Sometimes change is imposed upon us. We lose a job or a place to live, someone breaks up with us. We all know how those kinds of changes happen. In those cases, we need courage to face the loss and whatever’s next. Then there are the changes we CHOOSE and those also take courage. Why? Well, many of us enjoy stability, predictability. Sure, it can be boring, but it can also be comforting.
What if the changes we seek, the ones we choose, are REALLY challenging? Sometimes it’s us who must make the change to increase our level of happiness or security or satisfaction in our lives. Maybe we’re the ones who must decide to let someone go from their job, or to leave a job ourselves. Or we need to let go of a relationship because we recognize it’s harmful to us. Then we have to find some courage in order to make these changes. Every change also has an inherent amount of RISK. For low risk tolerant people, this can seem daunting.
A friend of mind shared a post asking people what courage is. They wanted to know “how do you get there?” After a bit of reflection I realized that for me, courage asks me to be willing to be afraid and uncomfortable. It asks me to be willing to not know what will or could happen next, and to be okay with that unpredictability. I have to lean in toward that fear and discomfort. There is some damage control in determining what MIGHT happen, of course. I’m not as impulsively courageous as some are. I do weigh the checks and balances. I do my best to make changes in a more helpful direction, instead of just blowing up my world. (Though if you ask some people, they may disagree.)
Here’s the thing…if we RESIST change, it comes anyway, and sometimes it comes in a form forced upon us in ways we cannot control. I mean, time and time again I have heard the story, “I did everything I could to stay in that relationship and they left me anyway!” The truth is, that person KNEW much earlier something was definitely not working in the relationship, and SAW behaviour or lack of communication that was an issue. They only started to try to salvage the relationship reactively, once their partner was angry and hurt and ready to leave, instead of PROACTIVELY. By then, the damage was done and the change was still coming. Even when they had all the information and could have made changes earlier to truly invest in the relationship, they WAITED. And then, the change that needed to happen came anyway, in the form of the demise of the relationship.
Why did they wait? Why didn’t they act when they realized their relationship was suffering? Because they wanted to AVOID conflict. Well, it kind of worked. There was no more discussion or conflict to be had by the time their partner was ready to end things. Is that what their goal was? Yes. Did they achieve it. Yes. Was it in alignment with what they WANTED for their relationship? No. Perhaps it would have been more useful to them to focus on the goal of meeting the needs of their partner from the start; speaking up early, identifying the issue, taking ownership for their role in creating the issue and then finding a way to resolve it with their partner. See the difference? When they avoided conflict, they also avoided growth, intentional investment and helpful, healing change that may have SAVED their connection.
Have the awkward, difficult, and challenging conversations with the people in your world! With kindness and an eye toward finding common ground and creating a common goal, let them know you CARE about the shifts you are witness to and don’t want. Let them know you SEE what’s going on and want to invest in improving the situation. Take RESPONSIBILITY for what you’ve done. ADVOCATE for the best outcome – the best kind of working conditions, the best relationship, the best living situation possible. Work on it together, proactively. Maybe, as in the above example, improving the situation will ultimately mean ending things – but if the other person sees you doing your best, early on, to make things work, there will be much less resentment and pain when it does end.
Change takes courage. No doubt about it. Even when it’s forced upon us. If we want to respond with as much personal responsibility as possible for the change – whether or not we chose it – we need to find the courage to face our part in creating the situation, and face what must be done next. Chin up, lean toward the unknown and breathe…knowing that here is where we discover the best parts of ourselves.