Friday, March 22, 2013

Change is Often for the Better

Now, where did I lay that winning Lotto ticket?
Here’s a riddle: what do you get when you pile your mail in the same spot every day for three months straight? My bedroom dresser.
This disorganized approach to sorting, or rather not sorting, mail is unsightly and contributes to my life in quite unproductive ways. Yet I stubbornly (some might say lazily) cling to my inefficient system of mail management. I refuse to change. That is, until I miss paying a bill or something equally traumatic. Then a miraculous thing happens: I change.
What is it about the process of change that makes it hard for a good many people to do so, even when they know it’s in their best interest? From simple acts like sorting the mail to more complex endeavors such as thinking differently about people once you learn the truth about them, change can be vexing.
Change is hard, from the youngest baby to the oldest adult. That notion seems odd in and of itself, yet it is the case so often. Then again, it's probably the most natural thing in the world. It can be unsettling to experience new ways of thinking and being when young, especially when the prospect of failure is present. At the same time, if you're really familiar with something and in the habit of doing it a certain way, it becomes comfortable and predictable. In both cases, change introduces a whole set of unknowns.
But resistance to change can have consequences. I experience this fact somewhat often, despite myself. And it can be counterproductive.
For instance, a few years ago I co-led a summer youth camp. Early on, I observed certain students in certain ways. I considered some troublemakers. I viewed others as cooperative. My resistance to change came when the students I had confidently placed into behavior ‘categories’ flipped the script on me and started behaving in ways counter to what I had initially observed. They had changed. However, I found myself slow to change my own attitude about their attitudes. In other words, I mistakenly took it for granted that the students would never change, despite the evidence in front of my eyes. As a result, my inability to follow their change with my own hindered everyone’s capacity for learning – theirs as students and mine as a budding instructor.
Much better - except I can't find anything
If we’re not careful, we all have the capacity to live our lives as if nothing is changing. But it is. How we face that change says a lot about ourselves. It can be hard and it takes courage. Particularly when it comes to the way we regard people different from us. So many times our reluctance to changing the way we look at something comes into play as a result of our often irrational fear of ‘losing something’ if the change takes place. We can allow our egos to get in the way of moving in more constructive or positive directions. For me at that youth camp, my fear was losing control of the class. But the control I thought I had by holding fast to misguided beliefs was just an illusion.
On reflection, the ability to change and adapt is one of the greatest gifts we possess as human beings. Without change, so many of us are doomed to a limited form of existence. In so many cases, trying to live without changing is stifling. But with it, the sky's the limit. Now if only I can only find that bill I need to pay; it used to be on my bedroom dresser.

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