Written by: Charneise Alston, M.Ed
“You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, I hope that is not true in regards to humans. In fact, I am certain that resisting change is a choice. Likewise, I actually believe that our opposition to change is an instinctual default setting. While it is easy and safe to remain in our comfort zones, in the words of Sam Cooke “A Change is Gonna Come.” Since change is inevitable and essential to our growth, it makes sense to initiate healthy changes whenever possible to avoid life’s painful ability to impose change against our free will.
My favorite season of the year is Autumn. Autumn’s visual depiction of life’s cycle of change is a beautiful reminder of adaptation and survival. How well do you adjust to change? As our bodies, environments, relationships, jobs, beliefs and much more changes over time, it is important to both invite and embrace change. Change is delivered in subtly small and drastically huge life-changing packages. I decided years ago to remove the shock-value from unforeseen changes. While it is completely common to be surprised by an unanticipated change, I used to view certain changes as a catastrophe based on my inability to cope. Therefore, I am daily learning to be even-keeled when dealing with life’s changes.
When I experienced unexpected changes at work, I recall being thrown off guard and left mentally frazzled. As a Capricorn, it’s natural for me to be a planner and to operate according to schedules and routines. So much so, my rigidly organized, Type A personality does not respond well to unanticipated changes. For example, when I chose to be a counselor in a school setting, my high-achieving, workaholic efforts were quickly noticed by my leaders. However, unbeknownst to me, my school district swaps out principals about every four years. Whenever I would finally develop a great flow at work, the leadership would change and I was back at ground zero. Therefore, as a novice, I was forced to adjust to different demands and personality styles more than I would have liked.
Have you ever been laid-off, demoted, or terminated from work? Have your responsibilities or workload ever increased at work without any notice? Have you ever prepared for a presentation but was thrown a last-minute curveball? Have you ever auditioned for a role only to have the script revised at the last minute? Work environments and dynamics are ever-changing. However, successful people are flexible and can easily adapt to change because it promotes growth and resilience. Do not retreat back to your old ways of doing things, sharpen your tools, become resourceful, and discover new solutions to make a more qualitative impact. Be willing to change your perspective to gain a different insight.
Technological advances help facilitate change in today’s society. Millennials tend to embrace change more easily than our elders because of the ever-changing times. I have seen the internet evolve from dial-up connections to wi-fi satellite connections. I grew up in a neighborhood where there was a pay phone on every corner instead of a cellphone in every hand. Tape cassettes have been replaced with streaming services. Many changes in society have made life more convenient but it can be overwhelming for the fearful.
As we age, our bodies remind us of the unavoidable changes that occur in life. I remember when I noticed my first gray hair at the age of 31. At first, I was reluctant to publicly show my single strand of wisdom. So, I dyed my hair to appease my comfort. I did not want my normalcy disrupted, so I counteracted with an attempt to resist change. Unfortunately, the dye damaged my hair by making it dry and brittle. I was confused because I maintained deep conditioning treatments but to no avail. After a few weeks of hair shedding, I cut the dye out of my hair a swore to never color my hair under any circumstance. Now, I have many gray hairs that are beautifully intertwined with my esixting Black locs.
The best quality of free will is our power to choose. Change confronts both our behavior and pattern of thinking. Positive change forces our growth and strengthens our resolve as we plunge into a greater purpose. Earlier, I stated that we combat change by default because of our fear and ego. While we all possess the courage to change, many of us refuse to be brave enough to change. Consequently, we choose to stay in unfulfilling situations to maintain the status quo of complacency. I dare you to change on your terms. Get in the driver’s seat of your destiny and make the necessary changes to become your best self.
Whether or not you choose to evolve into your best self, I guarantee that you will be forced to deal with the evolution of others. The dynamics in any relationship is subject to change. The person that I was in my twenties is significantly different than who I am in my thirties. While my values remain the same, my beliefs, style, appearance and perspective have all changed. I allow myself the opportunity to change as I embrace and discover different expressions of my authentic self. Whomever you choose to love and coexist with in life, understand that everyone is multifaceted. Be willing to change your view of people and do not hold them hostage to their past or your comfort. Just as plants, people grow when nurtured and cultivated in good soil. When we change, we thrive.
New beginnings are beautiful. Do not fear change because of discomfort or fear of failure. The experiences from the caterpillar and the butterfly are completely different yet from the same creature. In order to transform our lives, we must be willing to shed our former selves. Begin by taking inventory of what needs to change in your life. Rid yourself of toxic relationships, start the change. Be willing to explore and learn something new everyday, invite change. Abandon the need to control everything, surrender to change. Stop bad habits and replace them with an alternative, create the change.
As a parent, I am excited to witness my toddler’s developmental changes. My daughter now communicates in complete sentences versus phrases. She has become more skillful in completing independent tasks. I have also seen an increased compliance with bedtime, thank God. It is quite ironic that we expect change from our children but not ourselves.
Since I am fully vested in embracing change, I try to initiate change as often as possible to create a lifestyle of flexibility, adaptation, and resilience. As discussed in today’s blog, there are planned changes that you can make on your behalf and unexpected changes that require you to blindly maneuver without always knowing the next step. In either circumstance, the best remedy is to accept that nothing lasts forever. I remember my when my father told me to wear this world like a loose garment. I now understand that we have to detach ourselves from comforts that hinder us from positive change.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”