Change is SO hard because it feels like the new reality doesn’t quite fit. It’s like when you wear a new pair of shoes. For a while you get blisters and feel awful and you miss your old shoes, and then before long you get used to the new shoes and it feels like you’ve been wearing them all your life. Change is the same thing. It’s like it doesn’t fit, and you need to give yourself time to walk around in the new reality and get used to it. Whether its a new pair of shoes, a new baby, an empty nest, a lost love or a big move, change requires a little patience and a lot of perspective.
Right now I’m embarking on one of the biggest changes of my life, moving my family home after 15 years away. There are so many unknowns, much excitement and a little apprehension. Its all blue sky ahead, with giant letters CHANGE written all over every minute, every goodbye, every memory, every decision. So I’m reflective, and here are five BIG IDEAS that are on my mind, as they seem to pop up during every big change. Are you ready? Like change, here goes, ready or not. Change waits for no person.
1. Change Doesn’t Announce Itself Or Keep Appointments
Change is more like a game of tag, “Coming, ready or not.” First job and you’re thrown in at the deep end, love at first sight and it comes out of the blue, new baby and you’re in over your head, empty nest and you’re left feeling blue, sudden separation and you’re feeling blindsided, friends moving away and you’re feeling disoriented? Change! Coming. Ready or not.
What will the change be like? As Margaret Wheatley said,
Life doesn’t know what it will be until it notices what it has become.
And once you get tagged, you’re IT! It’s over to you to respond as best you can.
Even if you get some warning about change, the waves of emotion still surprise you. You think you’re doing ok, and suddenly a new wave knocks you down.
The only way to be prepared for change is to be open to everything and attached to nothing. Expect the best, prepare for the worst, stay focused on what IS! Then change can be full of exciting possibilities.
2. Life Is Chaos. Adjust Your Expectations.
One of my favorite quotes about change is from Solbeam,
Life is divine chaos. Embrace it. Forgive yourself. Breathe. Enjoy the ride.
Befriend chaos, and you will befriend change. The gift of change is that the future is an open puzzle. You might not know how all the pieces fit together, or how circumstances will play out, but you ALWAYS have the ability to arrange the pieces in your mind before responding. Think about the difference between a deck of cards and an iPhone. The deck of cards is shuffled and completely disordered, a prime example of chaos. The iPhone is a prime example of order, an amazing machine, the result of decades of precision technology. What happens if I drop the cards on the ground? Are they any more or less ordered. No. They are no less chaotic than they were in my hands.
What about the iPhone? If I drop the iPhone, it will be less ordered. It could even be unfixable. The deck of cards won’t organize itself. But it can easily be put into order with a little planning. It has potential to be put back into order.
When you think about it, this is incredible. The deck of cards which is completely chaotic has greater adaptability and potential for order than the precisely designed iPhone.
This is what I love about life. We are NOT machines. We are more like the deck of cards, as long as we own the reality of chaos. With some reorienting of our perspective, such as recognizing that you can’t always control the cards you’re dealt, but you can always control the way you play them, and some reorganizing of our choices, change brings incredible new opportunities.
As Marta Acosta said,
Life isn’t fair, so you have to play the best game you can with the cards you’re dealt.
3. Taking a 30,000 foot Perspective on Change
Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.
When you step back, or up, or basically step anywhere away from where you feel stuck, you start to make some sense of change. From close up, in the middle of the situation, its all a blur. From a broader, even 30,000 feet perspective, change has it’s patterns. You may only see the patterns after the fact, and when I say after it could be decades after the fact. But you see them, and you put the pieces together.
At the level of real time detail, change is chaotic and a constant give and take. It’s all conflict and struggle. If you can stay awake while chaos swirls around you, and stay focused on the larger perspective that EVERYTHING is always in flux, then you neither become stuck where you are, nor disillusioned at how slow change can feel.
Perspective is something that is always in your power. Change is a great time to seek out new perspectives. Focus on the donut, not the hole. Or as George Carlin said, “The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”
4. Nothing ever truly begins or ends
Change is hard because we think in stop start, this and that, over and out, terms. We spend so much energy grieving lost things, that we fail to see them right there in front of us, maybe in some new form.
Everything is always part of a process of becoming. It’s a constant give and take, preserving what is healthy from the past and removing what is no longer helpful. But its all part of one continuous process. Change is not precise or predictable, and this is the genius of life. It’s a moving target, so you can’t jump to too many conclusions. We will see. It goes on. There’s always more. Stay open.
Leadership guru, Robert Cooper, put it likes this,
Aristotle said, ‘Time does not exist except for change.’ The origin of the word change is the Old English cambium, which means “to become.” In other words, time does not exist except for becoming something new. What, exactly, are you choosing to become?
5. It’s All Connected
Even this point in the article is related to the other points.
When we think of life in chunks, we jump to conclusions. This is good. This is bad. This is awful. This is awesome. We take change personally, as if the universe is trying to reward or punish us.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said,
The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.
It’s liberating to think like this. Stop trying to make sense of each part, and instead look for the connections to the whole.
A fractal is a part that appears to break off from the whole, but retains the form of the whole and the potential to become whole again. Fractals remind us that if you step back from what appears to be chaos, and take a higher or wider view of a situation, you see beauty and order that was hard to detect when you were close up. Change invites this high and wide perspective. As hard as it is, learn to stay open and awake in the middle of change because incredible new doors are opening for you. Change always comes bearing gifts of new possibilities.
Jose Saramag said it well, “Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered”
Or the artist Cezanne put it more poetically, “We live in a rainbow of chaos.” Enjoy the color, variety and gifts that change brings to your life.
None of it is personal. We are always in the middle of change and while it feels intensely personal, change has no personal agenda for your life. It just is, and you decide how you will make it meaningful.
In practical terms, this means that change always comes bearing gifts. It is the gift of new opportunity, fresh starts and the ability to respond in new ways.
Let me end with my favorite change story, a story that speaks to me during changes that don’t feel like they fit.
A man goes to a tailor to try on a new custom-made suit. The first thing he notices is that the sleeves are too long.
“No problem,” says the tailor. “Just bend them at the elbow and hold them out in front of you. See, now it’s fine.”
“But the collar is up around my ears!”
“It’s nothing. Just hunch your back up a little… No, a little more… That’s it.”
“But I’m stepping on the bottom of the pants. They’re too long!” the man cries in desperation.
“No, bend your knees a little to take up the slack. There you go. Look in the mirror–the suit fits perfectly.”
So, twisted like a pretzel, the man lurches out onto the street. Two women see him go by.
“Oh, look,” says one, “that poor man!”
“Yes,” says the other, “but what a beautiful suit and what an amazing tailor to make a suit that fits him.”
You are ALWAYS who and where you need to be in each moment, becoming exactly what the future demands of you. You don’t have to know the future and you don’t have to be the person who can already manage the future. Just manage now. You have all that you need for now. See your life and change from that hopeful perspective.
One of the most incredible statements about change is from Elizabeth Lesser,
If we can stay awake when our lives are changing, secrets will be revealed to us–secrets about ourselves, about the nature of life, and about the eternal source of happiness and peace that is always available, always renewable, already within us.