Change: Why, Not How, is The Question

I’m at a crossroads, people. For those of you who are new to my site, I originally wanted to deal with social justice, media and self-improvement. Over the past few years I have become avid readers of authors such as Don Miquel Ruiz (The Four Agreements), Esther and Jerry Hicks (Ask and It Is Given), Louis Hay (You Can Heal Your Life), as well as mavens of life and career design, such as Tim Ferris (The Four Hour Work Week), Johnathan Fields (Career Renagade) and Margaret Lobenstein (The Renaissance Soul). In another post, I will outline my full self-help library, but just know that my bookshelf looks like the reference page for a quarter-life crisis. In reality, it was.

A few years ago, I was confronted with some uncomfortable facts about myself. A true Scorpio woman, I was uncomfortable with how jealousy, foreboding and ruminating I can be at times. I also felt like I was too sensitive, as even the smallest slight from a stranger would often take up days of space in my head. So, I decided that I needed to change some things about myself. I needed to be more practical, less sensitive, more productive, etc. etc.

Looking back at this self-improvement kick, I’m starting to think that there is only so much that people can change about themselves. Moreover, I think that when we find ourselves in difficult situations, it’s not because we aren’t “right,” it’s because the situation isn’t right. I wonder what would happen if everyone decided to stop “making do” and actually became their full, actualized selves?

Right now, I am in a great deal of transition. I resigned from a prominent, well-paying position to find something. Not just another job, but another kind of life. We often feel like situations that challenge us are designed to make us grow, and they are. But there is a difference between trying to grow and trying to change. For example, learning how to manage difficult situations with people who aren’t social justice oriented like myself requires growth. Trying to program myself so that I adapt to a speed of communication that’s uncomfortable to me is change. Change is not always good. Sometimes things are difficult because they require someone who is not us to do them.

So, instead of waxing philosophical about living my best life, and trying to find ways to change who I am, I’ve decided that there are some things that I would be better off accepting about myself. These are the guidelines I plan to use to make decisions about there things:

1) Does it harm anyone? There is a difference between harming people and hurting people’s feelings. As someone once said, “Pain is a part of life, but suffering is optional.” We can’t control how people feel or react to us when we are being true to ourselves, but anything that actually causes tangible harm to another person should be changed. However, if being true to ourselves would hurt someone, it’s okay to consider that, but this alone is not a good reason to try to change who you are.

2) Are you changing it out of fear? Marianne Williamson once said that anything done out of fear is the wrong thing, even if it’s the “right” decision. For example, to a degree I am more subdued and laid-back than I was when I was in middle school, when I was send to the principal’s office on a regular basis. I decided to change this about myself because I am older, but I changed this because I wanted people to see who I really was, and not get distracted by my tourette-eque outbursts. I didn’t change this, however, because I was afraid of losing something, or people not liking or accepting me. Changing something in order to be accepted is never worth it in the long run.

3) Would changing bring you closer to where you want to be? I once took a Psych class in college that started at 9am and was taught by a professor emeritus in his early 80s who thought that using colored chalk was innovative teaching. I was late to this class every morning, and even got locked out of it a few times. Then the mid-term came: 20 questions, all essay response. I looked at the test, looked at the professor, got up, put the test on his desk and never came back. It was the first class I had ever dropped, and I did so because a) It was boring, b) I didn’t like the professor, but most of all c) I didn’t need the class to get to where I wanted to go. I didn’t need the credits, it wasn’t required, and staying in the class would have ruined my straight-A average. The lesson here?  Just because you aren’t doing what you need to be successful in a situation doesn’t mean you need to change. Only change if the situation is essential to a goal that you have.

Using these guidelines, I’ve decided to accept the following about myself:

  • I’m sensitive
  • I like sleep, and there a very few things I would sacrifice for it
  • I don’t know how to schlep through tasks (meaning: If I don’t feel passionate about something, I can’t be moved to do it)
  • I work best between 11am and 7pm
  • I use swear words in regular conversation
  • I’m obsession with media, especially movies
  • I have a short attention span when it comes to relationships

Those I may look at this list and wish that some of these things were different, or fit into a paradigm that makes existing more simple, none of these things are bad enough to spend time and energy into changing.

That said, there are some things that I do need to change, according to my criteria, and I will discuss them in a future post.

What do you think?