What’s holding you back?

How to stop fear from holding you back.

Abstract: Fear of change often causes paralysis by analysis. Attempts to maintain the status quo may not always be founded in balanced decision making. Simply put, few people embrace change.

Don’t “rock the boat”

In contrast to the ‘rock’ group ‘Statu Quo‘, from the 70’s (onwards), we frequently use the term “Status Quo” to describe the state of present state of being or the existing state of affairs.

Many very successful books about challenging the corporate status quo of large multi nationals have been written, but we want to narrow this down to the individual level.

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I thank the consulting company Albu Consulting (Strategic Management) for their excellent posting in 2017 which while an excellent business read provides a base for a completely different view point – ‘us personally’.

I’ve taken the liberty of using their comments about corporate strategic management and put my thoughts about us as individuals.

They go on to say,

“5 Reason the Status Quo is Not Enough”

They state, “The Status quo is defined as the current or existing state of affairs.  To maintain the status quo is to keep things the way they are.  Isn’t that the easier way?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could just keep things the way they are and not change?”

My response, TRUE – One of the hardest things to tolerate is change. Psychologists agree that fear of change change is more about from the way ‘we think it should be’, with the implication that humans tendency is to define their world in terms of how it is supposed to work – the difference between these two states I would describe as an incongruity.

Supporting this incongruity, is that because new information is not as easy to process as old, we tend to find friends and form groups that agree with us, who reinforce our beliefs, regardless of whether they’re correct or not.

When people all agree on something, it’s easier to discount other’s opinions even in the face of undeniable logic stating otherwise.

This is called ‘The illusion of asymmetric insight’ and makes it appear that you know everyone else better than they know you, and that you know them better than they know themselves, an old sales tactic.

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Black Adder

From this position of imbalance we may unexpectedly be thrown into change by circumstances often outside of our control. Even those like moving or changing jobs, etc. are often seen as outside personal choice ( I had to move, or it was a no-brainer).

We therefore tend to treat change in terms of good or bad, but there is always a range between these extremes.

Many of us will use something like the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) but as soon as these factors (all variable) are culminated into a decision, we again refer to the change in terms of a good or a bad, another incongruity.

It is clear that many other internal and psychological factors (such as temperament, experiences, mood, and IQ) also affects how a person processes change along the positive-negative continuum.

Decision making

Anytime that we are confronted by an event that is inconsistent with our core beliefs, stress will likely be experienced.

A psychometric for measuring stress (Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale) measures a change in a person’s life with stress and illness. Interestingly many of the items also represent “good” changes like dating, marriage, or vacations, so even good change can be experienced as stressful, “stress” as a physical response will be investigated in a later post.

Change is easy when we ‘know’ the outcome (or think we do) for instance, move something out of the fridge to defrost, choose to go outside to take the garbage, turn the T.V channel or cross the road when part of a road familiar to us is being dug up (we simply look around before crossing).

After seeing the world or ourselves in a certain light for an extended period of time, we develop core beliefs to make sense of our paradigm for how life is supposed to be.

As children we tend to have the most long-lasting and influential beliefs instilled because they represent ‘prototypical experiences’ that future experiences will be compared to and may help us survive in the future.

They will likely play a key role in the development of our ‘worldview paradigm’ for life. Since our brains are still developing then, childhood experiences have a greater chance of influencing how future neural connections will develop, whether good or bad.

Children tend to adjust better to change since they don’t have as much “baggage” to deal with when encountering change.

As we age and our brains become less plastic, we not only encounter more difficulties processing change because our paradigms are more ingrained but our world view is altered by those core values and beliefs that we have already developed.

Children can change more easily as they have less experience, ingrained beliefs and consequently fear of consequences. They have greater neural plasticity and this allows them to catch up with adults, you could say they were becoming “adult-erated”.

Back to the illusion of asymmetric insight in which you believe the same thing about groups of which you are a member; as a whole, the group understands outsiders better than outsiders understand them, and you understand the group better than its members know the group to which they belong.

The illusion of asymmetric insight allows the discounting of conflicting information as bias and the determination and belief to stick with what you know.

There is reluctance (sometimes aggressive) to consider the possibility of change because the group is seen as bigger than the individual, so the (bigger) group must be right.

Loss is a different (but related) form of change as it may remind us of our own mortality, the fear of loss may touch one of the greatest fears, that of rejection and being alone.

Dealing with change appropriately, requires effort, psychological effort and almost invariably produces discomfort and sometimes frank pain.

Yet accepting that its normal to recognize and feel the fear of change as completely normal and therefore acceptable, is the first step in managing your incorrect perception of the environment and the changes taking place within it.

Nothing to fear but fear itself

The basics of this article first appeared as a post in www.lookingforacareerchange.com a website related to online business implementation and success.

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Dr Stephen Bray 2019

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