The Gratitude Challenge’s tenth topic is “Change”.
Most people seem to be afraid of change. They would rather settle with something of which they know is bad – say an unhappy relationship or job situation – instead of taking the risk of change where they do not know how it will be.
It is much easier to complain about a status quo instead of trying to change it. I do not exclude myself even though I am certainly someone who gets quickly bored by routine and who appreciates the experience of living and travelling in new environments and meeting new people with fresh perspectives.
Confronting myself with the parts of my personality and character which I’m not particularly proud of was not easy. Having our less bright spots pointed out – be it in talks with my partner and friends, during my own reflection, or in sessions with my life coach – felt like turning into someone worse than I was before. Once I started to work on becoming aware on my weaker sides, I continuously needed to remind myself that all this had already been there. By doing what I was doing it was not that I just started to develop these sides, that the people around me were much more judgmental and unforgiving than others, or that I would be unable to continue a happy (albeit oblivious) and confident life. Yet, thinking that it would all be much easier if I just remained in learnt patterns – autopilot so to say – and with people who were not speaking up was very luring.
I was often reminded of the famous scene in The Matrix where Neo is asked if he wants to the take red or the blue pill, one keeping him in oblivious happiness in an illusory world, the other one allowing him to see the ugly truth – irreversibly. Once you see your shortcomings, you can try to ignore them, but it is not the same as being blissfully unaware. You can’t make it unseen.
Being afraid of change and of seeing the not-so-nice aspects in us, not being able anymore to just blame others and their unreasonableness, can be daunting. But I think eventually people – despite their fear of change – also really want to be good, want to become better, want to improve and want to see the truth. It might take a strong stimulus and continuous reminders, but eventually we cannot resist the urge to see. When I was a child – and even sometimes now as an adult – I pass a blocked-up house or a wooden barn and I suddenly feel a strong urge to find a crack in the wood to peek inside, to see beyond the façade and to discover something new. It might be dirty, full of dust, it might smell bad, but I want to see it.
It is only when we see and understand that we have a chance to change and possibly improve. Ignorance might feel like bliss but bringing up the courage to realize and to care, to not just ignore and detach, can be extremely rewarding as we realize how our own feelings, our interactions with others and our view on the world gradually shifts from something plain to a multi-faceted, exciting, and stimulating kaleidoscope with the full range of emotions – from deeply saddening to happiness beyond words.
Once having made the first steps to change, it is also easy to fall into the other extreme: We want to be productive, we want to achieve. We want to reach that goal. Make that meditation efficient, make it two hours and not just 20 minutes like all the others because obviously then we will be much more self-aware and reflected and enlightened, right?! Enlightenment now! As we are working on ourselves, we need to have the patience and benevolence with ourselves and with others. Change is something continuous but changing for the better requires constant work. But while we do not want to get complacent, we also should keep our urge at bay to be productive. We do not want to stress ourselves about not “achieving” our goals fast enough – something I certainly tend to struggle with.
I’m grateful for the people who support me and who I meet in my journey of change. People who gently nudge me when I’m getting too comfortable, but who also validate me for who I currently am. I’m grateful for my own courage to dare a closer look, to not only use my head but also my heart, to not ignore my feelings, to experience so many new things, situations, emotions, and interactions.