Any advice for someone who takes a very long time to adapt to a new idea or a new work environment?

A student wrote to me with this question:

Any advice for someone who takes a very long time to adapt to a new idea or a new environment? I am someone who loves living in my comfort zone. So when my new internship programme asked me to check out their office, I got scared! I don’t want to go. In fact, just starting the whole internship programme makes me feel very scared because I would have to meet new people.

I’ll share with you a quote a professor shared with me when I was an undergraduate student: “There is more anxiety over the pull of the trigger than in the bang itself.” What this means is that there’s a lot of fear and tension over the anticipation of the event than in the actual occurrence of the event itself. Our minds play tricks on us, and especially when it comes to new things, we tend to imagine it to be much more dreadful than it should be.

Every few months I have to do things and meet new people that push me out of my comfort zone. And to be honest, it scares me a lot!

Even now, I’m always afraid of saying the wrong thing, or slipping up and giving a bad impression (and I still have this feeling even today). And it still happens to me even though I already have the experience of interacting and working with famous and very powerful people because of my career (politicians, ambassadors, journalists, CEOs, etc.).

Sure, I have experience talking to them, but it still freaks me out!

But I’m thankful for the quote that my professor shared with me years ago, because I remind myself that it’s not as bad as our minds play it out to be. When the event finally happens, it really isn’t as bad as we imagine it to be. One thing I do to cope and not let the fear take over me is that I always focus my mind on the fun and incredible opportunities that await me.

Our hearts sway based on the positive/negative things that we entertain in our minds. The more negative things you focus on, the more repulsed you’ll be towards an idea. The more positive things you focus on, the more your heart will desire it.

So, you can do what I do: Just remind yourself that the anticipation of the bang is scarier than the bang itself. When it happens it won’t be as bad as we imagined it to be. And focus on thinking about the positive stuff that will come your way, like the opportunities and experiences and skills that you’ll gain. That will help with the motivation.

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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