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How I’m learning to overcome my natural propensity to avoid change

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Nigel Jarvis / Shutterstock

Cecilia Pigg - published on 11/08/22

These 4 practices are helping me make decisions differently and move my life in the right direction.

I spent most of the phone call talking about chickens, which was not what I had intended to talk about during spiritual direction, but those little fowls just kept coming up.

As the conversation came to a close, Father said, “Cecilia, just get the chickens. From what you’ve said, having chickens is probably better for your family than not having them.”

This statement turned out to be true after some time with our new poultry. Why did getting chickens scare me so much? I’ve realized that when any kind of change comes knocking, I quickly say “no thanks” and move on. I automatically assume all change is not helpful and will require too much work or too many resources. 

I know intellectually that avoiding all change is not a great way to live. I know I need to accept or at least explore potential opportunities for change proactively rather than ignoring them. And by opportunities for change I am talking about both big changes—like, should I get a new job, should I move to a different home–and smaller changes, like should I paint the living room, get a new pet, go on a trip this weekend, etc.

So here’s how I’m learning to counteract my natural propensity to avoid all active change.

Life is written with the “yeses” and not with the “ifs.”

I heard that phrase while listening to this video recently, and it hit home. I devote all of my attention to the “ifs” when I think about change. Moving to a new house?  Ok, but what if … the new neighbors at a new house are terrible? Starting a new hobby?  What if … I put work into this new endeavor and I end up hating it? Exploring to a new grocery store? What if the new store isn’t any better than the one I go to currently?

My ifs hold me back, and do nothing to change the trajectory of my life. My yeses, however, actually move me forward–or maybe backward sometimes–but they move me.  

Don’t make decisions in desolation.

One idea based on an Ignatian principle for discernment that always sticks with me is that you shouldn’t make big decisions when you are not in a good place emotionally and spiritually. This helps me figure out when I am dragging my feet on a decision whether I should just buck up and act or whether I should wait a bit longer. If I am in a good place emotionally, then yes, I should decide on a course of action. If I am not in a good place, then I should wait to make a decision so that I can make it with unclouded judgment. 

Why not, actually?

I’ve started trying to find the real reason I’m nervous about a specific change. Writing things down always helps me process, so I try to take a few minutes to identify both the superficial things that are holding me back from wanting to consider something new, as well as the deeper fears that might be at play. 

Take your fear all the way to the max in your head and then reassess.

When I hit on a fear that overwhelms me and keeps me from committing to something that otherwise seems like a good decision, I try this exercise. Let’s say I’m trying to decide whether or not to take a break from my Etsy shop. I’ve made a pros and cons list, and there are more pros for me to take a break. However, I can’t get the fear out of my head that if I take a break, I’ll never get another customer to buy my monogrammed waffle irons, and that potential side income stream will never be possible again.

So I take that fear to its extreme—taking a break leads to me never selling waffle irons again, and somehow that prevents me from earning any income in any capacity, and then I end up homeless. How would I handle that? I have family I could turn to who could help me out. Life would not be exactly how I wanted it, but it would be okay. In the worst case scenario, life wouldn’t be terrible. This frees me to take the plunge and take the break I’m pretty sure I need. Here’s to baby steps toward change and away from fear. 

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Personal Growth
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