We each have a unique life story which gave rise to the way in which we interpret and negotiate the world around us and our relationships. The imprint of that journey can be found hidden deep within cellular memory, and the expression of it is determined, in large part, by our emotive response to future life events, whether personal or professional challenges. You have a choice.
Does the mere prospect of change create overwhelming fear and distress for you or an exhilarating surge of anticipation?
When we choose fear as our response, the consequences are typically self-destructive, unless, of course, it is a genuine 'fight or flight' situation. If we attune to our body, we become aware of a 'tightening’ as more tension arises; a sense of being stuck, unable to move forward - not only in relation to the problem at hand but well beyond, into other aspects of our lives. We become more cautious, tentative in our decision-making process, and often start questioning whether or not we have, or have ever had, the capacity to make positive, life-affirming decisions.
Living in fear generates a sense of being 'small', not in control of our lives. In that state of mind, and emotion, we can become susceptible to the control and manipulation of others. Fear causes stagnation, disappointment, confusion and helplessness - and begets even more fear.
Recently, I found myself in my old neighborhood, where I had set up my first apartment since arriving from Australia. I'd bought most of the furniture locally - and to this day it brings happy memories of my time in that community, and very first 'White Xmas.' I'll never forget it. I'd taken photos from every angle, of snow-laden trees, cars so completely encased in snow and ice as to be unrecognizable, people sloshing around in waterproof boots and heavy winter coats, and of others trying unsuccessfully to control their cars which were sliding recklessly around on black ice. This was a totally new and magical experience for me! Xmas Day found me in a thick, warm down jacket and boots, wandering around the neighborhood, happy as 'a kid in a candy store.'
I felt safe and accepted there. It was the right place at the right time. I knew where to go for fresh, organic produce, for the best coffee, the ideal meeting place if I needed to chat quietly with a friend, or somewhere noisier to immerse myself in the everyday hum.
Fast forward a few years, to my most recent experience. In part, I went there to recapture that sense of well-being and joy, the comfort of places familiar. On arrival, even as I was driving down the main street, I noticed a significant change. Horror of horrors! I was confronted with unfamiliar storefronts, a few new upscale food outlets, more traffic, a younger family-oriented community, trendy clothing stores, and the appearance of high-profile chains which were previously not part of the streetscape. One of my favorite restaurants has disappeared as have other stores which were intrinsic to my memories. How disappointing - my expectations were crushed!
Although I wandered about feeling disoriented,
a gradual and surprising shift occurred - an awareness
that the community feel was significantly different, in a
positive way, and much more vibrant than when I was
resident. It had taken on a new identity, and that's OK
because so had I!
Change is an adventure
I was no different from anyone else when being
confronted unexpectedly by changed circumstances. The familiar represents safety, security and comfort. So why do we need to change? And, how can we process change in a positive, more constructive way? Sometimes, it's the burden of our familiar past that weighs like an anchor - even though it may have been filled with happy memories.
Look around. Our present-day reality is that 'life is change.' We are living in times of profound technological advancement, the capability to connect to people across the globe with only a few clicks, ongoing political upheaval, and new discoveries in both quantum and neuroscience that have forever changed our perspective towards health and wellbeing. And yet - we continue effortlessly to respond and adapt - because it is in our very nature to do so.
From the moment of birth, we become responsive to both our internal and external environments. As infants, we respond instinctively to our mothers' proximity and her voice - we hear it, are comforted by it, and feel safe. We begin our experimentation with the potential benefits of open communication immediately when our needs are not being met! Not only do we adapt, but we also become creative in our efforts to 'manipulate' the outcomes.
Within the first 12 months, we are typically able to recognize and differentiate between female and male voices and facial features - we learn to categorize, and acclimatize to a shifting landscape. The sheer excitement, with which we approach the transition from crawling to walking independently, is a joy to watch! We ache to explore what's beyond - to touch it, feel it, talk to it, and probe - always pushing, testing the boundaries of our ever-expanding capacities. Everyday life becomes a new adventure, curiosities are satisfied, and momentous milestones are met and overcome - with increasing self-confidence!
Have you ever seen a toddler try time and again, to climb from the floor to the sofa, or beyond? Their focus, creativity, and determination are inspiring. When finally they arrive, the look of triumph and its message is undeniable - "Look at me... I'm awesome! What's next?"
As life progresses, we forget we have emerged from the womb with all the tools needed to support our transition to adulthood, in fact, to the end of our journey. Our creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, spontaneity, determination, self-confidence and sense of fun, are all aspects of inherent wisdom. When allowed to flourish, we each have the capacity to live productive, interesting and rewarding lives, respond intuitively to the demands of daily life, and to achieve success - all the time seeking "what's next?"
In truth, change is the only way forward, although sometimes, at the outset, it may not appear so. It may present at the 'wrong' time, be on a grander scale than you think you can cope with, may result from a surprise or a shock, or, may be expected but unquestionably unwelcome.
Whatever the circumstance, you have a choice in how to respond. Retreating to a place of fear is not the ideal choice - it merely serves to slow your progress. Acceptance of the new reality is a reasonable starting point. A quiet, or even optimistic, curiosity would be preferred. Even better would be a sense of excitement about the potential of forward momentum, accompanied by the kind of creative thinking that will produce only the best potential outcomes.
Remember that you have a lifetime of adaptive experience supporting you. So, when change is looming, take the chance - embrace it, and live as the person you were born to be!