“Change is inevitable”
“The only constant is change”
“If you change nothing, nothing will change”
The clichés abound, change is an inevitable part of life. Or so everyone keeps saying (because of course, it is true, otherwise the platitudes … would not exist). I am writing this article right after the news of the layoffs at Google took over my LinkedIn feed, and it made me reflect on the time I was working at Google and my team was eliminated. Barely a year into the role, I had moved across the pond to start a new chapter – in my career, in my life, and totally unexpectedly a massive change was forced on us. I can now say it was for the better: I adapted, changed teams, met amazing people, got to do amazing things, and experienced growth both on a personal and professional level. I was (and am) actually very thankful for that change, as it enriched my life.
Reacting to change
That forced change was not met with a positive reaction at first. Is there a reason we struggle so much with change, especially since it can’t be avoided? And to expand on that question, why do we say we want change, but as soon as we are confronted with it, we cower?
One reason is that we ignore, or blissfully deny, the fact that with change, even if it is for the better, comes loss. And with loss, comes pain:
We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same. (Lori Gottlieb)
And who chooses to consciously experience pain – pain you might not yet understand how it will show up – when you can stay perfectly (un)comfortable with your current situation? Being uncomfortable is manageable. Dealing with pain is something most of us avoid.
But I suppose this is the proverbial bandage: a quick burst of pain is worth it and will suit and serve you better in the long run. This is where therapy comes in: why not have someone there to guide and support you along the way?
Maybe you should talk to … a therapist
Lori Gottlieb describes the stories of a few of her clients, as well as her own story in her book “Maybe you should talk to someone”. It reads like a fiction book but is a non-fiction look into the world of psychotherapy. Her storytelling capabilities make for an interesting and funny read, and I saw some real parallels with the world of coaching (as well as distinct differences).
There are parts of each person’s story I could resonate with, recognize myself in, or see how certain stumbling blocks stop us from moving forwards, accepting and embracing that change we say we want.
We tend to think that the future happens later, but we’re creating it in our minds every day. When the present falls apart, so does the future we had associated with it. (Lori Gottlieb)
No matter what changes we undergo – whether they are by choice or forced upon us – we must not only adapt to the present but also figure out what they mean for the future and adjust our mental images accordingly.
We are at the start of a new year. A time when people make a commitment to change, to adopt new habits, all for a greater goal: we want to be a healthier, skinnier, wealthier, happier version of ourselves. Yet we also passed “Blue Monday” already: the third Monday in January, when most people abandon their resolutions and accept defeat. Waking up every morning to go the gym was too big of a stretch, the bed too comfortable and warm to rise up with conviction, the chocolate muffin too alluring to pass over for a green spinach spirulina smoothie.
We say we want change, we say we want to change our behavior and actions, yet when push comes to shove, it is so much harder than we had anticipated. And we might give up, before even giving it a real try.
Part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself – to let go of the limiting stories you’ve told yourself about who you are so that you aren’t trapped by them, so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life. (Lori Gottlieb)
Limiting stories are within all of us, carefully crafted over the years. Yet, like a blindspot, we are not always aware of them. A person who can gently hold up a mirror can help you eliminate your blind spots at that moment, and that’s where the power of having someone to talk to really shines through. To guide you along, to cheer you on, to support you when needed. Realizing that nothing is stopping you, nothing is trapping you … but the stories you have created.
My invitation to you
I think another reason resolutions fail, or why we keep from taking on the challenge to change ourselves for the better, is that we do not take enough time to pause. Why do we want to be skinnier, healthier, wealthier and better read? If you do not understand your “why”, it will be so much harder to break through those limiting stories. When you know your why, the momentary pain of loss that comes with change becomes sufferable – after all, you know why you are doing it, and why this pain has to be dealt with: to get you to the other side.
Did you set resolutions this year? How is it going for you? If you have dropped some of them, I would invite you to take a moment to reflect on a) what do you want to achieve this year (and beyond)?, b) what got you here? What did serve you well, what did not serve you, c) what did you learn; and last but certainly not least d) why do you want to change. If we cannot tie the change to a goal that truly matters to us, that we value, it is only natural that it drops off our priority list.
Make you your priority. Understand what you value, and it will be easier to slot in your goals. Not just easier – you will be unstoppable.