Managing Change & The Fear Of Change

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

At the time Roosevelt made this statement, the United States was in the depths of a major depression.  People weren’t sure about jobs, homes or even their next meal.  Though some of us have major concerns, most of us aren’t suffering the way the country was in 1932.  That phrase, however, is still meaningful, regardless of your circumstances.

Many people fear change.  We hope that things will “remain as they are”, even though we know that can’t happen.  Children grow up.  Even if we keep the same job, the duties may change, or the people with whom we work may change.  Very few people are doing exactly the same thing today that they did ten, five or even two years ago.  We know things change, yet many people try to keep things from changing.

One of the less logical parts to this fear is that many of us don’t like the way things are.  We are unhappy in our jobs, or our relationships.  Sometimes we just know we are unhappy, but we don’t know why.  Some kind of change would seem to be appropriate, but people don’t want to make that change.  If we are unhappy, why not make the change?

Good question.

Generally, three things happen when a change is made:

1.     We like the difference and we like the result.

2.     Nothing happens.  Things seem to be the way they were.

3.     The situation gets worse.

Maybe people think that they have only a one in three chance of having a good outcome.  They don’t like the odds, so they don’t do anything.  What is the end result?  They are unhappy.  They haven’t even tried to make a change.  Now, not only are people unhappy because they haven’t improved anything, but they also know that they have done nothing to improve their own lives.  Not a pleasant thought, is it?

Tips For Managing Change

Instead of thinking that the chances for positive change are poor, think of the other side to this.  There is really only a one out of three chance that things will get worse.  True, you might try something and nothing changes, but are you in a worse situation than you were?  No.  So this option isn’t really a negative one.

The worst option is that the situation will get worse.

Now, define “get worse”.

Think about this.  In what way would the situation get worse?  True, there are many ways that something could be worse, but if they did get worse, either you or someone else would most likely then do something to “fix” the situation.  The likelihood is that someone else would make a change, in an attempt to “fix” the situation.  That may, perhaps, solve your problem.  Isn’t that what you wanted?  How, then, could “things get worse”?

“But, but, but ……my problem isn’t that easy!!!”

Isn’t it?

Let’s say you don’t like your job.  Maybe you hate it.  It is a job, however.  You do nothing.  This means that every day you go to work, hating your job.  What fun is that?

So you try to make a change.  If it works, great.  Congratulations.   If nothing changes, then nothing changes.  You haven’t lost anything, have you, by making the attempt to make a change?

If you attempt to make a change, and the “worst happens” – let’s say you get fired – then you are no longer in that job you hated.  Isn’t that what you wanted?

“But I have no job!!”

Now we get to the basics.  You don’t like the job – but you don’t want to be in a position to have to get another one.  What is worse?  Searching for a new job or hating the job you have?

This is a fine point, but important.  If you say you hate your job, but do absolutely nothing, then you don’t hate your job enough to make a change.  At some level, you are content enough to keep going to work.  If you really, absolutely, positively hated the job, you would not work there another day.


No “buts”.  People have responsibilities, yes.  People also have the opportunity to make choices and change attitudes.  If you decide you don’t like your job (or your relationship, or anything else for that matter) but are not willing to do anything about it, then you don’t really hate the situation.  You may fear the consequences of doing something about your feelings.  You may actually fear the consequences of change more than you hate your job (relationship or anything else).

What if you get a new job – and you like it less than you like the current job?

What if you change your relationship – and you don’t like the change?

What if you change – and don’t like the change?

Good questions.  You do forget one tiny, little detail.

If you were able to make one change, you can make another.

“But, but… What will people say?”

Well, what will they say?  What will it matter?

Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t noticed, you are living YOUR lives and no one else’s.  What does it matter what someone else says?  Besides, who will say anything?  The odds are that people who have made changes themselves will know what it is like to fear change, but do it anyway.  The odds are they won’t say anything except to congratulate you for having the strength to make a change.  They may even help you make the next change.

Most likely, the people who will make negative comments about your changing will be people who fear change.  Not only do they fear change, they aren’t exactly happy with people who do try to make changes.  If you don’t rock the boat, their world doesn’t change.  If you make a change, your behavior may challenge their choices.  In other words, the people who will most likely make negative comments may very well be the people who want you to stay unhappy.  You want to live your life just so someone else doesn’t have to face the consequences of his/her life?

Isn’t that scary enough to make you want to change?

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