Overcoming Fear of Change


The School of Life recently ran an interesting talk on the fear of change. Dr Chris Irons, Clinical Psychologist, suggests that it's the stress linked to change that we fear, rather than the actual change itself. With no frame of reference for the change, we fear the unknown.

Fear factors

During the talk several factors were outlined as making change harder. These were:

  • not being prepared for how hard it will be
  • not having anyone to talk to about it
  • others expect you to feel one way and you feel the other
  • magnifying or dramatising the situation
  • blaming yourself
  • lack of confidence in yourself to cope with the change

Tips to help make change better include:

  • be aware of your limits and stress capacity
  • prepare yourself for ALL expected outcomes. Ask someone who has been through the change your contemplating for a heads up of what it might be like so you can plan for it.
  • talk to someone for support
  • work out what can be changed e.g your perspective or the situation
  • develop your tolerance/acceptance levels. Ride it out. It might be awful right now but the stress will end.
  • have some self-compassion. Be kind to yourself during that time.
  • think about what's helped you get through a big change before. Use some of the same things.

A useful exercise

If you know you need to make some changes but you're not sure where to start, try out this exercise:

Rank how important the following things are in life (1 - most important, 10 - least important):

  • partner
  • work
  • hobbies
  • friends
  • family
  • exercise
  • children
  • internet/email
  • television
  • religion

Now list from 1 to 10 how much time you dedicate to that item a week (1 - the most, 10 - the least). Is there a disparity? Are you spending too much time on the things that actually aren't that important to you or vice versa?


So, now you realise somethings got to change. How do you motivate yourself to make that change? In the first instance, try asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Think about something you'd like to change.
  2. How important do you feel this change is from 0-10 (10 being very important)?
  3. What could you make happen that could move you from what you've scored now to a higher score?
  4. Why would you want to make this change?
  5. What could you do in order to succeed in making this change?
  6. What are the best reasons for you to change?
  7. What are you going to do about it in the short run? And the long run?

Hopefully you’re now raring to go and take charge of your future.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor, and host of The Career Change Diaries podcast.