Understanding the dynamics of change

ChangingCoursesquareThis column is a compilation of perspectives on the challenge of change. We all experience a need for change in various phases of life and in different settings. In particular, as it pertains to making a career change, we sometimes encounter personal resistance to changing behaviors that keep us from being successful and potentially keep us from being our best selves.

Dennis Merritt Jones, award-winning author, keynote speaker and spiritual mentor, likens change to a rock and a river. The key is to understand that regardless of whether we are consciously invoking change in our lives, like a river, or resisting it, like a rock, we are dealing with the same dynamic universal principle, and it is an energy which is totally impartial to our wants, needs and desires.

We can choose to see change as an ally or an enemy, and it will respond accordingly. We can learn how the dynamic of change works and align with it in a manner which serves us in healthy, life-affirming ways, or we can stay stuck, pushing against it.

The downside to resisting change is that it will have its way; it will eventually wear us out. It has been said that in a contest between a river and a rock, the river always wins. Why? Because the river is willing to follow the natural call of gravity, going over, under, around or, eventually, through the rock to its destiny, which, as with all water, is to ultimately merge with the ocean.

The rock is stuck where it is, relentlessly pushing against the river, resisting the natural flow of water until, over a long enough period of time, it’s worn down to a pebble. If you ever visit the Grand Canyon, you’ll see that this is true.

The metaphor of the rock and the river is delightfully obvious: The river represents “us” when we are conscious of our oneness with the universe and willing to trust the call of gravity, “going with the flow” of life without trying to force or manipulate it. The rock represents the past and our attachment to it; the rock symbolizes our resistance to change and fear of the unknown. Surrendering to, and going with, the natural flow of the river called “change” is how we reach the fulfillment of a life worth living.

Jones leaves the reader with these questions: Are you the river or the rock? And if you find you are being a rock today, what might you be clinging to? Where in your life might you be resisting change or trying to force it to happen before its time? You’ll be amazed how embracing change will “change” your life.

In his book Even Eagles Need a Push, David McNally suggests that confident, empowered individuals have learned to cultivate qualities that help them to thrive when faced with the possibility of having to make personal and professional changes.

Vision: The ability to articulate your goals and aspirations for the future

Self-Appreciation: Knowing who you are — your values, your interests, your skills, and appreciating your basic goodness

Purpose: Having a reason beyond yourself for living and working

Commitment: A willingness to move through resistance and habitual thinking in order to achieve your goals

Contribution: Thinking in terms of giving, not just in terms of getting

If you are struggling with having to make a change in your professional life (learning a new skill set, new competency, starting a new job, etc.), I encourage you to not give up. Gently try new behaviors of your choosing, not those forced upon you. And always be open to constructive feedback by those who know you well.

Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to mcintyre_tammy@rocketmail.com.