The word that frightens begins with C

Last week, I had a talk with a good friend that asked me, Lucretia, why are some people always complaining about their lives, but they refuse to make a change for the better? I admit, I’ve been taken by surprise by her question, as nothing from our little chit-chat was pointing to it, but it also made me smile.

Truth is, even if all kinds of words have all kinds of powers, one has the particular power of scaring people more than everything. Its name is Change. Of course, we’re told that change is good, that we need to look for it and embrace it with all our being, but the truth be told, for most of us, change ain’t pretty at all.

Change is not frightening by itself, as most people understand that it is nothing to be endlessly avoided. What makes it frightening, though, is its complexity and, even more often than that, its costs.

Because change is, before anything else, a process. A long-term process, involving being put in front of your own mistakes and flaws, and asked Do you like what you see? The real answer is, usually, no. And this is where the fun begins. Choosing to change is the first step, and the easiest to take, even if it doesn’t feel easy at all. The root of change, however, of noticeable change, is giving up. You give up whatever you notice that is holding you back- beliefs, habits, relationships. You might even have to give up on perspectives, and that’s a tough one to be done, I admit.

If you think about this, the existence of people who fear changes becomes understandable. No one likes the process of changing, but we all want the results of it. It sounds foolish and naïve, but it’s called being human. Evolutionary talking, change was never something good, or something to be hyped about. It meant loss, uncertainty, anxiety, maybe even danger. That’s how our brains got wired, during a long, long period, to resist change. That’s also the reason why we fear more social changes than we do fear the technical ones.

This is also why it takes so long for an individual to actually change something that bothers its life. It is, above everything else, an inner battle- a battle between your current dissatisfaction, and your amygdala, telling you that everything is fine just the way it is now, but it might not be as good if you’ll make changes. Maybe things will get worse, instead of getting better. That’s how your close ones dismissing changes think. This is how the change resistance sounds like.

It has never been about laziness or dreaming small dreams. It has never been about not wanting to be a better version of yourself, either, we all want that. It has, however, always been about fearing the process and the costs. Costs that are not small at all, if you give them a second thought. If you add to this some past traumatic events, the resistance to change is bigger than one could possibly expect. And, at some point in our lives, any changes, however big or small, involve the risks of new traumas. So, once put in front of this eventuality, the ordinary individual will make the safest choice, which is, usually, stagnation.

Because after the moment of deciding to make a change, confusion is coming. Ok, I have to change something, this is not what I want my life to be like. But…what should I actually change about my life? And this is how the whole process, anxiety generating and pretty painful, begins. There is a good reason behind the old saying the first steps are the hardest to take, and it applies the best when it comes to the trauma survivors faced with an urge for change.

This is something that personal development didn’t have the courage yet to tackle. Everyone tells you how wonderful the changing process is, and what a wonderful person you’re gonna be at the end of it. Somehow, nobody talks about the ugly fights that happen before one takes the decision to engage in a changing process.

About the self-monologues one has, that tells you to keep what’s working not as a way of seeing what could serve your purposes and what should be changed, but as a way to keep everything. And that also includes the things, beliefs, routines, and relationships that brought you up to that point, too.

Another reason why we have to battle our tendencies of resisting change is attachment. Yes, the good old emotional attachment. We have finally figured out a way of doing things that work (ok, ok, it could be improved, but it works out fine just like it is, too!), so we got attached to it. We like it. And you come and tell us that it should…change? For the sake of the better? The answer will be, most likely, a big no.

Because we like things as they are, and we want them to remain that way for as long as possible. We like our good evening routines and our good morning habits. We like having certain persons around us, even if we are aware that our lives would be way better without them around. This is how it works- we figure out something, we notice it working out in a decent way, we get to like it, and then we dismiss the guys that keep preaching change over and over again.

Yes, change is good. Sometimes, it is so, so needed. But the moment when an individual becomes aware of its need for change is something deeply personal. No book or workshop will ever teach you how to spot it, or how could you tell if somebody has reached that point. This is why most of the change missionaries tend to fail. Because there’s no outer clue to tell you if that the person in front of you needs a change in its way of lifestyle, or it is just your projection about it who’s talking.

So, whenever you feel the need to tell someone that they could just make a change take a deep breath and ask yourself which was the last remarkable change you have taken yourself. You might be surprised of the answer, and it might just as well remind you that every person has its very own life map, with changes and all the milestones marked accordingly. Learn to see the differences between their maps, and yours, as it is the only right way to choose for evolution.

