As far as vices go, I don't think mine is that terrible. In fact, it's a little activist-nerdy (I just made that up :)). I am severely addicted to change. The good kind of change. The change that makes you happier and more successful. The change that helps you to live in a more well-rounded way. The kind that helps you to figure out what the hell you are doing in life. The change that makes you a better friend, sister, daughter, partner, employee, neighbor, etc. I love it. I live for a-ha moments because they are usually hints that point to some of the next changes I need to make. I. Heart. Change.
Gosh, why do I love it so much?!
Because each change has allowed me to consistently get to a better place.
I see that if I am willing to make the change, that the benefits are right there, waiting for me. Many times we are scared of making changes, don't know how to make them, or don't even want to think about it. Thinking about it and possibly doing something feels disruptive. One thing I have learned through my studies in Organizational Change Management, is that no matter how great the initiative is, change will be resisted. It's almost crazy if you think about it. No matter what? Really? People are just going to resist because of the fact that it's different? You mean they will resist without even really considering the merit of this change? Yes. Some people will resist regardless. Obviously, going along as you have been, typically feels more comfortable.
When I was growing up, this idea was set in my mind -- the idea that change was difficult, painful, and nearly impossible....in other words, so why bother? When I was a kid, I accepted that. I sat with it and accepted my own shortcomings as shortcomings that I would have for a lifetime. I couldn't see how I could change any of it. I guess the adults around me were pretty set in their ways. Despite challenges and struggle after struggle, I never saw change of self modeled. I never saw adults who made changes that would lead them to better lives or more happiness. There was a sense that if you were in a job or a relationship that made you miserable, then the only thing to really do was to leave that situation. But try to make it better? Nah. Figure out your part in it? What you were doing to contribute to the misery? Oh no...why bother? Forget about it. Either live with it, or leave it. I saw the same patterns lived out, the same struggles in new places, frustration with different scenarios using the same scripts. Believe me, I am not being judgmental. I know that many situations were extremely painful and difficult -- with no easy answers. Plus, I think that the Baby Boomer generation didn't have quite the appreciation for change and "self-help" that Gen X and Y do, so I accept that people weren't pushed to make changes in themselves or their situations as much as we may push ourselves and others to do today.
During college, I began to see the possibilities. I felt encouraged by my leadership roles in college groups and college government. I knew at once that change was always likely if you went about it in the right way. I knew that if I wanted to have an impact in the world, that change would be the way to go. Activism and change became synonomous for me. I approached change in myself in much the same way I approached change in my work. If I was going to push for social justice, if I was going to call to question the things I thought unfair, I would have to be someone who embraced change in herself as well. Someone who was open to feedback and criticism. Someone who would have to admit to wrongdoings and then work to prevent futher mistakes of the same ilk. Someone who would have to be willing to change in order to become a "better" person. No one is perfect; each of us could always bear to change for the better.
I recently read a quote by philosopher Henri Bergson in one of my readings for school. He said:
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
Some may not agree with you, nor find this kind of statement endearing, but Henri, you and I are on the same page!
I have been pushing myself to make dramatic (yet necessary) changes for more than a full year now. I know first-hand that it is exhausting, because it takes tremendous effort to realize the problems and then try to stop yourself dead in your tracks and do the opposite (in some cases) of what you have been doing all your life. It takes energy to shift your thinking. In many instances, I thought I was doing the right thing, the smart thing, and it took a lot for me to see that what I thought was good was actually harmful (working 70-80 hour weeks -- I know! How did I not see this?!). And when you are passionate and committed, sometimes it takes a lot to see the problem in how you are functioning. And that fantastic friend who really cares may point it out to you, but you brush it off -- ah, they just don't understand how important this is. This is what I thought. For a long time. It resulted in a stressful lifestyle, pushed-away friends and family members, and no time for much of anything else aside from work. Even once I had glimmers of realization that I may not be functioning in a healthy way, the changes I would need to make felt so overwhelming that I didn't consider it for very long at all. It took a big a-ha moment to first propel me into making some shifts in the way I arranged my life. And now, on the other side of it, I see how much better it is.
So I am a huge advocate for change. And as Bergson said, we are only maturing if we are creating ourselves endlessly. I can almost hear my mom's groaning... I remember back to my first handful of years out of college. I was passionate about my welfare-to-work nonprofit job, and then I decided to be a teacher. I was passionate about race issues and I grew from my work with Swirl to working on building Swirl and co-founding New Demographic simultaneously. My mom has gone along with each shift of mine, and would remain generally supportive, but each change was met with a bit of exhaustion on her part. It was what looked like worry (wanting me to always to land on my feet), accompanied with the remark that she "just could not keep up with [me]." Friends have also said this to me from time to time. I have never forced myself to slow down so others could keep up, but these reactions have sometimes caused me to keep my changes to myself. When I change, when my thinking shifts, when my plans are revised, I am excited and motivated and invigorated, but those around me don't always feel similarly. This is interesting to me, and I guess I haven't experienced another friend who likes to change as much as I do (though I would argue that I am still the same person, deep down), so I can't tell if it would be nearly as disquieting to me as I am to those who are close to me. I am not sure if my changes and shifts look like confusion, or lack of being able to settle and be consistent. I will try to imagine what it must look like from the outside. Perhaps the problem is in the way I communicate these changes. Perhaps the quick shifts are unsettling -- my changes are very rarely smooth ones. I realize something one day and force the change the very next (if not the same). I recognize that I have a strong approach to change -- and will also think a bit more about this, to make sure that my changes are always healthy ones. My eagerness to change sometimes trumps my need to process the importance of the change, or think about how the change should take place.
The change process to me, always feels like I am getting closer and closer to what I want to be doing. Closer and closer to who I want to be as a person. Closer and closer to living a consistently fulfilling life. Closer and closer to being someone who is acheiving my goals, but also has great relationships with those who are important to me.
Whether I am at a welfare-to-work program, or a teacher, or an HR Director, my mission in life has always been the same -- to create change in order for this world to be a bit more just. That will never change...but the way in which I go about it will always change. And should always change.
Without change, we are rusty and crusty. :) We use the same tactics, thinking that what worked ten years ago should still work today. No. Without change, we cannot see our full potential. We cannot rise to new occasions. We cannot live our best lives. We have choices in life. We can either sit in sameness, or we can constantly explore the ways in which we may improve. Change is growth and new possibilities. And once you are aware of the opportunities for growth and new possibilities, why wouldn't you jump on that immediately?