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Take the Fear out of Change Advice

Written by Dr. Dan Johnston

Life is too short to be spent in a sad situation, says columnist Dan Johnston, Ph.D. If you don't love living, it's time to make a change.

Are you lingering in a bad situation? A relationship that isn't working out or a dead-end job? You talk about how terrible it is, but you don't take action. You're stuck. You're caught in a comfortable misery.

A comfortable misery is a situation you don't like, but to which you have grown accustomed. You know the limits and bounds of this misery. You know that you can tolerate a situation this bad because you do it everyday.

You could make a change, but then what? You're tempted by the hope that things could get better, but paralyzed by the fear that they could get worse. "Maybe it's better to keep things the way they are," you tell yourself. "At least I know I can tolerate it."

Watch this video by Dr. Dan Johnston on coping with change.

This thinking holds you back and keeps you stuck. How miserable do you have to get before you make a change?

You could wait until your situation becomes a crisis, and you are impelled to act, but this isn't the best way to make changes. A crisis may color your judgment, causing you to act impulsively; or it may send you rushing to put things back to where you started: comfortable misery. Planning for change puts you in control.

Take responsibility for your happiness and plan your course of action now.

Take stock of your options. Be realistic about your resources and the possible outcome of your choices. Accept the fact that you might be somewhat more uncomfortable as you face these changes, but be optimistic. Hold on to the expectation that things will improve.

Think of it as a Band-Aid that you need to remove. Do you pull it off quickly to get it over with, or do you slowly remove it so as not to hurt yourself? Slow and steady can actually be more painful. Doing it quickly will also hurt, but it's over sooner.

Comfortable misery is slow and steady. It can be very distressing over time and may gradually increase in intensity.

Action is the best remedy for comfortable misery. Remember: You have the power of choice. Take a chance on new possibilities. You have only your misery to lose.

Dan Johnston, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and former director of psychological services at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. He also serves on the faculty of the Mercer University School of Medicine.

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