The idea of changing one’s life, especially at fifty plus is daunting for many people; so much so that they simply don’t try or give up fast. So what are the impediments to change and growth?
Fear is the obvious element. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown and fear of giving up a familiar status quo that we know we can deal with even if our present life is quite unsatisfying. Safety is meant to protect but it can also act as a comfortable prison.
I think that far more powerful obstacles to growth and change are self-limiting beliefs. These are our thoughts about ourselves and the world that shut us down and send us scurrying back to the familiar. Messages like “who do you think you are?” “Other people deserve (fill in the blank) not me”; and that really nasty one; “it’s too late”. There is no merit in these thoughts but they set the limits on dreams for so many people.
A third category of obstacle comes in the form of messages from others: the naysayers. These may even be well intentioned people who care about us and who mean well. People can caution against change and growth from their own place of fear, or jealousy or being threatened by seeing someone else considering embarking on a road that they prefer to keep closed.
Last but not least, people who have suffered past failures, especially in the areas of weight-loss , health changes and relationship disappointments may be left with a sense that history predicts future. Understandable conclusion, but ain’t necessarily so. I hate to see people be so hard on themselves. Usually past attempts at changing habits; changing life have been attempted in a manner that is unlikely to succeed. First of all people are not taught about the process of change – about how it all happens. The road to successful transformation is a combination of moving forward and every now and then, regressing. Where people go wrong is to see it in an all or-nothing way and so give up. Backsliding is all part of the process so guilt and despair are an unfortunate reaction. Keeping with it leads to the development of a sense of self-efficacy, meaning I am learning that I can have confidence that I can do things.
Another set-up for failure is to try to do it alone and without support. Evidence proves that using a support community is the best way to stay the course. This includes enlisting the help of others who can cheer you on and care enough about you to hold you accountable for carrying through on what you truly want. Not in a critical way but in a “you really deserve to do this” way . They may be people who are themselves embarking on a course of change. This include enlisting the help of a coach to get the whole process started. The job of a good coach is to help people discover their own strengths and strategies to go for what they truly want.
I know that change is hard and scary, if it wasn’t we would all breeze through it. Yet making important changes in our lives at any age is exciting and possible. No matter what your circumstances there is room for more possibility than you imagine. Confidence is like a muscle. We build it slowly. www.thestar.com/turningpoint