5 Lies We Tell Ourselves About ChangeJun 08, 2021
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Everybody and their dog is about change these days. It’s EVERYWHERE. Sign and shirts and coffee mugs and mantras and affirmations and courses and retreats and leadership strategies and podcasts. EV. REE. WHERE.
I find this intriguing, seeing as many people are change-averse - which is just a fancy term for, “Hell no, I won’t go.”
Despite the lip service given to the idea and embracement (totally NOT a word) of change, I’d venture that most of us - when faced with the spectre of real change - panic.
Maybe it’s a modern thing: we’re pretty accustomed to our cushy existences in much of the world. The cushy, predictable lifestyle is the envy of many - if not most.
Realistically, the types of change found in the past or even in less stable environments are the stuff of scary stories: famine, drought, war, disease, dislocation, disaster.
Nowadays we don’t even want our temperatures to fluctuate 2 degrees, if our love of air conditioning (in the home, office, car, mall) is any indicator (nevermind our current situation of turning up the planet’s temperature by several degrees).
We want our food to taste the same (McDonald’s), our television shows to look and feel the same, our celebrities to fit into a certain box (and size), our music to fit a certain aesthetic, our houses to look the same (if you come to my neighbourhood, I swear to god that every person that contracted a infill chose from the same two styles that look like bleh-grey Lego knockoffs), our clothes to be the same palettes, styles and fabrics (UGGs...ug), and our children to be round pegs...in round holes.
So, yes, when the ‘C’ word (‘change’! you naughty people) comes up, you can hardly be blamed for having your heart skip a beat or ten. Your experience with change has probably been unpleasant - forced, traumatic, sudden, shocking.
- It’s too scary.
This, of course, leads to my first item - IT’S TOO SCARY. Granted, if the change has been something that happens to you, then it does take on the spectre of the unknown, and that, generally, is scary.
But take a moment to consider my next question: What makes change scary when you choose it? In other words, when you embrace change with agency, does anything change?
I know that, for me, when I actively choose change, my attitude tends to be totally different. It can be scary, certainly - but the quality of the scary is different. It’s an anticipation-anxiety-waiting kind of scary.
It’s when my imagination can run away from me….far, far away. But it’s also an exhilaration-scary, too - kind of like amusement parks or funhouses (neither of which you will ever catch me in again, in this lifetime).
So, that’s our first lie - change is TOO scary. It IS scary, in various ways, but change-by-choice is not insurmountably scary. That’s just something we tell ourselves to try and explain away the choice-not-to-change.
- It’s too hard.
The ‘choice-not-to-change’ is a place we often arrive at for at least two reasons: one, because we’re just bloody lazy, and we don’t want to put the effort in (because change DOES require effort) or two, we’re looking at where we are and we cannot conceive of the process or benefit of the change. In other words, a failure of imagination.
This is often the case with health-related change: quitting smoking is too hard; getting fit is too hard; changing your family’s eating habits is too hard. Undeniably, these things can be hard.
You will stumble, fall, get pushback and bitching, you will hate the whole process sometimes, and you will (most probably) want to return to your current situation because it is, frankly, easier. You know it. You’re comfortable with it (even while you’re still uncomfortable).
Learning to push outside your comfort zone as a woman is just the same - you will stumble, fall, get pushback and bitching, you will hate the process (and others may also say they hate you - it’s short term, btw, 9.99 times out of 10), and you’ll want to quit. That’s a fact.
Which is why you need to leverage your imagination before your start, as well as have rock solid support and well-thought out and provisioned goals. These are the ‘magic sauce’ of change, especially when the ghost of “too hard” makes her inevitable appearance.
- It’s unnecessary.
Often, when you get to the point of imagining and contemplating what it will take to enact real, powerful, permanent change, you can kid yourself into believing that it’s actually unnecessary.
Sometimes it’s true: for instance, my husband is the master of coming to me to tell me he needs a change of vehicle. Why? His car is “old” (it is 12 years old, has minimum mileage, and looks as good as the day he drove it off the lot). Does he need change?
Well, from the strict standpoint of needing a new car, he does not. However, when measured against his perception, then he’d say ‘yes’. In this instance, I believe it’s unnecessary: he is convinced it is necessary. Who’s right? Impossible to say.
But what about a situation where your relationship with your teenage daughter is an absolute dumpster fire? Your friends tell you “that’s the way it is with teenage girls” and justify it with their own disastrous relationships. It’s killing you, and it’s tearing your family apart.
Do you ignore it, because this is “normal” and “you’ll get through it”? (neither of which may necessarily be true) You can take this (and many do). After all, going through a relationship teardown/rebuild with a teenager is harrowing at the best of times - this will be over soon, so why bother?
Do you hear flickers of ‘too hard’ in there? And, even deeper, ‘too scary’? Yup. These lies we tell ourselves frequently cohabitate.
And, like stated earlier, having the imagination, support, and plan (flexible, though goal-oriented) - and resilience - makes this doable.
Only YOU can decide on the necessity part, but one thing I invite women to consider is the cost of not changing. When we take the time to do that type of math, the answer almost always shows up loud and clear. And yes, the equation lands on the side of change.
- It can be avoided.
Short-term, sure, maybe. But here’s the thing about change: it will find a way. I explain it to my sons like this: “You can do this the easy way. You can do this the hard way. That’s the only choice you’re getting.”
