When Change Stalls Out

You’ve been working the same job for years.  It’s OK.  It pays the bills.  But inside your heart, you really don’t want to be there.  Getting to work is an effort. You feel itchy inside wanting change, but then you think about the mortgage, and the kids will be leaving home for college soon.  So many obstacles…

The responsibility won’t change just because you want to jump ship.

And then, you find a new direction.  You’re excited!  You’ve run the numbers, you’ve looked at all sides, and your loved ones are onboard.  You’re charged with energy.  It’s a Real Possibility!

It involves risk, it involves stepping out of your comfort zone, and it involves Big Change. 

But you don’t do it.  You stall out.

What is going on?

Your lizard brain took over.  It wants to keep you safe in your comfort zone.

In your comfort zone, you know the rules, whether you like them or not.  Your life is predictable.  That makes your lizard brain happy because it wants a plan and to know a predictable future.

The brain dislikes change because uncertainty consumes more energy.  For an organ that takes up only ~2% of your body, it consumes ~25% of the body’s energy. 

You may have already noticed that a day of hard thinking feels more exhausting than a day of hard labor.   The brain needs to conserve energy in case a sudden threat calls it into emergency action.  

It needs to know the rules and have a plan to be safe in order to survive.  It’s hard to make change when your brain panics.  But you don’t have to stay there.

Brain tools for change

To jumpstart change, it helps to enlist both the hardware (neuroplasticity) and software (thoughts) to trick your brain into cooperating. 

Here’s how that plays out:

Neuroplasticity.  Your brain is constantly adapting to how you live your life every day.  You can let it grow haphazardly or you can grow it intentionally to embrace change at the neuron level.

Each neuron has ~10,000 dendrites, but a neuron alone is nothing.  It needs multiple and strong connections.  Neurons work only when they are connected to another neuron.  Otherwise, they starve and die.

To intentionally grow and connect neurons, learn new things. Classic examples include solving puzzles or learning a new language or writing poetry or a song. 

You can also increase capacity through new experiences.  Venturing somewhere you’ve never been and getting lost is a great way to connect dendrites.  Put yourself in a situation where you don’t know the answer or have a plan and the brain will automatically grow and connect neurons.

Finally, I can’t over-emphasize exercise.  If you do what the gurus say and go for a walk every day, you’re not only increasing the blood flow to the brain, you’re creating new experiences that grow neurons and create new connections.

Thoughts.  If you think I’m going to carry on about a positive attitude, well, I am.  But not in a rainbows-and-unicorns-airy-fairy way.   

This is not about being happy, it’s about mindset.  When your mindset is positive, you believe there are solutions to your problems. 

When you know in your gut that an answer exists, your brain will grow dendrites and connect different dots in an attempt to find it.  You have given your brain a mission and it knows it can keep you safe by growing.

What helps most is to create a vision.  (Yeah, right… every coach says that…)  Here’s why it works:  The lizard brain needs to know where it’s going.  It must have a plan.  If it has a plan, it knows you are safe and won’t throw barriers in your way, like panic, or boredom, or perfectionism.

The vision doesn’t have to exist in “reality” because the brain doesn’t know the difference.  You don’t even have to have The Answer; a vague direction will work.  Plant seeds of what it might or could look like.  This is why vision boards are so useful.  It gives the brain something to strive toward.

Then finally, take baby steps.  You have tools to grow the capacity of your brain and you have a direction that will help the brain formulate a plan.  But as tempting as it is, try to refrain from jumping off the cliff. 

Sudden moves make the lizard brain panic and it will create obstacles that keep you stuck… and “safe.”  Whether you like it there or not.

Instead, hold the vision as the direction you’re headed but take one baby step at a time. Like climbing a ladder, you can see the top, but hold your focus only on the next rung. 

You can do this, and I can help you with that.  Connection with a supportive person helps.  I know what you’re up against because I’ve been there.  Contact me for a conversation to explore working together. 

You don’t have to stay stuck.

2 Replies to "When Change Stalls Out"

  • Ginger
    June 6, 2019 (3:20 pm)

    Good one! I enjoyed reading it!

    • Debra
      June 6, 2019 (3:39 pm)

      So glad it resonated!

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