I have had the pleasure of spending the better part of these last 2018 mornings nestled on my couch, listening to soft jazz, and reflecting on the happenings and blessings of recent days.
With my new cozy, Be Happy slippers warming my feet, piping hot coffee filling my new Thankful for You Mom mug, and my new fresh balsam candle emitting a crisp winter forest scent, I have savored the start-of-day stillness and allowed my thoughts to gently wonder.
The common thread that has weaved together the images, memories, and sentiments swirling around my head and heart have centered around one word: change. It’s everywhere.
Change has been a quite pronounced headliner theme in my life over the last weeks and months, and I can tell from recent conversations I have had and heard that I am not alone.
In December, I talked with strangers about changes in holiday traditions and celebratory routines. I spoke with relatives about changes in their careers and residences. I chatted with friends about changes with our children’s pursuits and our parents’ health. Within my own four walls, we discussed everything from making nutritional changes, to noticing changes in friendships, to experiencing changes in our ideas about life direction and goals.
Personal, community, and even global shifts abound. I have the sense that it is just the beginning.
Why are we so afraid of change?
Change can be…scary. Unfortunately, we have all been programmed to fear it at some level.
It isn’t always a negative thing. In fact, change can be a very good thing. Still, even the most positive changes can sometimes feel like a burden when they first come to pass. I knew that when my daughter chose to go 1,000 miles away for college that it would be a fantastic experience and much-needed change of pace for her, but it still made me sad to think that our family unit would never quite operate in the same way again.
Change comes with a level of uncertainty, which is unsettling. It can be less of a problem when we are in charge of implementing it; but whether it happens with or without our intention, it all tends to come with new and unexplored territory (which, in turn, tends to spark anxiety). There is a sense of safety and security that comes with knowing what to expect, and change throws a wrench into that. We don’t always handle things gracefully when newness of any kind shakes up our carefully packaged lives.
People prefer predictability. In fact, they prefer it so much that they often resist change and continue to tolerate unhealthy situations, people, and/or circumstances longer than they should, for no other reason than that their fear of the unknown trumps their motivation to leave the comfortable bubble they are accustomed to floating around in. We’ve all been there.
There is one thing we can count on never changing, and that is that change will always keep coming. Why do we allow ourselves to fear that which we cannot avoid? Wouldn’t it be easier and simpler to welcome it with open arms?
Changing Up Change, For REAL
Deviations from our normal routines make all of us uncomfortable, and the REAL truth is that each of us makes the choice to feel that way.
Fear of change, just like fear of anything else, is a personal decision.
Other people might be responsible for how we thought and felt when we were little; but we are all grown up now (at least in theory 😊), and the way we think and feel about life today is all on us.
The amazing news is that because we have decided to live for REAL, we now recognize that we have the power to change up anything that we wish to. We can transform the way we think and feel about anything by redefining and recreating our thoughts and perceptions around it.
Our view of, and approach to, the role that change plays in our worlds is no exception. With awareness and intent, we can refocus our energy and harness our power to experience change in an entirely new way.
We don’t have to be afraid of change any longer. What a relief.
Pouring Change Through a REAL Filter
For me, living for REAL means feeling content and at peace most of the time, regardless of what is happening in my world. It is about setting up the logistics of my daily life so that I have a better shot at feeling good and happy in the majority of my moments and days. This involves proactively clearing my life of the things that don’t bring me joy and pulling in more of the things that do. The snags hit when I run into those dynamics that I can’t control…like change.
I know I can’t stop it from happening or remove it from my life, so my only option is to overhaul my whole take on the subject. If I pour it through a new filter, change may taste sweeter.
If I can train my mind to see it in a different and REAL light, as something positive (and maybe even fun), I have a better than even chance of turning it into something that actually adds to my peace and contentment (or at the very least, doesn’t rob me of it).
REAL Terminology: Talking a New Language
Lately, I have been working on rewiring my brain by using alternative words to describe change. My top two favorites are evolution and revolution. It just feels better, more hopeful and encouraging, when I say that something is evolving or revolving. Both words give the sense that something is in process and holds promising results, rather than implying that something is abruptly beginning or ending.
It is more comforting and calming to see life through a lens of continuously moving cycles and processes, as opposed to a chain of random stops and starts. From this perspective, there REALly are no endings to mourn.
Evolution promotes the idea that something is being improved upon and expanded. Revolution inspires a state of excitement and a sense of rebellion against old, worn-out circumstances. I feel assured and inspired just typing the words!
Simply by shifting the descriptors I use to tell my story about changes occurring in my life, I change up the emotions and thoughts that I attach to them. I am consciously removing the trepidation and worry and replacing those with excitement and anticipation. Words are a REALly powerful tool.
Additional synonyms that work include transformation, transition, refinement, development, and innovation. Try switching up your vocabulary and using one of these terms the next time you are talking about a change you are experiencing. Notice the difference in how you feel when you stick a more positive and appealing label on it.
REAL Perspective: Turning Things Upside-Down
I went to see Mary Poppins Returns this week, and it was fantastic! In one of the scenes, a quirky cousin of Mary’s is very upset and confused, because her whole world has physically and literally turned upside down. Mary suggests that her cousin simply adjust her perspective by standing on her head; and, of course, from her new upside-down vantage point, she sees things more clearly and becomes happy and calm again. Voila!
Change can sometimes make us feel like our worlds have been turned upside-down. Perhaps if we took Mary’s advice and aligned our perspective accordingly, change would feel less like upheaval and become easier to navigate.
Am I implying that you should attempt a headstand the next time you are faced with unsettling change? Not exactly (although in yoga, those types of positions are very cleansing and calming!). What I am suggesting is that we practice the art of rolling with it.
