Change has been a major theme in my life in 2012. I lost my beloved dog, Max, to cancer very suddenly on Easter Monday, and I was laid off just as suddenly four days later. The remaining changes began mid-June, when I separated from my husband and moved three provinces west to Alberta. Since then, I’ve gotten a new address, new job, new car, new church, new friends, new wardrobe, new hairstyle, and new hair colour.
Years ago, it was popular to complete a checklist of all the major changes that had taken place in your life, tally the score, and then see where you fell on the stress scale. It didn’t take a checklist for me to recognize that, at least on paper, my stress levels were off the charts. But, while I went through a phase of intense stress, I persevered, and came out the other side, emerging into a place of great peace and happiness. I wouldn’t want to relive the past few months but I’m deeply grateful for them because, otherwise, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As much as we wish it were otherwise, there’s often no gain – or little gain – without pain.
I think change has gotten a bad rap because it’s assumed that change = stress. All pain and no gain (an urban myth). So change tends to inspire fear. What fear accomplishes is that it keeps us paralyzed, determined to avoid change at all cost. The longer we give into fear, the more it grows until, before long, we find ourselves firmly ensconced in our comfort zones. Comfort zones are misleading because the very word “comfort” inspires warm and fuzzy when, in fact, the longer you stay there, the more it becomes your prison. Life becomes very scaled down. The sky is no longer the limit… the ceiling is.
Think of it in terms of football. Players love to make it to the end zone because that’s where the touchdowns are scored. It’s where the gain is. The rest of the field is where the pain is. But just image if the players decided they were never going to leave the end zone. It would lead to a very boring game. In fact, it wouldn’t even be possible to have a game anymore. The players would be left living in the past because that’s where the action was.
That’s one of the ways you can tell who is in their comfort zone a little too securely. They’re largely left living in the past. Or living vicariously through other people. Their world has shrunk until it fits into all too comfortable dimensions, effectively cutting off change, and eventually even the possibility of change.
This often happens, at least to some degree, to people as they get older but it happens to younger people too. The constant is that they experienced negative and unexpected change at some point. Maybe they lost a job, failed in university, had a failed relationship or marriage, went bankrupt, etc. But the common thread is that fear paralyzed them into thinking that if they just stay in their comfort zone from that point onward, they will never have to experience that sort of change again. Even if it’s true, at what cost???
The best things in my life have come from change. At the very least, the world is constantly changing, whether I like it or not. I can either embrace some of that change or get left behind. Become irrelevant, dated, out of touch.
The way I see is that I only have one life to live so I want to live it to the fullest. I want to take chances, make changes, try new things, keep an open mind, push through fear, and focus on the positives. I want to be hopeful, joyful, optimistic. I want my best and most interesting years to be the next 50 and not the last 50. I don’t want to be defined by walls or ceilings but to be continually reaching for the stars. I don’t want the question to be “what if” but “why not”.
So, have I changed anybody’s mind? I hope so. It might mean taking a total change in direction from time to time but the benefits of change will far outweigh the negatives. It’s time to change it up!!!
“I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back, turn back. . . .” — Erica Jong