Six Ways to Embrace Change and Tackle Fear

Sunday morning, I woke up for the first time in my new room. I’m settling into a gorgeous home in northwest DC.

But I’ll be honest, I’ve never been good at change despite multiple transitions in the past few years. Since 2012 I lived abroad, had five jobs, and moved four times.

Yet, as a new change approaches, I want to avoid it. Whether it’s a new job or a new creative project, I get scared. I want to crawl into a hole. But I know I can’t do that, especially in my creative work.

The cost of resisting change

Avoiding change, especially as a creative, is dangerous. So much of our work is playing with new ideas. If we aren’t growing, our work stagnates.

Not following your natural evolution comes at a cost. You can’t tell inspiration what it should look like. Forcing your work is like trying to manually reverse a spinning a pottery wheel. You could do it, but it will require a lot of energy. Eventually, you’ll be too tired to move the wheel at all.

Even knowing the cost, it’s still hard. After working in both photography and poetry, I am now combining them in a new project, a photo poetry book. This project is so different that I barely know how to explain it to people without showing an example.

Sometimes it gets difficult to work on it. I get scared. Will people still like my work? Are these pieces any good? All these doubts make me want to just put it away and forget about it.

the path
Will you move forward?

So how do I keep my head up? Here are six tools I use to embrace change and face fear:

1. Break it down.

Change doesn’t have to be one big leap. In fact, most big changes are a series of small ones. For instance, I didn’t move in a single day. I packed over a couple of weeks and slowly moved into my new place.

Most changes can be broken into smaller pieces. For instance, if you have an idea for a novel, it could be scary to think about it as a huge project. Instead of panicking about 100,000 words, just write a little bit every day.

With small goals, you’ll worry less and get more done.

2. Use the tools you have or buy them cheap.

Can you guess what percent of people with gym memberships never use them? 67%. A lot of people are wasting money. If you’re anything like me, every time you look at that gym pass you feel guilty. You may avoid trying something new the next time because of it.

Avoid the pressure and guilt by using the tools you have. Want to start journaling? Grab a legal pad hanging around the house. Want to explore photography? Use your smartphone and some free apps.

Creativity doesn’t have to be expensive. Allowing yourself to try something new with less financial risk puts less pressure on you to be “good” at it. Instead, try something new. You can always buy the fancier equipment later on.

3. Make a choice.

For my new photo poetry book, I worry about how people will see it. Will it be a good product? Are the pieces repetitive? How do I go about getting it to people?

At times like these, I remember a quote by the Dalai Lama:

If a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.

The Dalai Lama shows that worrying is useless. In my case, I can work to have pieces cover a variety of topics. I can research different platforms for publishing the book. I can’t control how people will view or receive my work.

Fear wants to keep us safe. But that doesn’t mean your fear is right. When you worry, you choose to believe the fear. You become an anxious mess that gets nothing done. Or, you can acknowledge that worrying doesn’t help you. You can focus on what you’re doing here and now.

Either way you make a choice. No one else can do it for you. Stay present and decide what’s right for you.

4. Allow yourself to be human.

respect

After thousands of years, we are biologically programmed to be fearful. Eons ago, the fearless people fell off cliffs, got bitten by snakes, and probably self-selected themselves out of the gene pool.

As long as you are alive, there will be times when you’re afraid. Don’t deny it, acknowledge it. It may not be a big deal to others, but this is a big moment for you. You deserve respect for facing fear.

You may find when you acknowledge the fear that you gain some space and perspective. You may still be afraid, but you’ll gain clarity too.

5. Just do it.

Nike was onto something with that slogan. Fear will continue you until you make the jump. Was I nervous when I arrived in Israel? No, but you could blame jet lag.

Once you make the change, fear becomes silent. Why? Fear’s terrible future didn’t happen. Life goes on, usually just fine.

Taking that step can be hard. But I promise taking that one step is always better than regret.

6. You: the first and last approval

You are your first and last audience member. You have to create for yourself before anyone else. When working on something, ask yourself a few questions about the piece. Are you happy with it? Do you enjoy it? If not, go back and rework it.

In the end, your evolution might not be popular. But if you love your work, then you did the right thing. Looking to yourself as the only approval provides you a strong internal compass. Without it, you can get lost in others opinions.

But I have bills to pay.

Relying on your creativity as a living can make change harder. If you don’t change, you know there’s an audience for what you do. You know that you can probably sell your work and for how much. Businesses like predictability. Change throws all that certainty out the window.

But your new work could be wildly successful. Your new type of creativity could help you find new audiences. Both failure and success are potential outcomes of change. Yes, changing is a risk. But not changing could undermine your creativity and destroy it.

Conclusion

I could tell you that in an ideal world we’d know exactly what we were going to do before we did it. We’d know exactly how people were going to respond. The more I think about it though, the more it seems like a boring place.

Change can be dramatic but it keeps our work exciting. It keeps us growing and becoming better at what we do.

Have tips for dealing with change? Share it in a comment below!

2 Comments

  1. Hello Katie, I enjoyed receiving this thoughtful piece sharing your challenging moment. I wish you well in your newest venture. On our bedroom wall hangs a charcoal done by a RI artist, Gene Tonoff , who made a huge and lasting impact on my life at a difficult moment of change. The drawing is ringed with the words: “He who sees the greatest motion, the greatest change, perceives the greatest reality.”
    I send love and best wishes to you, Robin

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