The Power of Change

One of the greatest sources of power is the power of change.  Change creates opportunity, opens space for new creations, and allows for anything to happen.

What is Change

  • to become different
  • to make (someone or something) different
  • to become something else

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Beyond the straight dictionary definition, change is the creation of space for something different and often new, and even worse, often terrifying.

The Definition of Insanity

There is an old line that says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome.”  By that definition, most of us are certifiable.

We like our habits and no matter how much we like to complain to the contrary, we seem to be hardwired to screaming in terror when change comes along.

I have always found it entertaining that in religion and politics it is often considered  good to be “conservative”.  I think one suffering from this belief is destined for a life of disappointment and frustration.  To be Conservative means to be unchanging and as the expression goes, “The only constant in the Universe is change.”

How to Create Change

About three weeks ago, we had New Years; a time when people make resolutions to make changes in their lives.  Some will be to be healthier in their choices, others will be a new or different job or career path, and others will be to just change something that they are unhappy with.

Analysis for Change

I have never really been that fond of “New Years Resolutions.”  Most people are just as stressed out as they were during the Holidays, some more so with the arrival of the bills and the aftermath of the season.

I do find it to be an excellent time to start looking at what is and has been going on, what patterns and habits one has gotten into and the places those decisions, or lack thereof, have been having.

Deciding for Change

Once you have determined what parts of your life you would like to change, start small, changing some issue you have

Changing some issue you have allowed to grow in your life can be an arduous task, often the failure is not in the goal, but in taking too large a step toward it.

Small Steps to Change

When I decided to quit smoking I actually had to go through it three times before I succeeded.  The first time I tried “cold turkey” and was really struggling with it, after a week the Northridge Earthquake rudely woke me up and I was hunting for a smoke before I had my clothes on.

The second time I used a crutch to help me deal with the initial cravings, every time I would start “jonesing” for a cigarette, I would use my substitute, it worked and I did not smoke for 3.5 years.  Then I blew it.   I had one at a celebration, I convinced myself that I could handle one.  I was wrong.  Before I finished that one, I was across the street buying a pack, it would take me nearly seven years to quit again.

The third, and so far last, was both a statement of will and preparation.  I had made the decision that I wanted to dump the habit, mainly because I was no longer enjoying it, it was just a habit.  I had been weaning myself off of the nicotine by going to lighter and lighter brands.

While this method can work, it is a bit tricky.  The majority of manufacturers do not actually put in different tobaccos, they mainly punch more holes into the filter and if you are not careful, you get as much from an Ultra-Light as a Regular.

My life was going pretty well at the time, I had a job that I was secure in and I was pretty low stress (well as low stress as you can be living in Hollywood).  I was pretty much ready when the Universe put a perfect opportunity in my lap.  I had just come home from work and was starting a three-day weekend.  I was starting to get ready for bed when I ran out of smokes and as I was walking out to get more, I thought, why not?

I ran into one of my neighbors and bummed a couple from him and returned to the apartment.  I went through the house and cleaned all the ashtrays and threw out the garbage with their remains.  I made a check of supplies and determined that I could stay in for the three days and that is exactly what I did.

The first attempt taught me that I was using the habit to deal with my nerves and to calm down.  I needed to work on either dealing with my issues and stresses, the best choice, or find another way to “avoid” them.

The second “failure” made it clear that though I am not usually an addictive person, I have a problem when it comes to nicotine.  I will never be able to be a social smoker.

The final success was a collection of preparation, opportunity, and will power.  I was ready, I had the ability to make it as easy on myself as possible.  I locked myself in the house since I knew that I would buy a pack or bum one if I allowed myself out, this was about the physical addiction, they say takes three days to clean the nicotine out.  I made it nearly impossible for me to backslide on the decision for change I had made.  That was over 14 years ago, other than the psychological aspects and the occasional smoking dream, I have been clean.

Problems and Dangers in Change

The biggest danger I have ever experienced with change is simply fear.  Be it a job, a city, a habit or anything else, there really is nothing to be afraid of.

Yes, you are going to be a touch unsettled, it is a new place you are entering into and it can be frightening.  The question becomes do you live in that fear or do you persevere?

Often the people in your life will be your biggest problem when change comes along.  Just as you are used to what was before the change, so are they.  They are going to have to adjust to you being something different from what you were.

When I quit smoking, I was amazed at the number of “friends” that gave me grief because I was no longer going out to smoke with them.  I realized that the majority of them had nothing else in common with me.  Others took it personally, they felt that I had diminished them since I had changed something for me that they did not feel like changing or they felt guilty because they want to change but have not.

Other changes will have a rippling effect through the circles you have been traveling in and some will not be particularly thrilled with it.  Those who will not support you doing what you need to do are not really what you may have thought them to be.

Oprah used to say that if someone tries to change your mind on some decision, they are actually attempting to manipulate you.  That is another subject for another day, but I am amazed by the amount of manipulation we live with and create.

Change or Running

There is one caveat that I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention, change vs. running away.

I am a huge advocate for change, I try to find those areas of my life that have become habitual, like my former smoking, and replace them with something I either actually enjoy or find more productive.

Change for the purpose of avoidance or running from things never works in the long run.  There is an old saying that whenever you run away from your problems, they are always right there waiting for you when you get to the destination.  Simply put, you cannot run from yourself, not that we do not often try to.

We judge failure harshly, but without failure you have no success.

Change as Responsibility

One thing that many people avoid when it comes to change is the big “R” word, responsibility.

I think it really is part of the nature of man, little less a cultural norm, to avoid responsibility.  I get it, if you are responsible then you bear the obligation should you “fail”.  Failure is just a hint that you are not going at things from the right direction, you still have something to learn.

Change and responsibility run hand-in-hand, you have to take responsibility if you want change, no one out “there” is going to change you, you have to do it for yourself.

If you are not ready or willing to accept responsibility for your life, all of it, then you cannot change until you change that.  Without responsibility, you have no power behind your intent.

 One last thought

As with so many other places in life, it is not really about the destination itself, but in how you get there.  Taking on too much at once can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy to failure and occasionally worse.  It is like taking a trip, know where you are going and then figure out how to get there, then step by step make the alterations that will guide you to the destination.

Written by R. A. Burgener

After finishing the 850 mile trek of self-rediscovery on California's El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma, California, Robert continued, via Greyhound, to Portland, Oregon, where he is becoming familiar with the concepts of weather and seasons after 30 years in Los Angeles.

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