The fear of change

We all have it! It’s that comfortable old shoe, it’s the job we stay in because it’s what we know, it’s taking the same route to work, and even sitting in the same spot during meetings. Why is that? Why do we become creatures of habit and comfort, even if we don’t like what we are doing or if we feel unhappy? Why don’t we take the steps needed to change the things in our life? Fear of change is one of the reasons.

“Change agents” as they call them, are those types of people that seem to get the job done and appear successful. They have stepped outside of the box and are willing to take chances. We know failure will happen; it’s a part of life because no one is perfect BUT agents approach every change with an optimistic outlook; they think about the positive and negative consequences of that change and decide that they are ready. If they approach the change with fear or regret, they are already setting themselves up for failure. I think we can be our own worst enemy! Our thoughts and feelings can snowball into such negativity that we are 99% of the resistance to change and most likely 99% of the reason it didn’t work.

Why do we resist change? Here are some of the possible reasons:

Not being a part of the decision to change (feeling forced?)

Feelings of powerlessness or loss of control

Thinking there will be more work to change

Trust in the people encouraging the change

Too much uncertainty

Not feeling competent to change

Past resentments or regrets when a decision was made to change

I want to tell you how I discovered change. Working in the mental health and addiction field for over 15 years I learned both the barriers to change and what motivates people to change. I posted a list of reasons to change on my office wall, and the best reason I have learned over the years is remembering a way to look at fear with the acronym Face Everything and Recover (FEAR). What are we afraid to face and why are we so scared to learn something different? There is not one single reason identified that fits every single one of us, however there are definite similarities in the concepts of being fearful.

It appears that in some individuals our thoughts and feelings go immediately to the negative and it’s difficult to counterbalance that- especially people struggling with depression, anxiety, or addictions. It takes actual work and a thought process change (lots of practice!!) to think positive and be positive. Change occurs when we accept what we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference (Serenity Prayer). Once it is either bad enough, and once we grow and learn to love ourselves we are much more apt to accept that change can be a good thing.

Nothing stays the same, people evolve over time especially as we are growing and developing cognitively and mentally. I like to call it the wise mind. We soon begin to make decisions based on what we have learned in life not just emotional decisions or factual decisions we take all parts and issues into consideration before we make a final decision. The healthier decisions we make, the more confidence we have in making the next one.

Once a person accepts the things they cannot change, they actually become change agents of their own life and there is power gained in the term “acceptance”. We only have the power to change ourselves, and with that power comes a freedom and an understanding that we don’t “let” things happen to us- we “make” things happen for us.

Michelle Williams, LCSW, is the executive director of Family Services of Warren County, a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups to individuals, couples, and families. Become part of the 418 Club and help Family Services reach 418 “likes” on Facebook in time for its 125th anniversary on April 18, 2014. Just like its page at and invite your friends and family to do the same.