How to Make Life Changes Feel Less Scary

Today I have a guest post from the lovely Darla. Darla is a professional intuitive and has a blog over at Sassy Spirituality. Her post talks about those times when your spirit is calling you to make a change and how to change without it freaking you out.

Without further ado, here’s her post…

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A friend of mine recently e-mailed and asked me this question:

…Are you ever afraid of “going all in” spiritually…like, let go and let it take you wherever. And really let go?…i.e. “what will people think?”, “what will happen to my relationships with my family?”, “how will I make ends meet financially?”

I could totally devote my life to this. I’ve felt it many times during meditation, but I feel myself pull back because I’m afraid of how drastically my life would change. Does this make sense at all?

Oh, yes. It makes perfect sense. It screams sense.

As I told her, and as I’m now telling you, I am constantly afraid of “going all in” spiritually, and I don’t think this is in anyway uncommon.

Though I have no aspirations to be a monk or a nun or anything else that “all in,” I do feel some changes in my life coming– changes that are likely to propel me further down my spiritual path and make me healthier and happier…but I’m resisting and I’m dragging my feet and I’m stubbornly stamping my feet in ornery protest. Why? Because change is scary. You know this, I know this. We all know this.

If you had told me three years ago that today I’d be divorced, living a new life in Albuquerque while my ex started his own new life in Spain and that I’d be easing into life as an intuitive counselor I’d have been too shocked and too scared stiff to go another step forward in my life. And it would still be 2007 and I’d still be living in Iowa. Gross.

Change can be mortifying, especially when you feel like you’re being asked to “go all in.” But there are a few things you can do to not only prepare yourself for change, but to make the whole process a little easier.

Why you’re being asked to “go all in”

First of all, I’m not entirely sure that you are being asked to “go all in.” On anything.  Neither life nor Spirit is black and white and living between extremes is dangerous and a surefire way to feel inadequate. However, there are times in our lives when it’s time to change something. It’s time to change a behavior, a thought pattern or a routine in order to spice up our lives, turn us upside down for a different view of the world, open our lives up for something or someone new to enter, or to propel us into the life we truly desire.

For example, when I travel it’s my taste buds that collect all of the souvenirs. My entertainment budget is my food budget. When it was still 2007 and I did still lived in Iowa I kept myself entertained and sane by writing a rather successful food blog. And then I decided to go to grad school and write a thesis about how food can create and sustain cultural identity. Today I’ve quite unexpectedly (yet enthusiastically and wholeheartedly) found myself on a new path as an intuitive counselor. But my passion for food remains. My mind is racing with ideas on how I can take what I’ve learned about food and cultural identity and apply that to spiritual identity. But if this is an area I truly wish to explore (and I do) and if it’s an area in which I expect to teach and empower others, then you’d better believe it is an area in which I am going to be poked, prodded and tested.

I’ve always been adamant that I would never prohibit myself from eating anything I truly wanted to eat. I don’t like rules when it comes to what I eat. Moderation is key and people who deny themselves pleasures of the palate must be shriveling inside and hate both babies and laughing. Right?

Maybe.

As a life long meat-eater and the granddaughter of cattle ranchers (on both sides), I never would have guessed that I would one day give it up. But that is exactly what I did this past January. I was getting some familiar nudges to stop eating it but the idea of not eating red meat frightened me. We form or associate emotional connections with food and I’ve eaten red meat my entire life. How can I give it up completely? So I decided to make a deal: I’d stop eating red meat for the month of January and we’d go from there. Not only have I not eaten red-meat in five months but I also don’t want to eat it. I don’t crave and I don’t miss it.

Whoa.

Now I’m feeling that familiar nudge nudging me to give up sugar.

Crap.

How have I handled this? I’ve eaten way more sugar than I normally do. Even when I don’t want it because I know it’s just a matter of time before it will be off limits to me. And worse than that, I won’t even want it! I don’t want to not want sugar! Everyone eats sugar to some degree. So I’m resisting. I’m overindulging. Before this nudging I probably ate one or two candy bars a year. In that case I’ve probably eaten 3 years worth of candy bars this year along…and it’s only May. It’s the binge before the purge.

The beautiful and frustrating thing about change is that only you can change yourself (yeah yeah we’ve heard it all before). But also, you can only make the changes you truly want to make. I didn’t stop eating meat because of some inner nudging. I stopped eating it because I wanted to. And I know that that will be the same case of anything else I give up or anything I begin doing/eating.

How to ease out of resistance and into positive change

Whether it’s a lifestyle change, trying a new experience (restaurant, therapy, travel, etc.,) or even choosing to buy one product over another (you entrepreneurs out there listening?) a large force behind all resistance is uncertainty. There is a communication theory called Uncertainty Reduction Theory. (I have two degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication so bear with me for a second!)

