Why is it that often we are not ready for change before we encounter a crisis?
Change and the need for transitions can keep knocking on our door for a long time, but we are often very, very reluctant to open the door. Our capability to change can wait in the background until a true crisis hits.
You might know exactly what you could do with your life to change it to a desired direction; move on to a different career…eat healthy, exercise…start that hobby you have been thinking and dreaming about…stop spending so much time at the computer…move to the countryside…but you just don’t seem to get it done, have the time or the energy…
Maybe you are stuck in a situation in your life, where you feel like you are swimming upstream either at work or in your relationships. You might be used to feeling dissatisfied and not having a lot of joy in your life, even if everything seems to be fine on the outside.
Either way, the need for change can eat you from the inside whispering in a quiet voice of discontentment that is still very hard to ignore. Perhaps you are waiting for a time in your life, when you have to face the situation that is described in the internationally known children’s song ”Going On a Lion Hunt”:
“Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go around it. Gotta go through it.”
They say that a human being is only ready for change when not changing becomes impossible.
In other words, only when it is absolutely necessary. When that time comes, the situation has often been going on for a long time and has developed into a crisis. In her book Welcome to Your Crisis (How to Use the Power of Crisis to Create the Life You Want, Little Brown Company 2006) , Laura Day describes crisis with the words “delayed transition”.
In ancient Greek the word crisis means a situation that forces you to make a decision. In Chinese it is additionally related to the positive side of things: crisis also means a new beginning and an opportunity. Crisis encourages us to grow – or forces us to.
Resistance to change – no, I don’t want to rock the boat!
Most of us have bad experiences of how the smallest changes in life require a lot of energy, decisions, actions, learning new things, remembering and getting used to.
Changing your diet or getting more exercise, or even just starting to floss, going to sleep a bit earlier or meditating for five minutes in the morning all take admirable self control.
When we change our daily routine, we need repetition after repetition and sometimes many days, weeks or months, before this new deviation becomes part of the routine. Even then you might fall back to your old ways without noticing.
The desire for comfort and the old routines you are used to create a sense of security. Few of us have a desire to shake that, unless we have a strong enough motive. This is even more so when we talk about larger transitions in life. When it comes to career, where you live, your job and relationships, the need to actively take on change is challenging. This is human and sensible. Feelings such as insecurity and uncertainty can become a tangled mess of emotions and be tied to a variety of factors depending on the situation. They can become a block for change. We resist rocking our own boat or that of others without a good reason, especially when it comes to people we care about.
Capability to change – mindfulness and self-knowledge
Life in itself and in all its forms is a continuous stream of transitions. Accepting the changing quality of life helps in adjusting to the natural whirlpools while staying with the flow. Capability to change is a life skill that helps to recognize the winds of change beforehand and to navigate wisely and with consideration even when storms and crisis surprise you.
Capability to change requires especially skills in mindfulness and self-knowledge. They consist of the ability and courage to be aware of and recognize the need for change, which allow you to make appropriate choices that are in line with your values. According to logophilosophy, developed by Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), it is exactly this living by our values and fulfilling them which is the foundation for a meaningful and happy life.
If we brush off our intuition, feelings, emotions and the signals from our body and mind and hide our heads in the sand, we are building a crisis. Controlled change, on the other hand, comes about when we recognize the need for change and the motive behind it. If there is a strong enough motive that is in line with our values, we will commit to change and invest our perseverance, time and energy.
The motivator inside – a critic or a gentle friend?
What inspires you to change? Is that inner voice enthusiastic or discouraging? Your inner motivator has a huge eﬀect in this transition.
Inner scolding or demands like “I have to and I should” will result in a completely different voice and state of mind than “I want to and I will” based on a conscious choice and decision.
We know, of course, that we need a big portion of self control to carry out any transition. But far too few of us know (or believe) that this needs to be paired with an inexhaustible source of self-compassion. Yes!
If there is a constantly complaining critic sitting on your shoulder, then on the other shoulder there should be a gentle friend, whose voice forgives if you stumble on this journey and who encourages you to carry on. It is also good if you can remind yourself about patience and about understanding the nature of change.
Transition is often a complex process that has many phases. Like life itself – we can’t know for sure what phase will come next. Hooray for the happy surprises!