Embracing Change and Daring to Be Different

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
~Lao Tzu

(Today’s post was originally published in August 2016. Still, every word is timely.) Several months ago, I wrote about the power of habits and how they help us to move in the direction of positive change. Every bit of it is true. In all fairness, though, there’s a flip side to it and it’s worth giving some thought to another aspect of change. The truth is, thinking and doing things in a new way can be hard and scary. Most of us have a certain amount of fear or hesitation about change, standing out, or being different. It’s completely normal.

Let’s admit it. We sort of like fitting in and feeling comfortable. We like people who are like us and we enjoy having people like us in our surroundings. This explains a lot about the long-running popularity of TV shows like Friends, Cheers, and Seinfeld. We like that familiar feeling of being in a place where “everybody knows our name”. Our need to feel like part of a group or tribe stems way back to our most primitive origins.

Peer pressure absolutely doesn’t end after our teens. Our choices are all significantly more affected by what the people closest to us are doing than we really want to admit, and going against the grain can be very hard to do.  Master motivator Jim Rohn maintained we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. That’s why it’s so important to spend time with people who will support you in your journey to embrace and live in accordance with the things you value the most.

Sadly, this support may not come from the people closest to you. When we begin to change, it can make them very uncomfortable. It’s not easy to disengage from the friends who aren’t helping you to be the best version of yourself and it can be nearly impossible to ignore family members who aren’t exactly cheering us on in our desire to change. We may face criticism and it can take us by complete surprise. I love the quote from Aristotle, “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” And we know that’s not the answer we’re looking for!

I’ll never forget a chapter called “Unexpected Opposition” in a little parable I read several years ago. In The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson, the main character, Ordinary, was pursuing his Big Dream.  At a critical part of his journey, he was shocked to discover that some of the people he thought knew him best were the very ones who were blocking his progress and he wasn’t sure if he could ever get past them.

So what’s the answer? Author Steven Covey was a brilliant thinker and stated it very well. “People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value”. It takes determination to arrive at that point of knowing, but it’s worth every bit of time and effort that it takes. Becoming your authentic self it is the work of a lifetime.

Another critical step in becoming what author Matthew Kelly calls “the-best-version-of-yourself” is to seek out people who share your belief in the importance of structuring our decisions and our days based on the values we cherish. Fortunately, there’s a huge movement in the direction of thinking this way and if you’re willing to put yourself out there a little, I promise you’ll find people who embrace this philosophy.

You may find them in your church or school, or in a service club or at the gym, or it might be the person in the seat next to you on a plane. They won’t be wearing a sign that says, “I’m a possibility thinker” or “Ask me about my values” but I believe with all my heart that when we have an earnest desire to find those like-minded people, they will appear almost as if by magic. I’d love to hear about the encouraging people you meet when you begin to look for them! Please share your stories with me!

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