What if we relinquished control and simply rolled with the punches of change? What if we restructured our perception of change and approached it from a counter-intuitive, upside-down vantage point? What if we just decided to stand on our figurative heads the next time something in our lives seemed to flip upside-down? Might we see things differently and feel less anxious as a result?
My Own Example:
This past April, my family transitioned from a spacious single family home into a small apartment. While the downsizing was deliberate, we have each navigated several resulting changes tied to this dramatic shift in lifestyle (some we anticipated, some we didn’t). One I did not predict was the impact that the change in residence would have on our Christmas routine.
The holidays in my old house included wall to wall decorations, four Christmas trees, stockings hung from a mantle adorned with my favorite seasonal décor, a front porch covered in lights, a basement dressed up in Ravens’ purple ornaments with a theatre area perfect for Christmas movie watching, and multiple parties hosting family and friends. We did all of that for 15 years, and it was wonderful. Good times, great memories.
When we started decorating and preparing for the holidays in the new apartment, it was initially a little disconcerting. There was no way I could fit all of my decorations in the new space, and I was forced to transition from eight bins to two (a travesty!). I had no mantle to beautify or to hang my daughters’ stockings from. There was no front porch to light up. There was no basement to decorate, no theatre-grade projection screen to view our favorite holiday classics on. There was certainly no room to host big celebrations (at least none with more than 6-8 people!). In early December, we all felt like our holiday traditions had been turned upside-down.
About a week before Christmas, I decided to stand on my head to gain some perspective on the whole thing. You know what I saw from down there? I noticed an apartment filled with only my most sacred and prized Christmas decorations and memoirs. I saw a living area simply and beautifully adorned with one tree, which was still topped with our Santa angel and which we still decorated together while the movie A Christmas Story played in the background (as is tradition). I saw all of the precious time that we gifted ourselves by moving into a smaller more manageable space, time that we used to spend decorating and maintaining a large house, time that we instead now spent enjoying more quality time as a family, time that we now had to restore and just be. I saw my three favorite people squeezed together with me on one couch, eating popcorn, and laughing out loud as we watched the Chinese waiters attempt to sing Jingle Bells to Ralphie and his family.
“Standing on my head” and altering my perspective made me REALize that our Christmas traditions are simply evolving, and that we are transitioning into a new way of celebrating the season. It is different, but it is OK. We are innovating. We are transforming. We are growing.
As Ralphie says towards the end of that movie, all was right with the world. Indeed, it is right.
It is REAL.
Rewriting a REAL Script
We can alter our perspective and experience of change by adjusting the language we speak and the filter we pour it through, but we must also redraft the script we read from when we are describing it to ourselves and to others.
How we communicate and what stories we tell determine most of what we experience in life. What script do you attach with change? Is it one that includes the element of fear?
Zig Ziglar says that FEAR has 2 meanings: Forget Everything And Run, or Face Everything And Rise.
Do you want your story to be about running, or about rising?
Will you decide to put up a fight? Will you opt to take flight? Or will you make the bold decision to try something ground-breaking like going with the flow? The choice is yours.
I know from experience that fighting and fleeing take up an awful lot of energy (and are rarely effective). Flowing sounds much less complicated…calmer…easier. I choose flow.
My in-progress internal script for change goes something like this:
I embrace change.
There is a good reason this is happening, even if I don’t yet know what that is.
It is OK not to know. I can trust the process of life.
I give up the resistance. Resistance only causes friction in the universe and knocks my vibration out of whack… not worth my energy.
Things are always working out for me. (I like to borrow that one from Abraham Esther Hicks)
I can relax.
This is not good or bad, it is just…different.
Change is an introduction to an adventure and new opportunity for growth.
Life would be dull without change.
Movement of any kind is a good thing, stagnation is not healthy.
If I focus too much on what has been, I won’t be able to see where I am going.
What will your new script sound like?
Living for REAL centers around the art of embracing and inspiring REAL change.
Change is not usually something we delight in or applaud, but perhaps it should be. Change blows regularity and predictability to bits, but maybe that is exactly what we need. Could it be that now is a good time to rip up our routines and willingly plunge into new and unchartered waters. Isn’t that what REAL living is all about?
Change happens. People grow up, people grow old, people move, people switch jobs, people retire, people are born, people die, people’s personalities evolve, people modify their preferences and feelings over time, people change their minds. The list goes on and on. That’s life. Would we REALly want it any other way? Would we want a world with no variety, no movement, no dimension? No.
We are all standing on the cusp of a new year. We are looking back over our shoulders and remembering all that has evolved over the last twelve months. We are shifting our gaze straight ahead and anticipating all that will come our way in the next twelve. We are standing in this unique place and time, knowing that change is on the horizon and sure to show up. We don’t know what form it will take or when exactly it will knock on our door, but we know it is inevitable that we will meet up with it. We are facing change right now, in this very moment.
Let us greet change with a warm hug and usher it through our thresholds with love and acceptance. Let us invite it in like a good friend and allow it to transform and stretch us in new ways. Let us flow with the natural current of life and embrace its changing tides.
In the words of Abraham Esther Hicks,
It has been a wonderful year, and a wonderful decade, and a wonderful century, and millennium, and beyond…but you have seen nothing like what is before you.
There is no looking back.
You cannot go back from who you now are.
You can only move forward.
You can innovate, refine, develop, transition, transform, and evolve. You can create your own REAL revolution and decide to live for REAL in this moment. You can change things up and create a REAL life now.
And that, my friends, is the REAL tea.
Happy New Year~