Last week I listened to a TED Radio Hour episode about our perception of time. Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert shares a study--this is the rough summation: there are two groups of people from all age categories. One group is asked, “How do you think you will change in ten years?” and the second group is asked, “How have you changed in the past ten years?” The group members who were asked to forecast their change assumed very little change in their lives, circumstances, personality, friends, etc. The group members asked to reflect on their change described a lot of change from who they were ten years ago, even those who were older in age.
Time and time again I’ve heard people say about themselves, “Well that’s just the way I am.”
What if that was a cop out? What if that was an excuse out of having to work to better ourselves because transforming ourselves to overcome challenging aspects about our character/personality/life is hard? What if we KNEW we would could be totally different in ten years, who would we choose to be? What would we choose to do and how would we choose to live? We create barriers for ourselves on purpose because staying contained is easy. It also helps us make sense of the world around us and organize the chaos that is this life. There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s amazing that we have tools inherent within us to comprehend this universe and keep us feeling secure and safe in an existence that’s scary and unpredictable. But that’s why change is so hard. That’s why we don’t predict ourselves changing all that much--we’ve structured our entire lives around who we are now.
One example. A couple of years ago, I had to admit something to myself. I was no longer an “extrovert.” I no longer felt the need to be constantly social, I felt increasingly awkward around new people, and I LOVED hanging out with myself. Quiet time for me, myself, and I. I fell way behind on social media platforms, I required more quiet and more sleep, and I began to dread constant social engagements. All of it was so weird!! And I put myself down for it. I wasn’t making enough new friends, I wasn’t taking advantage of all the big city had to offer, I cringed at dating apps and so was bound to be alone forever. And then, I turned 30. I finally had the balls to admit, I changed. A huge part of my identity for almost 30 years had morphed into something new, and it was AMAZING. As soon as I accepted it, I was able to take full advantage of who I’ve become, to nurture it, to find balance, to stop fighting it, to structure a whole new environment based on my new self--including different friends, the right job, the right partner.
Then there’s when we don’t anticipate change in others. How many friendships, intimate relationships, families have you seen fall apart due to change? When we don’t expect it, we have a hard time accepting it in ourselves but also in others. Or even when people don’t change the way we think they should, shit falls apart. We can’t handle it! What if...knowing that change is inevitable, knowing that fully evolving into our change can help us learn our lessons? Can help us accept one another, can help us understand one another, can help us remain compassionate when change doesn’t work in our favor? If we stop fighting it, and work with it, we’ll find that it actually does always have a way of working in our favor if we let it.
keep practicing . . .