Change is real. It need not be our foe. It can be our friend.
At a party, three months before my daughter was born, I calmly remarked, “Having this baby will not change my life.” Momentary silence was followed by an eruption of deep belly laughter. Three months later I discovered the reasons for my friends bellowing at my off-the-cuff comment. This wonderful and beautiful child who I had a partnership in conceiving, cried, had fits of rage, lacked proper etiquette and culinary skills. Because of her entrance into my world I rarely slept through the night or slept in on Saturdays. Watching a ballgame or my favorite television show uninterrupted became an impossibility. Discretionary money for golf games and dates with my wife was limited. Going to the mall on a moment’s notice was totally out of the question.
I had to eat my words, again and again. Having a baby does change one’s life.
The reality is, having a life changes one life. The only constant in this world is change. “Everything flows and nothing stays,” Heraclitus proclaimed. He added, “You can’t step twice into the same river.” To be alive, whether having a baby or not, means perpetual change.
Here are four realities regarding change to consider.
- Remember nothing stays the same.
Life is a series of movements from one stage or one period to another, and then to another and another. Futurists report that in the fifty years between 1970 and 2020 we will experience change equivalent to that of the last 500 years. The “winds of change” have given away to the “earthquake of change.” Roles have changed, values have changed, the pace of life has changed, tools of industry have changed, lifestyles have changed, and institutions have changed. And if you don’t like it, just wait, it will change.
2. Shed the shell.
When we do not change with change, adapt and respond to innovation, we do not grow and survive.
Consider the lobster. A lobster can grow only by shedding its shell. While it could react in anger and resentment to this impending change, the lobster chooses to respond courageously and do what is needed to grow and mature. The old shell cracks, and the lobster seeks a place to shed that old shell. A pink membrane then becomes the new shell. When a lobster is involved in this process, it leaves itself vulnerable to destruction by other sea creatures or by being dashed against hard objects. A lobster will never grow without taking that risk.
Being alive in the changing world today is often like being a lobster. Frequent “shedding of the shell” and becoming vulnerable is necessary for growth. Change is not all bad. In fact, it often provides the stimulus for our further growth and development.
3. Read the waves.
Developing a healthy attitude toward change reminds us that change need not be our enemy. We can, if we choose, embrace the future, and find the opportunities embedded in shifting trends and times. This requires that we adapt. We discover how to use the moving currents around us to our advantage.
While vacationing in Florida I learned to catch the waves for a ride on a boogie board. To be an effective boogie board rider I had to effectively read the waves. I learned not to fear the waves, but to constantly be watching, waiting, and preparing. I made some observations: Waves are always changing, unpredictable. Never turn your back for long to the waves, especially when you are close to the shore. Don’t watch in envy those catching waves to the side of you, or you will miss the “big one” coming toward you. Catch a wave too soon and you’ll swallow a lot of water. Catch a wave too late and it will ride over you. Catch a wave just right and you’ll take the ride of a lifetime. Sometimes I had to move slightly to the right or to the left to catch the big wave. But when I did, look out, I knew I was in for a thrill.
This ability to read the waves puts me in good stead when facing the changing currents of the world around me. Preparing and considering the changes that are coming puts me in a better advantage to make the most of my future. At times, it may seem that I am hopelessly floating along when I am actually making progress toward my future objective.
4. Nail down the unchanging certainties.
One of the best techniques for adjusting to violent upheaval in one area of our lives is to maintain, during that period, stability in as many other areas as possible. Changes often bring a sense of unsettledness and unreality; everything nailed down seems to be coming loose. In that environment, I write down the things in my life that I’m confident will not change in the next twenty years—for example, I’ll stay married to my wife. I’ll still have my daughter. I take these unchangeable realities and mentally drive a nine-inch railroad spike to hold each in place. Then I list other things that probably won’t change in the next five years—like, I’ll be driving the same car and living in the same house. I take two-inch nails and fasten these down. Next, I list the things that will stay the same for the next twelve months. I’ll be visiting the same gym, have the same set of friends, and working the same job. I use mental tacks to hold these in place.
So now, while everything else is flying loose in unprecedented change, I’ve nailed down probably 80 percent of my life. These are my islands of stability. These are things that are relatively stable. By being aware of that stability I can help keep my balance and equilibrium. I can also develop an appreciation for the things in my life that change very slowly.
Change need not be our foe. It can be our friend. I learned that from my daughter. She has indeed changed my life. But I would not want it any other way.
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