Category Archives: Managing a Fear of Change


Achieving goals Requires Embracing Change
photo credit: IronRodArt – Royce Bair

A Change
(A change would do you good)
Would do you good
(A change would do you good)
I think a change
(A change would do you good)
Would do you good
(A change would do you good)

 –         Lyrics by Sheryl Crow, from the album, Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow’s song has been replaying in my head all day. I’m sure I didn’t hear it some where recently, it’s just in my head playing over and over. I think I know why. I’ve been postponing doing some things I know are important for me to do in order to accomplish a goal I have. The thing is, these things represent new experiences for me, and that means I’m heading into the unknown, and change can’t be far behind. Gulp!

My rational mind wants to tell me that there has never been a change in my life that wasn’t ultimately for the better. That is to say, the ugly little caterpillar eventually becomes the beautiful butterfly. Or, put another way, you’ve never heard of a butterfly becoming a caterpillar have you?

The clinker is the “ultimately” part. That’s where my subconscious mind reminds me that to get to the good stuff, I have to go through some less than pleasant stuff, like bookkeeping, asking other people for help, or doing paperwork. Lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh my!

Truth to tell, I can’t avoid a fear of change. A fear of change is hardwired into my brain because the subconscious mind is all about maintaining things where they are – where it’s been proven safe. So, what I have to do is stop trying to avoid feeling fearful. I need to stop fighting my fear of not being able to predict precisely what future changes will occur, and what might be the ramifications. Instead, I must effectively manage my fear by providing myself with a plan of attack that takes into account not just the attainment of my goal, but the need to assuage my anxiety.

A Successful Strategy for Achieving Goals in Spite of a Fear of the Unknown

What I need to do is recapture the strategy I’ve used in the past to achieve new goals, because that’s what helped me center my thinking, organize my tasks, and navigate change with confidence.

After all, my most successful moments have been when I drove a wedge between myself and any trepidation I might have. In the past I’ve done this by creating a written plan for forward momentum that includes the what, why, when, and how of what needs to be done as well as an outline of the enjoyable outcomes I can expect to gain from tackling X, Y, or Z.

While this approach is hardly revolutionary, it has always allowed me to replace nervousness with anticipation, and drudgery with challenge and curiosity. Plus, because built into it is immediate action, just beginning the “doing” of something establishes that one is on one’s way and there’s no turning back.

 Here’s what works for me:

  • Write down what needs to be done to achieve a specific goal, but only those things that are essential – back burner anything that’s not crucial to the greater goal – never “overbook” goals – never “overbook” a daily “to do” list
  • Write down why it needs to be done – this helps to clarify what’s crucial from what’s overdoing it
  • Write down the expected results, and link them to the expected long-term, pleasurable benefits of completing the task – imagine myself as having already attained the goal – savor the feeling
  • Write down the broad action steps necessary to achieve the goal
  • Break the overall goal into smaller goals, and write a game plan that includes baby steps over a prescribed period of days/weeks – being careful not to load too much into one day or underestimate the time it will take to accomplish each step along the way
  • Allow for the fact that some revision of the game plan may be necessary as things proceed, and alter or change the game plan on an “as needs” basis
  • Every night, review what’s been accomplished that day by writing down the actions I’ve taken, and the actions I’ve completed – reward myself by taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of moving forward, and firm up the next day’s schedule – then let it all go for the evening
  • Every morning, tackle the most important items for the day first, but address the easiest tasks related to the most important items first – this way, I have an immediate sense of accomplishment, and my mind feels calm and less cluttered, and ready to take on either the more difficult or the more mundane tasks for the day

A Written Record Is the Key to Managing a Fear of Change

You will notice that creating and maintaining a written record  is essential. Just thinking about it, or talking about it, won’t cut it. Writing down our plan is essentially a concrete action step that instantly engages us with our goal and serves as a contract between our self and our future – a promise harder to break – and obligation harder to ignore.

Truthfully, I’ve never heard of anyone accomplishing anything lasting and worthwhile who didn’t get it down on paper in some manner.

For example, Rachael Ray has a self-confessed, life-long habit of writing lists that organize her thinking, and become idea-generating springboards for her many, successful projects. That one habit may well be the cornerstone of a career that has seen Ms. Ray evolve from a complete unknown, into a celebrated cook, author, and businesswoman presiding over an impressive culinary empire, uniquely her own.

Ultimately, the reason it’s better to manage a fear of change, rather than to avoid dealing with a fear of change, is because there are really no bad outcomes.

By venturing out into the proverbial “uncharted waters” we learn new things – both what works, and what doesn’t. This allows us to reach a new and better place each day, and brings us closer to our goal.

When we do this with a deliberate and systematic approach, we give ourselves a solid, nerve-calming foundation from which to proceed, and we are able to follow through in doable increments. Change becomes bearable, and opportunities we hadn’t even imagined unfold, not unlike the newly formed wings of that brand new butterfly.

Well, time to get to work. I’m off to put pen to paper (actually, fingertips to keyboard).

How do you manage change as it relates to achieving goals?

Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.

In the meantime,

Bestest to all,

Cynthia Dalton signature