“Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown.” — Somerset Maugham       

Many people have a difficult time adjusting to change. Generally, this is due to some level of anxiety as to what the new situation will entail, and how they will manage with it. We get comfortable with the familiar. It seems easier to deal with the known.

In fact, it is this very comfort with the known and fear of the unknown that keeps people in situations that may not be good for them. A person may be unhappy with a job, geographical location or a relationship. They may complain endlessly about all they dislike about their situation, yet do nothing to change it.

Fear of change may also prevent people from taking advantage of opportunities or taking risks that could take them to a whole new level of experience. In this case, there may be a fear of failure. Once again, fear of change leaves us locked in to the old way.

This is an unfortunate way we limit ourselves because change is precisely how we grow and learn. Think of infants or young children. They are constantly exploring their environments. In fact, it is often the new or novel that attracts their attention. They may have their favourite toys, but put something new in front of them and they go straight for it. This is why you can spend a fortune on educational toys, but the cupboard with the pots and pans is far more interesting to them. You have to put safety locks on cupboard doors because little ones have an infinite curiosity about the unknown. The more they explore and experience, the more they learn, and, I believe, the smarter they become. New experiences create new pathways in the brain.

The advantages of change and new experiences do not disappear when we become adults. Learning and growing can be a lifelong process if we choose it. Seniors who take classes, meet new people, learn to use a computer, and get out in the world stay more vibrant and alert than those who stay at home repeating the same daily routine over and over.

And what of the fear of failure? Well, that is also how we learn. The child learning to walk at first takes more falls than steps, but keeps getting up to try again. Children learning to read say the wrong word, and soon realize that the sentence does not make sense so they go back and try the word again.

I never use the word failure. For me, there is no failure, only experience. If things do not work out, then there is undoubtedly some valuable learning. This is not our cue to give up, but rather to take that learning into our next attempt.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychotherapist.