The Complexity of Change and the Beauty in Embracing it

This post is part of the "Inconvenience of Change" series, hosted during the month of May by Matt Cheuvront at Life Without Pants along with New Day Revolution.

"Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” -John Allen

Change takes many forms At its best, change inspires feelings of possibility, exhilaration, new beginnings, and opportunity. Making a change can be a breath of fresh air, a moment of pride, a powerful personal statement about what you stand for. Obama built a hugely successful presidential campaign around the theme of change. His was a message centered upon hope - hope for a better tomorrow based on embracing change today.

But change can also produce a great deal of fear, anxiety, confusion and sadness. Anyone who has experienced a difficult breakup probably knows what I'm talking about - the yo-yo between feelings of freedom and feelings of dread. Sadness over the loss, wrestling with unanswerable questions about why it happened, and uncertainty about what the future will hold. Sure - there may also be relief, excitement and hope - but it would be a mistake not to acknowledge the full spectrum of feelings that exist around such change.

Change is nuanced; no two changes are ever the same Sometimes you choose to change - you make a hard decision, quit your job, end your relationship or move to another city. Sometimes you waffle about making changes - you weigh pros and cons without ever reaching a decision or taking action. Sometimes you want a situation to change but don't quite know how to make it happen (hello, welcome to my dating life!).

And sometimes change chooses you whether you are ready for it or not. You get fired, get dumped, lose a loved one. These are not the changes that feel immediately exhilarating and hopeful. To call them inconvenient would be an understatement. But in time, these are often the changes we learn the most from. The changes that make us who we are and push us to question our assumptions about the way life works. These are the changes that encourage us to stop for a moment and re-evaluate our priorities and the direction we want our lives to take.

Embrace change and uncertainty

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Regardless of where change comes from or the form it takes, we do ourselves a favor by embracing it. Enjoying the unknown and the suspense of not knowing exactly what is next. A friend once shared with me a powerful story that compares change and transition to flying on a trapeze. The author, Danaan Perry, talks about how you have to let go of the first bar to catch the second, a feeling that can be both exhilarating and scary. His message is that although we are often looking toward the next bar to grab, ultimately it is the unknown time in-between that is most valuable. An excerpt:

In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one. Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won't have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar...

...I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives. (Read the full trapeze story here)

Similar to Perry, I believe change and transition create great opportunities for growth. But you have to be ready to embrace that growth. Be patient with yourself, and be patient with your friends. Realize that change is complex and that we all have different thresholds for it. When we are ready and when it really counts, we all have the power within us to make and embrace big changes that move us forward in major ways.

Check out the other Inconvenience of Change posts when you get a chance - I love the richness of the topic and the variety of perspectives from the dozens of other bloggers who have participated.