It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. – Chinese Proverb
Yesterday, in a post that picked up on the deep implications of Bill McKibben’s chilling essay on where the world is heading if we don’t change, I set out my understanding of what holds us back from that change. I wrote, “ … the process of change cannot start until we truly want to change; a total emotional commitment. And the formation of those emotions, that realisation, requires a new understanding of the world around us, who we are and who we want to be.”
Previously on Learning from Dogs I have quoted Jon Lavin, “The best way to save the world is to work on our selves.” I remember decades ago when working as a humble office-products salesman for IBM UK the well-worn saying, “Selling is 90% me and 10% the customer.” Sort of reminds me of Woody Allen’s: “Eighty percent of success in life is showing up.”
OK, enough of these mental perambulations. Let’s get on with the task of looking at change. Because make no bones about it, if we rely on ‘them’, on others, to turn mankind back from where we are heading then it’s all over! It comes down to each and every one of us deciding to change.
Think this is all melodramatic nonsense? Go and read the first paragraph of Bill McKibben’s article where he states, “June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average..”
Want more reason to change? Try this from a recent article on The Daily Impact:
From American Drought to “Global Catastrophe”
Some poet invented the name “Arab Spring” as a label for the tsunami of public desperation that last year took down the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Poets and Pollyannas saw the events as an upwelling of love for democracy. Realists related them to the spike in world food prices that threatened the survival of whole populations and made them desperate for change — any change. Now, thanks in large part to events unfolding in the American heartland, get ready for another, worse, spike.
We are running out of superlatives with which to describe the Mid- and Southwestern drought and its effect on this year’s corn and soybean crops. According to this week’s USDA crop update the situation during the previous seven days went from “critical” to, um, worse than that. The drought is the worst in half a century. Of the largest US acreage ever planted in corn (industrial agriculture was crowing about that just a couple of months ago), only one-quarter is still in good condition. (Modest rainfall in drought-stricken areas early this week provided mostly emotional relief; the drought is forecast to continue unabated through October.)
Change really does seem like a ‘no-brainer’!
Here’s a lovely cartoon that summarises the steps of change, the process of transition, for you and me.
The most important thing to note, and this is why so many ‘change’ ambitions fail, is that change is deeply unsettling at first. When change happens for the majority of us, often ‘forced’ on us as a result of unplanned life events, we are left deeply unsettled; a strong feeling of being lost, of being in unfamiliar surroundings. Think divorce or, worse, the death of a partner or child, reflect on how many sign up for bereavement counselling in such circumstances. Big-time change is big-time tough (apologies for the grammar!).
Stay with me for a short while while I reinforce this from my own experiences.
My previous ex-wife announced in December, 2006 that she was leaving me for a younger model! It came as a complete surprise. Subsequently, I was invited to spend Christmas 2007 out in San Carlos, Mexico with Suzann and her husband, Don. Suzann is the sister of my dear, close friend of many years, Dan Gomez, hence the connection. There I met Jean, a long-term friend of Suzann living in San Carlos and, coincidentally as I am, another Londoner by birth. Jean and I fell deeply in love with each other and a year later I moved out from SW England with Pharaoh to Mexico.
Throughout 2008 I suffered from what was eventually diagnosed as vestibular migraine. It involved partial loss of vision, vertigo, headaches and significant short-term memory disturbances; let me tell you it was pretty frightening!
Eventually, in 2012 well after we moved from San Carlos up to Payson, Arizona, I got so worried that I went to see a neurologist, convinced that I was heading down the road of dementia. Dr. Goodell examined me thoroughly and said that there were no signs of dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. His conclusion: I was showing the normal signs of forgetfulness that any person of my age (now 67) would show having been through similar life changes. Dr. Goodell went on to explain that back in England 98% of my life was constant and familiar and therefore adjusting to a 2% change was unremarkable. However, on moving my life out to Mexico and then on to Arizona, it was all reversed: 2% of my life was constant and 98% was change and that was a huge psychological hill to climb with all the associated mental stresses that I had been experiencing.
Interestingly, that diagnosis rapidly set me on the path of feeling so much better!
So, apologies for that personal diversion but I hope it underlined that life-change is a big deal!
In my trawl across the Web looking for change references, I came across a software engineer by the name of Dave Cheong. Dave writes a blog. In Dave’s blog was a piece about change. Change as a result of a merger of his employer. This is what Dave wrote:
As a result of the merger, lots of change is happening. Some folks are questioning where things are headed, what management have planned, how their lives will change, etc. Most certainly, there will be job losses as the two companies consolidate things, in particular administrative positions.
With the chaos that’s been unfolding, I’ve thought a bit about “change” in general. What is it? Why do people resist it? Is it always a good thing? What should I do?
And later he writes after referring to the Satir Change Process model, named after Virginia Satir, an American author and psychotherapist:
The diagram depicts several stages of accepting change. The first stage is known as Status Quo (Gray Zone), a state where everyone is generally comfortable with the way things are. The second stage is a point in time a Foreign Element, trigger or change agent is introduced. What follows is a period of Resistance and Chaos (Red Zone), personified as a result of people being scared of the uncertainties the change has brought about and how their lives will be impacted.
The level of performance generally drops off and fluctuates more greatly between the Gray and Red Zones. There are various reasons for this – people may reject the change to protect the status quo; are confused with the change and are unsure of what to do; or simply become less competent with the new tools and processes introduced.
This describes why people by nature resist change. They don’t want to become less useful than they already are.
Just reflect on that. Dave calls it being ‘less useful’ but that downplays the emotional significance of partially losing one’s self-image, one’s self-identity, the undermining of who we think we are. As I wrote earlier, life-change is a big deal!
Here’s my final example of how dealing with change is all about the self. It’s from the Best Self Help website, and opens,
Self help, personal development and self-improvement are topics of considerable interest to pretty much everyone on the planet.
In 1975 my life was a total mess. I was depressed, unemployed and my 5 year marriage was ending.
I’m not going to quote it all but it really is worth a read. However, I do want to quote the conclusion,
Finally, I Got It!!!
In the Western world, we are educated to look outside ourselves for validation. We want more money to acquire “things” with the mistaken belief this is the source of happiness.
The true source of love, health, happiness and financial success cannot be found outside of ourselves – each of these is already within us. The key is learning how to access and activate that which we already possess.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” ~Socrates~
So that’s enough for today. If you haven’t got the message about change coming from within, then not sure what else I can offer! However, if you do want to explore changing the way you impact this beautiful planet (and it applies equally to me) then drop in tomorrow.