I was talking to my mom the other day about little complications in our lives; the bad habits and sticky thoughts that periodically slow us down.
“The problem,” she said, “is that I’m resistant to change.”
Huh, me, too, I thought. But then I thought, Wait a minute. Aren’t we all resistant to change?
“It’s easy for them.”
I suddenly realized my mom’s internal reasoning for getting stuck (and often mine as well) was the perception that the people solving their problems were doing it without resistance. “Those people” didn’t have doubts or roadblocks — they just embraced the decision to change their lives and strode forth into the future.
But we all know that’s not how it works.
Everyone who decides to change something — no matter what it is — must contend with the inclination to fall back on habit and to do what’s already familiar. After all, safety is one of our most basic needs.
Image credit: LunchBreath.com via Creative Commons license
The fear: change = danger
Somewhere along the line, some of us equated change, even healthy change, with lack of safety. Change = danger. And Rule #1 when you’re a mortal being (after you’ve found food, shelter, and a bathroom) is to avoid danger.
I know this is old news. There are thousands of words devoted to the value of “stepping outside your comfort zone,” “thinking outside the box,” and “reinventing yourself.” But hearing my mom say those words, hearing how sure she was that her resistance to change was a personal failing, not a natural part of being human…well, it just hit home in the most personal way.
It made me think about my own approach to change and, perhaps more importantly, what I’m modeling for my kids.
A different way to embrace change
Whenever the talk turns to parental modeling, there’s always this moment of panic: Oh, crap. I’ve already messed up. But I don’t think we can ever be fully aware or in control of what we model to our kids. How can we monitor ourselves every moment and, frankly, why would we want to?
(Besides, modeling I-came-this-way perfection has its own problems.)
I like to think about it this way: I’m modeling my humanity — the fact that I’m a human-in-progress. I want to show my kids that every day is a new opportunity to learn something, fix something, or appreciate where we are right now. Which means there’s lots of room for error. Which means that change isn’t so dangerous after all.
I may not embrace change with a big bear hug, but I don’t have to fear it. I can tap it on the shoulder and say hi. When I’m feeling brave, I might even shake its hand. Who knows, I may make a new friend.
This is how I try to operate. I don’t always succeed. But the not succeeding and trying again might be the most important part of the modeling.
What do you think? How do you approach change when change feels scary?