Changing your life for the better sounds exciting and wonderful, doesn’t it? It can be fun to dream about getting more empowered, going after that awesome job, or finding (and being) a really great partner. It’s lovely to imagine creating your own business, getting more education, or having a less-stressed life. It’s easy to get lost in a world of what life would be like if we were only stronger, tougher, smarter, or more of a certain “something.”
All of these fantasies—and so many more—tend to simmer in the back (or front) of our minds. Yet, when it comes to actually making change happen, things get a bit sticky. We know, on some level, that we’ll need to look inside—that we’ll need to undertake some serious self-work—to make positive changes happen.
When we consider doing serious self-work—embarking on a path of self-improvement—we know that change is on the horizon. But let’s be honest: change is scary. Changing one’s life is both compelling and downright intimidating. All at once, we want to run toward change and run away from it. Sadly, this chronic push and pull results in one thing: getting stuck. When we both fear change and crave it, the result is often that we quietly consent to the status quo. When we don’t take the action that our psyche knows we need, we pay the price in the long run—anxiety, depression, and stress set in.
As a clinical psychologist, I’ve worked with countless clients who get stuck as a result of being afraid of change. As a woman, I’ve been in that stuck place myself. That’s one of the reasons I write and speak so passionately about creating change. When we get immobilized in life as a result of fearing change—of being unwilling to do the self-work that leads to a new future—we don’t grow. And, sometimes, it’s worse than that. When we don’t allow ourselves to change in necessary ways, we can actually degrade who we are; we can diminish our own power and sense of self. As a result, we can unconsciously become angry and irritated at ourselves (or others) for not creating change. Yet, sometimes the timing is off—indeed, there are times when it’s important to pause to await the right time for self-work and the changes you’ve been craving.
6 Steps to Discover if You’re Ready for Change
If you’re stewing about whether or not you are ready for change, maybe it’s time to pause to consider what’s truly right for you. Indeed, you may find that change is easier—even if scary—when you honor your own timing, needs, and capacities. The below list will help you check in with yourself to evaluate when—and if—you are ready.
1. Focus on What You Want
Make a very clear outline about the changes you want to make. Perhaps you want to join a self-help group, begin seeing a therapist, go back to school, or rid yourself of toxic relationships. Get as specific as possible.
2. Notice Your Reality
Take a look at where you are in life. If you have significant life stressors such as a recent loss, serious health issue, or other major issue, take stock of the factors that might make this a more difficult or less ideal time for change.
3. Assess Your Support System
When making major changes, a strong support system can be very helpful. Whether you have a supportive partner, friend, social group, or therapist, consider who is available to offer reassurance.
4. Evaluate the Upsides
For every change you noted in step 1, consider the benefits. For example, if you want to begin going to a support group, imagine the positive results that might occur such as increased self-esteem, better boundaries, etc.
5. Consider the Downsides
For each change you outlined in step 1, consider the possible downsides. For example, your self-esteem might grow as a result of attending a support group; this might result in you leaving a relationship that has been toxic. (Notice that although this might feel like a downside, there is also substantial upside, too!)
6. Shift When You Are Ready
As you evaluate your contemplated changes, be compassionate with yourself. Listen to your inner voice and use wisdom (not self-judgment) when deciding when the timing is right for you.
It’s so important to be in the right mindset for change. When you feel ready to do the self-work necessary to learn about who you are and what you want—and deserve—in life, you’ll embrace the journey with more delight. Sure, change is scary, but the results of positive change pave the way for a lifetime of joy. When YOU are ready for change, pick up a copy of my new book, Joy from Fear. It will lead you into creating the life of your dreams.