoughts completely, we can take control over them and create moments of peace for ourselves.
Secondly, when thoughts or fear arise, try to do the following as soon as you are aware of what’s taking place in your mind and body: Take a long, deep breath in and out. In your mind say “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out in order to ground yourself in the present moment. The idea is to divert your attention away from your mind either by focusing on your breath or by awakening your sensory system and listening to the sounds that surrounds you or the smells in the air or the texture of your clothes rubbing against your skin.
All this will ground you in the present moment. Once you are grounded in your body, take a step back and begin to observe your thoughts or feelings without labeling or judging them. After a while you will notice that thoughts tend to repeat themselves over and over again, some in recognizable patterns and others in scattered bits and pieces but what they have in common is that they are either about the past or the future. The primary cause of fear is never the change but your thoughts about it and once you realize that, it’s actually quite entertaining how much drama our mind can produce.
Follow these steps until you feel that the thought or storyline in your mind has moved on, or until you feel that the pull of your thought or fear has dissipated slightly. At this point you can return to whatever you were doing, and hopefully you will have prevented yourself from suffering in that moment.
Unfortunately these steps are by no means a quick fix from saving you from the suffering we all encounter every day. In fact, at first it will take all your energy not to react to what your mind is doing. It’s also quite possible that even once you’ve covered these steps the mind start all over again with the babbling. But don’t lose focus on the purpose of this exercise; it is not about erasing your thoughts but about not paying to much attention to them and adding to much value to the content. Once you have learned to observe instead of identifying, you’ve begun the process of taking back control of your mind and your life.