If you want to make more of your life, you need to get into the habit of creating your own path. Question the narratives you're offered, don't accept society's expectations without first examining if they make sense for you, and spend time getting to understand who you are.
Locate that inner voice of reason; that feeling that nags you when something isn't right and makes you feel like you could float instead of walk when things are the way they should be. It's a good first step in understanding what's right for you.
Once you know where to find that inner source that helps you know whether or not you're on your path, the next step is to accept the fact that the path will change. What you know to be true about yourself and your life now won't stay the same. Change is the only constant, and the sooner we learn to embrace that and know it's okay to experience and go through change, the sooner we'll be able to get out of our own way and get back to creating and making more.
Are You Done Becoming Who You Are?
I starting thinking about what it means to change after listening to a recent TED Radio Hour podcast. The episode focused on our perception and understanding of time. The segment that really captured my attention featured Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert. You can listen to his segment here (along with his TED Talk).
"We all know we will change," says Gilbert. "But we think fundamentally, the people we've become... will remain relatively stable in the future. And in that, we are wrong."
This was a fascinating conversation for me, because it brought me face-to-face with a limiting belief I've held on to for years -- the idea that change is bad. Changing your mind is not okay. Changing who you are is unacceptable.
Once you declare yourself as being a certain way, that's it. There's no going back, because you made your decision.
This is crazy! And it's certainly not a realistic way to live, if we know that both ourselves and the things around us change with time. We all change and we're not fixed in the past or the future.
We're Never Fixed in Time
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you or someone else was bashing a person who "had changed?" Did you talk about the fact that your friend found a new passion with a note of disdain, because this new path was unexpected and different for that person?
I'm guilty. I'm guilty of making snide remarks about someone to discovered something they enjoyed, just because their new venture didn't "fit" who I understood that person to be. I think we do this because it makes us confront what is often an uncomfortable reality: we can change, too. We can stop feeling fixed -- or stuck -- in time.
We can realize that it's up to us to embrace change, or bring it about ourselves as we go.
We can change if we choose to take the colossal effort it so often does to pull ourselves out of the stream of life that is known, comfortable, and consistent. Throwing ourselves into change presents risk, uncertainty, and potential failure. That's tough stuff, and against what our instincts tell us to do: stay safe. Stay with the herd.
But this is an illusion, if Dan Gilbert is right about the fact that humans are very, very bad at understanding our own apex of growth. We constantly think, "alright, this is it. I've made it, I've grown up, I've found myself... and now I'm done." There's a name for this pattern of thought: it's called the end of history illusion. We always think we've just become the people we're supposed to be and will always be.
We're never finished becoming who we truly are. There's always more to learn, and we always change.
It's not a bad thing, or something to be scared of. We shouldn't think badly of people who were brave enough to accept change, just because we haven't yet found our own courage to do the same. Let's accept change, embrace it, and use it to better understand how we can build great lives for ourselves as we move forward.
Consider These Ideas to Accept Change
Change means you're growing and learning. Change means you're not settling for anyone else's idea of what life should look like. Change means you're trying new things and understanding more about yourself. Change means you're willing to bend and flex as you receive new information about your true self and the world around you.
Of course, knowing this doesn't mean it's any easier to accept change if you think it's a bad thing, if you fear it, or if you feel you simply can't because in one way or another it's too late. I held myself back for a long time because I was too scared to admit that I had changed, or felt I needed to change. I didn't want to accept that I needed to take conscious action to stay on the right path, because that was harder than doing nothing and staying put.
Only recently did I find the courage needed to decide that I would embrace the change so I could continue creating a life that brings me happiness and fulfillment. I'm accepting change so I can keep moving forward on the path toward my purpose and what I find meaningful.
Here are three ideas that helped me accept change within myself and find peace with the fact that the only constant is change itself:
Let Go of Fear: Let go of the fears you're hanging on to -- fear of failure, fear of judgment, fear of rejection or betrayal, fear of uncertainty, fear of risk, fear of the unknown. If you can't accept change because you're too wrapped up in layers of fear based on what might happen, or what other people might think or do, it's time to shed them before they bury your true self somewhere you can't get to anymore.
My biggest fear when it comes to change -- and almost anything else -- is what other people will say, or if what I do for myself makes them unhappy. I recently ran across a saying that's been rattling around in my head ever since I read it, and I'll leave it with you here if you have the same fear around change as I do: you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm. If you've changed, if life around you needs to change, don't hamstring yourself just to comfort the expectations and wants of others.
Understand Resistance Is Choosing Between the Devil You Know and the Devil You Don't: If you're resisting change, you're probably resisting moving yourself into a better place. I get it -- it's scary to think about leaping into something you don't feel comfortable with because it's new, different, or simply harder than what you're used to.
Human nature drives us to choose the devil we know over the one we don't. We would often rather be unfulfilled and not quite happy in a situation we understand than trying a new, unknown path that provides the potential to find satisfaction and happiness. Don't settle for something solely because it's a known quantity.
"Time is a Powerful Force": I'm going to let Dan Gilbert take this one for us, because he so wonderfully captures the concept of how we -- all of us! -- misunderstand time, and sometimes, ourselves. If we can understand that we're never quite done, we can be a little more open to changing and steadily continuing to progress down our own paths:
"We feel like the present is a magical time, in which we finally become ourselves. Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting, and as temporary as all the people you've ever been. The one constant in our life is change.... The present is a psychological illusion. The present is just the wall between yesterday and today...if you go to the beach, you see water and you see sand and it looks like there's a line between them. But that line is not a third thing. There's only water, and there's only sand. Similarly, all moments in time are either in the past or in the future; which is to say, the present doesn't exist."
You, and Your Life, Will Change Over Time
Life and the way you make your way through it will likely look like a path that winds up a mountain. It will climb up and up and up and there will be a point along the trail that makes you think, that's it! I can see the top; I'm almost there. You'll hike your way up to it, and when you get there, you'll see that the land merely changes.
The trail flattens out for a bit, but you couldn't see the pause in elevation from down below. You could only see the brief break in the climb. When you make it to that flat spot, you'll realize that the trail continues to climb ever upward, around bends and over ridges.
And this trick will get you every time. You'll think you've learned everything there is to know. You'll feel like you've finally grown up. You'll be confident that you understand yourself, that you really know who you are.
Right after you think you're approaching that point, you'll realize that you still have a long way to go and many changes to experience before you reach the summit. So embrace those changes, and accept them as positive forces in life that encourage you to keep evolving.
Enjoy the journey and appreciate that, every step of the way, you can be in a state of constant positive progress. You're always developing into the person you're meant to be.
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