Change. Is it good or bad? How is understanding change key to success? Quotes about change abound. John F. Kennedy observed, “Everything changes but change itself“. Johann von Goethe pointed out that “Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for change“. According to Charles Darwin, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional“. So clearly, the issue seems to be not so much what we think of change but rather how we react to it. And truth be told, there are probably few words that can throw up such a kaleidoscope of emotions and differing interpretations for us. On the one hand, change is exciting. We all want our lives to be ‘different’ in some way, after all there is no progress without change. We are all familiar with the words “Today is the tomorrow you dreamed of yesterday”. However, the word ‘Change’ also holds some very negative connotations. The Oxford dictionary describes change as ‘to make or become different’. And nobody likes to feel different. If you look up synonyms for changeable you will find words such as: ‘volatile’, ‘uncertain’, ‘unsettled’, ‘unstable’. These words throw up emotions for us that make us feel ‘insecure’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘unsure’. There is a small corner in all of us that likes to feel secure and safe And change clearly goes against that. However, once change has occurred we very often call it ‘Progress’, ‘evolution’, ‘expansion’, ‘growth’, ‘advancement’. And this throws up a far more positive set of emotions. Suddenly we think, ‘spontaneity’, ‘unconstrained’, ‘free’.
And so it appears it is not change itself that scares us so much as the transition process, that first step into the unknown. We like the stability of things as they are ‘now’. Now is somehow comforting because of its familiarity. Yet our ‘now’ is changing every day. We probably all loved our bedroom as a kid, or had a favourite pair of shoes. My personal favourite was a pair of over-the-knee stripey socks. Great aged 10, not so great when I look back at the photos now! “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to change often” said John Henry Cardinal Newman. Reassuring to know that at least my fashion sense now fits the definition of ‘perfect’!
Maybe it is not change that we fear so much as the loss of control that we associate with change. Change, on whatever level, always carries an element of risk. Sometimes that fear, that perceived risk, is so big that it keeps us where we are now despite the current discomforts. ‘Better the devil you know’ – even if he is prodding rather too hard with his three pronged fork.
At the other end of the scale, there are times when we have probably all been guilty of change for change’ sake: We change our hair colour, we change the layout of the living room furniture. We may even change jobs. Why? We do it to avoid making the changes that really matter in our lives. Deep down it may be our choice of career that is making us unhappy, but we will change our hair colour ‘just to cheer ourselves up’, because that is an ‘easy change’. I used to change jobs every 4 months. No job I ever found was the ‘right job’. At some level, I believed that if I found the ‘right job’ I would be happy. Once, as I was preparing to move from Switzerland to Australia, a ‘much more exciting job’ my boss rather candidly pointed out to me: “You can move to Australia if you want but nothing will change because you are still taking ‘You’ with you”. Ouch. At that point I finally woke up to what I was doing. I was avoiding making the changes that I really needed to be making, and my excuse was because I was too busy caught up in the ‘now’.
My life was not going according to plan because I had never created a plan for my life. I had no master key to success. I liked the spontaneity of life. And it was convenient to be able to blame ‘circumstance’ and ‘personal changes’ when things were not going right.
So where did all that get us? Is change good or bad? Can we now see how is change is key to success?
I guess, taking all things into account, the answer to that is: Seeing as change is inevitable, why not embrace it and analyse it and use it. Use change as an opportunity to measure what is going right or wrong, and course correct. Seize change as your master key to success. How else are we going to grow? I will leave you with one last quote by Charles Darwin:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.