Change Is Hard

The trees outside my window are still full of soft green leaves and yet their branches are weighted down with two inches of heavy wet snow. The leaves are not quite ready to let go and own up to the changing season. It seems the perfect metaphor for my own life. I find myself hanging on to my old way of being, even when the world around me is sending messages that the time has come to make a change.

What makes change so hard, even when we long for our lives to be different? It has something to do with knowing what to expect from the status quo.

  • We know how to operate a business of a certain size with a certain business model: To grow is to reach into the unknown. What if? What if I can’t handle it? What if I fail?
  • We know how to manage our relationships: To be honest about our own needs and feelings shatters our unspoken agreement to remain silent about issues we know could spark conflict. What if you don’t want to hear me? What if there is revenge or retaliation? Physical or emotional abandonment?
  • We want more time for exercise, for family, for fun, to pursue our dreams and passions, but we don’t have the freedom we need to have more of those things. What’s the cost of saying no to other commitments, work responsibilities, money, and security?

We hold on tightly to the way things are, even when the winds of change are calling. That restlessness, the swirling feeling, is like fall leaves that can’t decide where exactly it is they should land, but know they are on a journey to a new place. We hear the voice that is calling to us to have more of what we want, but we excuse it away, push it down, and do our best to ignore it. Sometimes the voice shouts loudly, Listen to me! The voice tells me it is time to let go of the old way. This does not work for you anymore. This place, choice, relationship, way of eating, way of spending time or money: it doesn’t suit you anymore. We have changed on the inside and now it is time to change on the outside. It is time to let go and transform our lives.

William Bridges says that it is not the letting go that is the hardest part, but the transition time between how it was and how it will be. Transition is the final battle ground for transformation. Will the comfort of the known win out over the adventure and uncertainty of the unknown? During transition, we feel edgy. We are still unsure of this new place. We sometimes keep the old way close at hand, and even go back there. It feels comfortable to us, like slipping on a well worn sweat-shirt that is fresh out of the dryer, warm and soothing. We catch a glimpse of ourselves, a reflection, and don’t like what we see. Our old sweat-shirt is worn and has lost its luster. It’s time to clean out the closet. The old has to be weeded out to make room. The season is changing, and last season’s styles aren’t working so well. Put what no longer works away for good.

I work at being a practitioner of growth and transformation. Today, I explore the cycles of transformation with a sense of awareness and curiosity for all that is possible. I long to become more resilient and flexible in the face of change. I want to let go as needed with a sense of ease and grace. I yearn to find quiet and peace inside, during the turbulence of transition. But the truth is change is still hard! Not all change, but the big things, the changes that matter the most, the changes that create a life transformed.

Change Is HardAs I look outside my window, the sun has come out, and the snow has been transformed and is now nourishing the ground below. The leaves are free for the moment, from the weight of the inevitable change that must happen, as one season ends and a new one begins. The sun catches the last sparkles of snow, and the leaves proudly display all that they have contributed in the life of the tree. I am reminded that part of letting go is acknowledging and recognizing the magnificence of all that has come before. Being grateful for what was and trusting in what will be. Change is part of the evolutionary cycle that is necessary for growth and to sustain life, and while I intellectually understand, it is with a sense of loss that I contemplate the soon to be naked branches.