We’ve all heard it before. Change is good. Change is inevitable. The only constant is change.
Well, guess what? I’ve have a fairly rocky history with change because it usually makes me feel extremely anxious and uncomfortable and, like many, I crave comfort.
In fact, I usually do everything I can to resist or put off change, even when it’s something I desire. Just let me get one thing clear though—not all change is bad.
Change is like the person I want to get in bed with so badly—yet somehow I’m paralyzed by them.
I realize how much time I spend thinking about making changes in my life. On a daily basis, I probably ponder this for about 30 minutes—that’s over seven and a half days of my life every year at minimum!
Yet, I usually do nothing with these thoughts.
A huge part of that thought pattern is a habitual cycle. I contemplate changes and the future when I am not giving myself permission to be fully present.
While that’s an extremely important topic—hello, mindfulness—that is not what I want to focus on here.
What I’m talking about right now are the genuine thoughts of change that are driven by need, desire and passion—the ones that truly deserve action.
That is where I get stuck, on how to actually start that action. I stand still instead of taking those first steps.
My thought pattern goes something like this—I only have so much time and attention so, I should only engage in things that I have high confidence in their output. I want to spend my time on things that I know I like, that I think will work and/or that have a high probability of improving my life (can you tell I’m an engineer?)
Note: these things are also less scary! They allow me to avoid my fear of failing that I like to refer to in my head, as “wasting my time”.
The irony here is that, instead of “saving my time” what really happens is I get stuck in continuous cyclical patterns. For someone that gets anxious from change, resisting it and getting stuck in this cycle eventually becomes uncomfortable as well.
It’s an I’ve-fallen-out-of-the-raft-and-I’m-tumbling-in-the-rapid type of situation. It starts as a feeling similar to an itch—a gentle itch to get out of the water for some fresh air. Until suddenly you realize that without taking action, you’re actually drowning.
For me, getting stuck is not due to a lack of motivation but rather the relationship I have with change. For years, I’ve had the idea that being a catalyst for change in certain areas would be inauthentic to who I am. Until recently, I was extremely opposed and stubborn to the idea that certain things can actually change. I had the thoughts like I was born this way or that is just part of who I am.
Then it hit me—maybe part of my issue was how I was defining myself. So, I started asking myself more questions about what I thought I knew about myself.
What I realized was this:
It wasn’t how I was defining myself but that I was defining myself. It’s easy to hold on to certain characteristics about oneself—how you are, what you’re like or what you don’t like, etcetera. We start this at a young age and often continue to push ourselves into the same categories over long periods of time. Things like, I’m a picky eater, I’m not a morning person, I’m introverted, I have a tendency towards anxiety, etc.
The danger in doing that is that we are taking away freedom from ourselves—the freedom to be open to change. It creates internal conflict as we age and are drawn towards change in areas that once seemed clearly opposite. It’s easy to recognize this danger when the categories seem obviously negative. For example, categorizing myself as an anxious person is negative self-talk that often discourages freedom from that stereotype.
But what about definitions that seem less negative? They have to be harmless right??
Take a minute right now and think of something you know about yourself (for me, I’ll use “I am a night owl”). By putting yourself in that category are you hindering yourself from exploring something new. You may say no, but chances are you will be able think of something that you are resisting because of a thought like this.
Now, let me introduce you to my new found friend, neuroplasticity. This is the idea that, our brains are continually changing, building and re-building neural pathways based on our own actions, thoughts and experiences.
What this allows us to realize is that we aren’t obligated to be the same person we were five minutes ago, much less five, ten or thirty years ago. In fact, that’s literally impossible. It explains why we are drawn to changes that may seem to go against something we once thought defined us.
From this mindset, we can think again of what change would feel like. Instead of anxiety, this time, I would answer a breath of fresh air.
Again—you are not obligated to be the same person you were five minutes ago. Inhale. Exhale.
This has become a new mantra for me. Not because I dislike the person I was five minutes ago, but simply because it opens up a world of possibilities. It helps me awaken to the opportunity of change in the most authentic way possible. It allows change to become a method for me to ask myself in each moment what it is that I like, want, and need. It allows me to continually find myself, instead of getting stuck in past habits.
A key here is the process of asking. The idea that we can work towards something based on who we are in each moment. That we can work towards allowing ourselves to try new things without the barrier of success and with the help of questions.
What am I feeling? Does this change sit well with me? Does it need time?
Whether they are small changes or huge life events, whatever speaks to you, I encourage you to work towards seeing change from this point of view. I invite you, from this perspective, to start making movement in whatever direction you are drawn in.
My initial movement is going to be a bit of an oxymoron. A lifestyle change to become more present—I want to experiment with a meditation practice. I have been interested in this for a long time and have read a lot about the potential benefits of both a daily practice as well as early morning activities. So, I am asking myself to let go of the “night owl” category to explore the possibility of early morning energy.
Starting today, I am asking myself to begin 14 days of waking up and beginning my day with 10 minutes of meditation. The idea is to spark a flame of change. Maybe I will hate it, maybe it will do nothing, or maybe it will be the beginning of a new way of living. The point is, I will never know if I don’t open up and move.
Who’s with me?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Jessica Sandhu/Editor: Catherine Monkman