Why 2020 won’t be your year either, and why you shouldn’t regret it

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…part two. Now, with retrospectives in the past year, accomplishments and failures. And, of course, goal-setting for the next year. Because, of course, a new year brings a new me, ain’t it? A new and better version of one’s self, a version which is, in the first place, balanced.

And this is where everything starts to go down,  the moment that we tend to see reaching a mental state of balance in the same way we see obtaining some material thing: a clear path to follow, with a finish line to be reached and the object in our possession A one time thing. This is how another not-so-great year begins. By living trapped with a wrong mindset.

If you scroll around Social Media in this period, you’ll see that there’s an epidemic of posts about how the next year will be about myself. About becoming a better version of whoever posted that. And it’s a wonderful thing, but  this is not just theory.

Apparently small things, like going to bed earlier, procrastinating less, living a healthier and more meaningful life are all transformed into glittery goals. Which is a good, a wonderful thing, but it’s not making it past the first week of the new year. And there’s a good reason why.

Most of us live chaotic, fast-forward lives. We are constantly under pressure, constantly trying to achieve more and more in every sphere of our lives. We try to have both the perfect career and the perfect personal life, the perfect body and the delicious meals with our loved ones. And this, sooner or later, brings everyone into a state pretty close to survival mode. Or, if you’re not that lucky, burnout.

This is where the so-called failure begins. Do you know that Internet saying You can’t do epic things with basic people? Well, the same thing applies to life changes. You can’t evolve into a better person if you’re all caught up into survival mode. Because becoming a better person, even if that means that you’ll cut the junk food and sleep earlier, requires time, effort put into it and consistency. Or, if you have a bad time, if your resources are channeled into survival this period with minimum damage, evolution becomes a glittery dream.

Even if it’s uncomfortable, it is also true. But even if it’s true, this should not be an excuse for having bad behaviors that keep us from becoming the better versions which we know are possible.

Yes, we don’t have to give up trying to achieve something we know would be helpful, but we should not give into the social pressure of having a resolutions list either. We should, instead, try to be more introspective, to find out more about ourselves, and to gain a better understanding of how the  human mind and emotions work.

We should begin this and every year with the understanding of the fact that balance can be solid this week, and to vanish away the next one. And, above all, we shouldn’t judge anyone.

If your only goal for the next year is to know more about yourself, it’s great. If your biggest accomplishment of the last year was to discover coping mechanisms that don’t involve self-destructive behaviours and are really effective, you’re doing a fabulous job. If your goal is getting professional care for your mental health, this is absolutely wonderful as well.

As long as they make sense to you, your achievements and your goals should not be explained to anyone else. Somehow, though, if you really, really want to see those goals becoming reality, you should begin by breaking them into tiny pieces. This is one effective way of getting things done, as I will have  some veggies instead of fries for lunch today is way less scarier than Since today, I’m gonna have a healthy diet. And also far easier to accomplish.

Another thing to be considered is the fact that life ain’t linear. Neither life or progress are. There will be periods when everything will go according to plan, and periods when you couldn’t seem to be at greater distance of your goals. But this is part of the journey called life as well.

Even if the self-help literature and speakers tend to make individual evolution seem to be a piece of cake, it is, actually, more like building a house. It takes a huge amount of resources, time, patience and resilience. And, mostly, a very good memory, to remember the ups of the process and why have you started to do that in the first place.

But one of the most important reasons of not meeting the goals, is not the lack of consistency, or of discipline, or the desire of meeting them. No. One of the main reasons is that, often enough, evolution requires outside help. It might be a teacher, a mentor, a therapist or somebody that you genuinely and deeply admire. It might be your mom, or your little brother, this is not important. What matters, instead, is that some people do have this power, of making us trust ourselves a little more and judge ourselves a little less at the end of the day. These are our everyday heroes, which keep us going, and for which we should all be grateful.

And, no, you’re not a failure if you didn’t achieve all of your goals at the end of the year. As big or as small, progress is progress, and every step taken in the right direction matters. Make this journey feel as personal as it actually is, and do your best, daily, without emotional charge such as guilt, shame or envy.

The shortest recipe for a good year will always begin with a day, so find beauty in every day the little things to be grateful about. Because, at the end of the day, what fuels growth is the smile and the goodness that we manage to find in every day, day after day.