“Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakes”
I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that right now along with about 7 billion other people, my thoughts are consumed with things that desperately need change in 2018. Or if not, we are all at the very least right in the middle of enthusiastically cleaning out our closets. It’s probably safe to say that literally everyone would like to change something about their lives. We’d like to perform more acts of random kindness, get more exercise, stop avoiding calls from our mothers-in-law. As you may have previously read, I already did some heavy lifting back in November by getting an early start on my own New Years resolutions for 2018. And while it would be natural to assume I’ve moved on to other concerns, I’m presently and somewhat predictably still obsessing over the concept of change.
How do we determine the best path to positive change, and how to most effectively get started? And once we do start, how will we keep it going? What does change even really mean? When taking stock of how to best start a new year off on the right foot, changing often means purging. What old baggage do I not want to carry with me into the New Year? There are often physical, mental and behavioral changes we aspire to that require a healthy purge of the old to get the process started. In this respect, to change can also mean to stop. At one time or another, haven’t we all vowed to stop overeating, to stop smoking or stop drinking too much the minute we awaken on New Years Day? Only to find ourselves a week later outside the All-You-Can eat buffet restaurant, drunk and guiltily smoking a cigarette after wolfing down both dinner and dessert? I may or may not be referring to my own behavior earlier this year.
There’s a lot of change propaganda out there assuring us that at the end of the day, change is basically a simple process we should all be able to slide right through. An abundance of charming, tidy little quotes can be found in magazines, books, hanging on walls- assuring us that positive change is within arm’s reach. Just visualize the change to make it happen! You are always just one decision away from changing your whole life! BE the change in the world! Uh, OK- SURE. Got it. However, most of the time instead of feeling inspired, my reaction leans towards feeling like my intelligence has been insulted by all the pretense that change is so easy. I become suspicious that we are all being patronized with pat resolutions to one of the most complex issues a human being can deal with. Hey, if change was sooo easy to get started AND get through, we’d all be living flawless lives, coexisting in perfect relationships and forever maintaining our goal weight. Whether it be internal or external, meaningful change requires hard, long work that requires a lot foresight and self-discipline that many, many people have not learned to develop. This may or may not also be me.
Change feels quite effortless when you are not required to initiate any. Things we don’t have personal control of are changing all the time- and sadly in many cases, not for the better. The current state of world politics, global environmental issues, international security to name a few, are all hurling toward uncertain change on a tumultuous path at best. And while in theory we know that we have the power to create and manage positive change, in practice the act of doing what is needed to implement such change can seem like a near impossible task. The kind of collective change that takes a village is so much harder to orchestrate.
Quite often, people don’t make real change unless they absolutely have to. Sometimes the most effective agent for real change comes when extreme circumstances present themselves. Nothing screams change your diet or lifestyle like surviving a heart attack does. Making changes in one’s life is much easier when someone like an MD specialist informs you that not changing course will definitely lead to certain failure or ruin. The goal of course though, should be to begin making decisions in such a way that allows one to choose to change, instead of being forced to do it. Isn’t it infinitely better to change than be changed?
Certainly, my own life has not been without its struggles around change. I, like many others, learned the hard way that as much as you might fervently want to change something about a loved one, only he or she alone has the power to change themselves. No amount of help, support or encouragement can magically make it happen. I’ve also had to live through the uncomfortable adjustment of having changes forced upon me that I did not initiate, as in the ending of a relationship. Never mind that these relationships needed to be over with anyway; it still hurt like hell to unwillingly face THE END. The most meaningful changes I’ve made so far came after I took a long hard look at myself, swallowed a big dose of humility, put up considerable financial resources and summoned up about as much patience to endure the agonizing process as it takes to raise a child. But I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat, since not making those changes now seems unthinkable, and because currently my life (which I am finally able to mostly enjoy) would be very different if I hadn’t made them.
Maybe a worthwhile goal for 2018 would be to first make peace inside ourselves with how challenging change can be, before tackling the things we want to accomplish this New Year. As for me, I’ll be making every effort to stick to My List. I will try to think less about doing things and instead, actually DO them. I’ll try to remember that change is just as hard for other people as it is for me, and act accordingly. Whatever it is that you hope to accomplish in the coming year, please know that on the very top of my resolutions list is to wish you and yours all the love, happiness and success that life has to offer. A heartfelt Happy 2018 to everyone, and see you next year!
Lisa Ihnken ©2017 All Rights Reserved