I’m going to start this blog with one of my favorite quotes as I think it sums up everything I wish to say about change and why we fear it…
“Something in us wishes to remain a child, to be unconscious or, at most, conscious only of the ego, to reject everything strange, or else subject it to our will, to do nothing, or else indulge our own craving for pleasure or power.”
As Carl Jung puts so poetically, all of us, emotionally at least, wish to spend our lives as children, in a place we feel loved, reassured, and safe. Of course, that’s not possible, but it does explain why, as humans, we are often highly resistant to change. And why, even in retirement, we fear breaking out of our comfort zone.
Another issue, which is also rooted in childhood, are our beliefs about change. Growing up we are programmed to ‘play it safe’. “Don’t touch that, stay away from cars, watch where you’re going, be careful not to fall…” As children we hear this soundtrack on repeat, from parents, teachers, even siblings and friends. This is our foundation and explains pretty well why, even years later, most of us fear taking risks.
Creatures of habit
As humans we’re habitual creatures. We love routine. It makes us feel safe and content. When we live a routine life, we don’t have to think. We’re robotic almost and in being this way we conserve energy because we feel at ease. For this reason, we fear the unknown, as in that place, we do have to think, and worry, and change. We do have to be alert and energised. And we do have to prepare ourselves for worst-case scenarios.
A natural intolerance to uncertainty
Another reason we love living life in the comfort zone is that we fear failure. From childhood, success is instilled in us. We’re told we need to learn hard, work hard, and even play hard! Actually though, failure can be a good thing, and a faster route to achieving our goals. No one tells you that though, do they?!
Take retirement, many of us realise, after the honeymoon period is over, that a life of freedom is actually a life of boredom. We crave purpose, we miss our old identity, and the camaraderie of colleagues. Many people wrongly believe that the answer lies back in our old job, in our old world, and with our old friends. That place felt comfortable, this new existence doesn’t.
“I’m not good enough…”
You may have heard of ‘imposter syndrome’. You only have to pick up a newspaper or magazine and you’re sure to see someone talking about how they’ve overcome it. Imposter syndrome basically means doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It is, as the name suggests, a negative trait, that pushes us back into our comfort zone and it often comes into play when we transition into retirement. We feel that we can’t sing in the choir because we’re ‘not good enough’, we tell ourselves we’d be useless at rock climbing, and so we don’t join our friends on that once-in-a-lifetime trip. We let our mind take over, and in doing so we miss out on life’s great adventures and our world becomes smaller day by day.
We care too much what people think
Very few people go through life without worrying about how they’re perceived, some more than others. Deep down we all care what people think of us and because of that we conform. We let other people’s beliefs impact our own and we worry about losing them if we dare to change. But we shouldn’t, especially not in retirement. This really is our chance to do whatever we like (within reason of course!) and to not let anyone or anything hold us back. That way we’ll leave this world knowing we were true to ourselves and lived each day to the full.
Change is hard, even more so as we age, but it’s necessary if we want a route to a better life. We’re all programmed to fear it, so don’t beat yourself up about that. Be strong, embrace uncertainty, and prepare to fail because that’s the secret to a happy retirement and a fulfilling and more purposeful future. If you would like some help working out what retirement looks like for you, click here to check out my digital program.