Life operates on these parameters, in general. Think about it: don’t want to work on your communication skills? Your relationships fall apart or they’re just shells. Don’t want to take care of your body? Eventually, it will begin to fall apart, too. Don't want to do anything hard?
Usually, it’s either thrust upon you (with no choice, preparation, etc.) or you manage to get through life without doing anything hard...and you get to the end and realize that you merely existed - you didn’t live.
You didn’t stand up for what was right? You let injustices continue to happen? You spent money you didn’t have? Yeah. All of it is avoidance. And we’re ALL guilty, from time to time.
But trying to believe that change can be avoided is a straight-up lie (my dad has been telling himself this for a lifetime, and I assure you it doesn’t work). About the only choice is the one I give my sons: You can exert agency and vision on the changes in your life, or you can be a spectator and/or the person who has “clean up on aisle 7”.
- Other people won’t be able to handle it.
Depending upon the nature of the change(s), this might be true. It might be short-lived (an adjustment period) or it might be permanent.
However, I would ask you to consider something: if you aren’t changing something in YOUR life because you believe that someone in it won’t be able to handle it, your challenges might not be with the change itself - it may very well be that the nature and terms of your relationship(s) are what is needing change.
Now, before you flip out on me, let me paint a few pictures:
Back about six years ago, I decided that I wanted to run my studio out of my house (good ol’ pre-COVID days). My sons were 10 and 7. It was going to require fairly significant change, including negotiating supper prep and timing, rules around where you could be and when (in the house space), self-control (volume, behaviour), being responsible for self-entertainment, commitment to not bothering mommy while she worked, and deferring questions and complaints to daddy.
Would you believe the hardest of them all was that last one? My sons seemed constitutionally incapable of asking their father for anything. Like, “Daddy, can I have a snack?” or “Daddy, can you help me find a pencil sharpener?” I have always been super-organized, with systems, lists, calendars, and the like, and my kids are quite self-sufficient, but it was like everything I ever taught them disappeared overnight. Even my husband flailed.
The first year was bad: my younger one disrupted me all the time and my elder was just plain insulted that I dare ‘work’ when he might want me. Nevermind that I’d worked his entire life: it was that I was working visibly during his waking hours that offended him so mightily.
Previously, I’d worked before wakeup, or late into the night, or on evenings (minimally, as we’ll discuss another time) or vacations (at our cabin). Basically, my work schedule was designed to accommodate my family and sacrifice myself.
Care to guess how long it was before I was mightily bitter?
Right. No time at all.
But then I berated myself: I should be ready and available to my children - after all, they are only children for so long. I should make supper and attend to the children in the evenings (studio ran from about 3:30 - 8:30) because my husband was at work all day, and he did make the breadwinning wage - mine was merely a ‘hobby-job’.
How could I possibly put what I wanted - working with clients (and, at the time, frequently other peoples’ children) ahead of my own children? Name the guilt trip, and I guarantee I’ve been on it.
Then I had the experience of being hugely successful in this enterprise - I had 40 students a week, and a waitlist - and this didn’t make anything better. Far from it.
So I kept working, homeschooling, homekeeping, mothering, coordinating, scheduling, planning, etc., as well as prepping meals (and often cooking them, after finishing studio). By the time the end of the year (late May) came around, I was well-and-truly burnt out. It took most of the summer to rejuvenate, then I was right back in it.
I was angry, bitter, exhausted, embattled, lonely and desperate.
Ever been there?
I decided to make major changes. I was sick about them, because I was sure everyone would be angry - and by ‘everyone’, I mean my clients. I decided I would no longer see clients weekly (30 min each), but bi-weekly. Further, I would only schedule those bi-weekly sessions as 55 min, so I could have 5 minute breaks (formerly I’d worked back-to-back, no breaks).
I built accountability measures into the systems, with strong contractual language about the nature and parameters of our working relationships (I’d once - fully 30 minutes before the session was to start - was started to hear my piano being played….by a client who’d arrived early, walked in, and proceeded to my living room and began playing. Yeah.).
The changes extended to my family: my sons were now responsible for cooking meals a few nights of the week, along with a regular list of chores and school responsibilities that I would assume were done - I was no longer going to check daily (that one bit me in the ass a few times, let me tell you).
Not a client left. My sons rose (mostly) to the challenge. My husband became better at managing his time (instead of staying late or going for a beer) and getting supper to the table on time. The kids’ activities weren’t being missed (because I wasn't there to remind them).
Interestingly, this year of change became the impetus for even bigger, far-reaching personal and professional changes, because I’d made big changes (albeit fearfully), and I didn’t die. In fact, I was healthier, happier, more content and more productive than I’d been in a very long time. I lost weight. My relationships improved. I was a better human. Because I took the risk that others couldn’t handle it, and did what I needed to do. Turns out it benefited THEM, too.
It doesn’t always work out like that, it’s true. But assuming others can’t handle it is both an excuse for us to not change AND it takes away others’ agency in having their own thoughts and feelings about change. It also doesn’t teach others that change is possible and often highly rewarding.
Changing Your Mind About Change
I challenge you to take some time and think about what YOU tell yourself about change - are you subscribing to any of these lies, and - if so - what are you denying yourself and others?
Also consider the price of not changing: at some point the Universe WILL force your hand, and I can almost guarantee you won’t enjoy it. If that’s the case, then perhaps considering embracing a change mindset NOW will give you the ability to make better choices that you can control many aspects of AND reap all the benefits that change brings to your life - because it DOES.
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