Uncertain Reduction Theory basically states: reduce your uncertainty, reduce your resistance. This theory was developed to describe how and why we as humans choose to enter into some relationships and not into others. Uncertainty Reduction Theory has three stages: the entry stage, the personal stage, and the exit stage. Just as we use these stages to develop relationships, we can use these stages to reduce our uncertainty about adopting a new behavior:

#1 Entry Stage: This is the stage where we commonly exchange biographical and demographic information with someone: Where did you grow up? What do you do? Do you have kids?  As more information is gathered and uncertainty begins to be reduced (re: you begin to understand what topics and information are off limits to this new person), the questions begin to deepen, leading to the next stage. In the case of learning about a new behavior you may want to adopt (diet, meditation, yoga, etc.) this stage may be characterized by asking people already engaged in this behavior what their experience has been like: How long have you been doing this? Do you enjoy it? What’s the hardest thing about it? What are the benefits? What advice do you have for me?

#2 Personal Stage: This is the stage where you would begin to explore the attitudes and beliefs of your new acquaintance. You will begin to probe for information about their values, morals, etc., and emotional involvement tends to increase. In the case of learning about a new behavior, this stage may involve deeper research such as buying or checking out several books on the topic, or doing a trial run and taking note of the results. Are the results what you expected? Are they encouraging?

#3 Exit Stage: This is the stage where the former strangers decide if it is worth it to continue developing a relationship based on the information gathered in the first to stages. In the case of learning about a new behavior you may ask yourself if the behavior (or person) is worth giving more time and attention to, based on your initial results. If the answer to this question and the questions posed in the second stage is ‘no’ then you may choose to not adopt the new behavior or you may choose to start over at Stage 1 or 2 and gather even more information.

Resistance is totally natural. Don’t waste time beating yourself up, being afraid or hesitant. That won’t help anyone and it may cause you to not only resist making new, positive, changes but it may actually cause you to regress into some bad habits or thinking patterns that you long ago gave up. Instead there are a number of ways to ease yourself into adding or subtracting something to your life. Remember that these changes are the goal, they are the finish line, but the journey really is what matters. The journey is probably why you’re being called to make these changes in the first place!

As anyone who has trained to make some sort of a journey (marathon, the Tour de France, a pilgrimage, a shopping spree . . .) will tell you: the key is to pace yourself, and remembering the three stages of Uncertainty Reduction may help you pace yourself. Remembering that there is a process for easing into everything, and that process has a name, will help you remain calm and less stressed in the face of change.

In summary, the steps of Uncertainty Reduction can be reduced to these simple steps for pacing yourself in the face of making a change:

  • Learn all you can about the subject or situation
  • Ask questions. Ask yourself, your guides, your friends, your cat. Ask!
  • Do a 3, 7 or even 30 day trial run—try it on for size
  • Agree to incorporate the new change into you life in one small way– eat one raw meal a day, for example. Eliminate less-than-ideal-vice for one entire day each and every week (Tuesdays, for example). Build up to two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Remember that you don’t have to do anything you don’t like or don’t want to do! If you’re forcing yourself to do something take a step back and repeat the first two steps: learn all you can and ask a lot of questions. Then try again or ask yourself if this is a change you really want to make.

Change can be scary but it doesn’t have to hard.

*** Darla Antoine is a dreamer, intuitive and chakra aligner extraordinaire from the U.S.A. You can find her at Sassy Spirit.

 

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4 Responses to “How to Make Life Changes Feel Less Scary”

  1. Kate says:

    Excellent post Darla. I was doing some cognitive behaviour therapy and it was similar. I did things for a week. One week I cooked a new meal every night of the week. Another week every day I danced. A week isn’t long to make changes and you can go back to the way things were after it, but I bet you dont.
    A journalist who experiments with behaviour changes is AJ Jacobs. Hes worth looking up on google. Making a project out of things can make you feel like youre in but you can have an out after a small amount of time.

    Kate’s last blog.. Are Our Ancestors Inside Us?

  2. Sylvia says:

    Very interesting!

  3. Catriona says:

    Really interesting post, Darla. Thank you! Really like your connecting cultural identity and spiritual identity to food and would be very curious to hear what you have to say about the latter! xx

  4. Darla says:

    Thanks everyone!

    Kate: Thanks for recommending Al Jacobs! I’ll look him up. I like the idea of trying something for a week– you’re right, you’ll get a chance to try it on for size and no pressure to keep it up after the week is over.

    Sylvia: Thanks!

    Catriona: I’ll be sure to let you know when I’ve done more work on connecting the dots between cultural & spiritual identity and food!
    .-= Darla´s last blog ..How being a "nice girl" can get you killed =-.

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