My husband and I once headed out on a camping trip with some of our new Rotary friends. The weather was hot, we were supporting a great charity and the river was perfect for floating along. I cherish such chances to do something a little different and just be in the moment.
When a group collects in lawn chairs (don’t worry, we’ll be doing that again) with no urgency involved in getting somewhere fast, conversations tend to circle around the concept of change. From politics to relationships to club policies, there are bound to be places where change is viewed with some level of discomfort.
I’m intrigued by how some people view change as a threat to be stopped while others see it as an opportunity. Traditionalists (or risk-averse personalities) like established routines and argue against shaking up the status quo. Risk-takers thrive in environments where uncertainty is prevalent. They choose to see new policies as an experiment that can be altered later if it doesn’t pan out.
Sadly, there are so many individuals living uninspired lives due to their fear of uncertainty. Even when we achieve the results we think we want, we often still feel unfulfilled, leaving us open to depression, stress and anxiety-related illnesses. We live in a world where creativity and uniqueness are celebrated, and yet we still crave being endorsed or validated by others. We want to be heard. And so many of us want to feel special and unique. It’s likely not what Martin Luther King had in mind when he gave his “I have a dream” speech in 1963.
If we don’t learn how to navigate change, we’re going to set ourselves up for a lifetime of stress, anxiety, fear and doubt. That’s not an ideal place to live when the world needs us to innovate and imagine a more inclusive existence. Hanging on to past events or perceptions of wrong keep us feeling victimized, not strengthened.
American writer Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin must be shed before the new one can come. If we fix on the old, we get stuck. The Hoarder, the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on, must be killed. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
Life by its very nature is chaotic, non-linear and essentially mysterious. Stuff happens! And if we can’t embrace change, we may miss the joy to be found in unexpected places.
Of course, not all change is amazing and not all decisions turn out wonderful. But growth will still happen. And we will move on.
So if you’re struggling with resistance, take some time to mull over these questions:
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail or knew that you would eventually succeed?
To quote Richard Bandler, co-developer of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), “Failure is only possible if you give yourself a time limit.” People tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in five years.
What would you do if you knew it was okay to fail?
When you allow yourself to make mistakes, you allow yourself to amplify your learning, and that’s always a good thing. And that includes decisions that don’t work out the way you were hoping.
What would you change in your life if you absolutely knew that everything would turn out okay?
I meet many people who have stayed in situations that no longer fulfil them (jobs, relationships, lifestyles) because they were afraid that they wouldn’t be okay if they moved on. But what if you’re occupying someone else’s dream job? I’ve told countless audiences that the only bit of science I remember from school is “Nature abhors a vacuum.” If you want to attract something new into your life, there needs to be room for it. This often involves clearing out other old stuff first.
What would you get rid of if you knew with absolute certainty that you wouldn’t miss it?
Learning to handle any change means making conscious choices about how you respond and what you do in the face of change. If you don’t learn change tactics, you’ll continue to struggle emotionally and energetically.
The successes you want in your life aren’t going to simply show up one day. You need to take responsibility for generating them. Perhaps it’s time to adopt my favourite word: next!
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.