Tomorrow I start a new job and with such a major change comes the disturbingly familiar insomnia.
When I was younger change was something I actively hunted out—travel, temporary jobs to save money for travel, and new homes. And although there was anxiety, I was used to and enjoyed the momentum constant change gave my life.
But now— the fear is palpable.
Why does change seem to get harder as we age?
According to an article in the Scientific American Set in Our Ways Why Change Is So Hard, traits such as extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to new experiences change more during young adulthood than any other time of life. This development pattern appears to exist across cultures, although there is debate as to whether this is due to genes or new roles we take on at this time such as getting a career, a partner, and starting a family. Openness apparently often increases during a person’s 20s and then goes into decline until about age 60. After this, perhaps free of responsibility for raising a family and/or earning a living some people become more open to change.
Well I am not going to hang about until I’m 60 to make change. I am sure that being responsible for children and emotional and financial security plays a big part in reluctance to step outside my comfort zone. However, there have been times in my life when I have procrastinated too long and got so stressed that it affected my health.
The realisation that you need to make change may take place over a period of years. At other times it hits us in an instant. Yet the gap between knowing you need to make change and making it can sometimes seem too vast— the known, no matter how damaging to our well-being feels safer than the unknown.
Sometimes all that is needed to make the journey across this gap is to make the decision. If you know why you want to change this can be easy. If not it is time for a bit of reflection, why do you want to change?
At periods of uncertainty in my life I have always found it helpful to talk about things with my friends and family and to read about other people who have followed their passions. It can also be helpful to have an objective opinion from a mentor or to talk to a counselor or therapist, this is especially so for behavioural change such as addiction.
Fear is not my only emotion about tomorrow—I am also excited. A new job means a new beginning, new things to learn, new people to meet and new challenges.
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
– M. Scott Peck