A Deeper Look At Change

This is coming to you, dear readers, after many months of silence from me…. allow me to explain. In mid-January, 2013 I was called to California and spent three weeks in vigil with my 87-year-old mother, until she passed peacefully on Feb 3rd.

When I arrived back in Ontario, it was clear my husband Graydon was not well. Seven months later, almost to the day, he died a difficult death from lung cancer. To say that 2013 was a brutal year for me is a gross understatement. I’m just only now catching my breath and moving into a space where I can reflect and begin to make sense of it all.

Yogi Berra said it best, ‘In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.’ I’m here to say a resounding, ‘AMEN Yogi!’

Now, I love theory: I like quantifying and simplifying concepts that explain how change happens. Over my career, I’ve created several change models myself. Being able to ‘see’ what a particular aspect of human behaviour looks like, in theoretical terms, is helpful when you’re heading into unknown territory; mental maps serve as valuable touch points for the journey. But in practice, when the worst you can imagine is happening, and the news gets tougher every day—when you’re exhausted and the end result is not going to be what you wanted or thought would happen—and there is precious little you can do…models and theories can only take you so far.

In the aftermath of this incredibly difficult and personal change journey I have some fresh insights about the landscape. Today, I want to set aside theory and speak from my heart, and tell you some of the things I’ve learned this past year in hopes that you find them helpful.

I’ve learned that:

·         Decisions must be made, ready or not. Decide; pick a path and follow it. You will make mistakes, very few choices are life and death, and even when they are, you can make them. Be content with 80% outcomes.

·         Resist the temptation to ‘future’. Stay in today. Keep focused on what you need to do today to handle yourself and your situation. Control is an illusion and you can’t predict tomorrow anyway…don’t waste your energy.

·         ASK for help. Support comes from the most unlikely of places. Reach out. Remember that your team, friends and family want to help…supporting you gives them purpose. Real change happens in community. No, Paul Simon…we are NOT islands! None of us are self-sufficient, especially when the task is bigger than we are, so let people help you. 

·         Big Harry Changes can grab us by the shoulders and shake us to the core. Feel the fear, feel everything…breathe, walk, pray, sing, paint, talk to people who have walked this path before you, spend time with small children. As I learned, there is nothing quite so grounding as an afternoon with four little girls under the age of 5 (AKA, my granddaughters).

·         The best time for change is when things are changing. Look around. What no longer makes sense? Now that this has happened, what else needs to be left behind, finally begun, or outrageously pursued?

·         Big changes happen in an instant. One moment the people we love are here, and the next…gone. But, it takes time to process real change and the necessary losses that come along with it. As much as you can, give yourself the time. 

·         Choose your anchors NOW. Don’t wait until the tsunami is bearing down on you to locate your lifeboat. We all need faith in something bigger than ourselves, especially when life is tossing us around. Make up your mind now what and who you believe in, there is no time in the storm.
·         No circumstance is ever all good or all bad. Even really crappy situations come bearing gifts. Look for the treasures around you.

There are very few things I know for sure, but as I write this, the lessons learned are pouring in at break-neck speed…so stay tuned. I appreciate all the support my friends, family, and business partners have shown me over the last year, and I hope my story and insights can be an inspiration in the years to come.

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