You ever wake up, have a morning stretch and start your daily affirmations with, “ Today I choose to flood my nervous system with cortisol. I will trigger my fight or flight response and activate crippling anxiety. Namaste.”? ……… No?? Yeah, me neither. But that’s essentially what happens every time we choose to take a risk in life.
Anything from changing careers, returning to school, starting a side business, hell—even beginning a new hobby can stir up the mother lode of resistance that often leaves us paralyzed with inaction, anxiously projectile vomiting and talking ourselves out of the “ridiculous” idea altogether.
Why this virulent reaction when you’re only trying to improve your life?
Well, for starters, our brain is literally (and I do mean literally) hard wired to prevent us from making changes at all costs. And can you really be mad at it? In primal brain language,
Change = Danger. It’s just protecting you. Trying to keep you alive and safe. It loves you!
But if we’re going to design the lives that we dream of living—risk and change are non-negotiables. Learning how to outsmart your brain and lower it’s resistance is key.
Here are 3 tips to make risk-taking more achievable and help you create powerful change in your life:
Prototype your ideas to reduce the risk
Finding ways to prototype your ideas is a powerful way to de-risk change. This method is often used by product designers to test ideas before putting time and money into launching a product. If you’re not working with a physical product, you can prototype ideas by researching, interviewing experts, volunteering or joining groups. Any creative way that you find to test your idea or learn more about it in a safe, low stakes way will feel a whole lot less risky.
Make a plan with simple steps and work it at your own pace.
Even if you have a complex goal, you can make a simple plan of action. By mapping out macro and micro steps you can eat the proverbial elephant one (gagging) bite at a time. This approach will help you focus and keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the big picture. People tend to over-estimate what they can accomplish in a year so be mindful of your life demands as you determine the best pace for you. Remember you’re not competing or racing anyone. You’ll be more likely to accomplish your goals if the steps are achievable.
Celebrate the small wins to super charge your motivation.
Another excellent way to outsmart your brain is to predetermine rewards for specific steps in your plan. This gives you extra incentive to reach your milestones. Celebrating will help to increase your dopamine which in turn will help you feel more positive about the change you are working towards.
Remember, change doesn’t have to be the enemy. We can overcome resistance and outsmart our brain with a little planning, coddling and gaslighting. Just kidding—kind of.