Navigating the Landscape of Change
“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” ~ Roy T. Bennett
My cultural upbringing was very much one with the mindset of going to school to get a good job where I could climb the ladder and hopefully achieve high accolades and business success just in time to retire. It is a structure that creates growth and safety in a world that can sometimes feel unsettling. If you look at our economic history it makes sense that we would create such a structure.
In this day and age, we are seeing a culture of young adults who are so willing to reinvent themselves numerous times during their career that to some it seems risky and even crazy. Why would one give up security for the unknown?
At the age I am now (44) I can easily see and have experienced both perspectives. I understand my parents drive for safety and job security. I can also see why the desire for reinvention is so prevalent. Our collective consciousness is beginning to outgrow the paradigm that safety and security can be found “out there”, and the risk of staying the same is becoming bigger than the risk of the unknown. But is it really unknown?
When I was at the tail end of my schooling, I was headhunted by a high-end company in the industry I was working towards. My application was a recommendation from my professor and a week on the job as a trial run. I was a shoe-in. Within 3 years I climbed the ladder to a managerial role where I found myself on the highest rung. There was nowhere higher for me to go within this company. I had quickly made a name for myself in the industry though, and it wasn’t long before I was scouted by another company. I stepped directly into another managerial role that gave me more freedom and money. But I was still on the top rung with not where higher to climb.
The only place for me to go was to take a big leap off of that top rung and hope that I landed on my feet. There was no guarantee where I was going, but I assure you that I knew. I knew I would succeed. And I did.
I don’t say any of this from an egotistical place. I say it to demonstrate the feeling that we have all had. The deep inner knowing of what needs to occur. This knowing could be within our careers, relationships, sexual orientation, living situation. You name it, the list goes on. We have all had those moments of knowing that a shift needed to happen and knowing (but not knowing) that we would come out ok.
Just for a moment, I want you to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself of the deep inner knowledge that you have. This might require making a change or it might be something you are already doing. Just sit with it and see what comes to the surface. It’s in there, I promise.
In saying all of this I don’t mean to make it sound so easy. Change is fucking hard, even when we know it’s the right thing to do. Despite the opportunity for growth on the other side, it requires leaving behind the familiar and the comfortable. It might also mean changing the dynamics of relationships which can be extremely unsettling. But nothing is more uncomfortable than the mental, emotional and physiological effects that happen within us when we go through growth and change. I once read an excerpt that said something along the lines of a caterpillar needing to almost completely liquify before transforming into a butterfly. Even though the human process of transformation isn’t as outwardly visible, I dare to say that it is as dramatic on the inside.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~ Maya Angelou
Inwardly, change can require a complete restructuring of beliefs, those of which may encompass the morals and values that we hold. It can take months, even years of touching our inner landscape of what we thought our life should look like, slowly chipping away at the barriers we have put in place to keep us safe, but are really holding us back. It can even look like grief as we slowly let go of fragments of ourselves that no longer serve. For me grief was the one that blindsided me the most. It still does as I continue to evolve.
But I have come to know this discomfort as a rite of passage. All of it is the ritual we go through to find spiritual and personal expansion. It is a ceremonial blessing as we embark into a renewed version of self.
If you have that little niggle inside of you that is begging for change, I implore you to trust it. Even if you do nothing else, just sit with the feeling and ask it what it is trying to tell you. Once you receive the answer, even if it doesn't make sense, sit with it some more. I find it helpful to journal about all of the ways this niggle bumps up against my barriers. And then, ask more questions of why I have those barriers in the first place. It is a process of completely unpacking what I have so tightly and neatly contained within myself. It's messy at times. A disarray of what I think I know.
Sometimes I find myself as a pile on the floor too … but in time I start to call myself forward to a new level of understanding. A new level of worth and value. This takes time, just like the shaky legs of a newborn deer struggling to find footing among unfamiliar territory. Only then can I start to root though the wreckage, slowly picking up the pieces and discarding what does not have a place anymore. What has become the most vital step for me is reflecting back to see that even when I thought there was no hope, I have always come out ahead. Sometimes even further than I could have imagined.
To help you navigate the process of change, here are 9 steps that you can follow. Note that you might bounce back and forth between some of the steps and repetition is always welcome. The process of change does not fit into the constructs of linear time.
Step 1: Incubation.
This is the stage where there is no intention of change. It might feel like an energy that is sitting just outside of your aura but has not conceded change yet. You are on the precipice and even though you don’t know it, you can feel that something is about to roll in.
Step 2: Trust The Niggle.
The energy of change has now entered your field. This is the time to sit with the niggle (instead of ignoring it) and ask what you need to know. When your ego pops in here to tell you that the niggle is invalid, thank your ego, set it to the side and sit with the niggle some more. Where do you feel it in your body? What is it trying to tell you?
Step 3: Unpack.
With the answer that you get, unpack all of the ways that this goes against what you know to be true. You will likely bump into beliefs that are backed by experiences. This step takes time to unravel and decide if your beliefs are true, or just protection mechanisms you have put in place to ensure that past experience never happens again. I highly encourage paper and pen journaling here. The act of writing helps the brain to process. You may even enlist the skills of a professional counselor or psychologist to help you process.
Step 4: Be One With The Mess.
I know this goes against our societal acceptances (perhaps another thing to unpack) but I encourage you to give yourself a minute to be one with the mess. Don’t set up shop, but give yourself a moment to be confused and even grieve. I am a big believer in allowing time for the process of grief. It is a great release of stored energy that may be blocking you from moving forward.
Step 5: Reorganize.
It is time to root though the carnage and let go of things that do not fit into your desired new way of being. You may even want to do a releasing ceremony to send these outdated beliefs lovingly away. Or you can pack them up neatly in a (metaphorical) pink suitcase as a symbol of appreciation for the things you once held tightly.
Step 7: See The Bigger Picture.
Now you can start to piece together the puzzle of what you want your situation or life to look like moving forward. This may require more journaling as you begin to restructure your inner landscape. You may tear it down and start over a few times, that’s ok. Remember that the process of change does not fit into the constructs of linear time.
Step 8: Implementation.
It’s time to start trying a few things on. It may feel uncomfortable at first but allow time to break these things in. Just like a new pair of shoes that soon become your favorites. Keep putting them on and going for little walks, gaining more and more ground each time. This may look like behaving differently than you normally would or speaking in a new way. This takes practice. Have patience (and a cheering squad if it's available to you).
Step 9: Celebrate.
Without a doubt I will call this out as the most important step. Take a look back to see how far you have come. Celebrate your growth! If you have like-minded friends then make a pact that you can call on each other to share the exciting expansion you feel within yourself and have it reflected back to you!
Celebrating is how we lock in our wins to keep them front of heart and mind. It is our human nature to focus on and remember the unfavorable times. We must make an extra effort to lift our energy with a sense of pride at how far we have come! Doing this with others will amplify it 10-fold.
"Celebrations infuse life with passion and purpose. They summon the human spirit."
~ Terrence E. Deal.
If I look back upon my career life alone, I can easily say I have completely reinvented myself 5 times, and the mini evolutions within each of those times are equally abundant. I was blessed with the belief early on that no matter what, I knew I would always have enough. My leaps of faith weren’t so scary with this as a foundation.
These days I am working on expanding the belief that I will always have enough, into the knowing that I am worthy of abundance. This one thought alone touches on a number of wounds that I must lick along the way, and brings forth grief of the unworthy child I once was, allowing expansion towards a life with no glass ceiling. It is a massive leap into the unknown. But the truth is I know.
I am transcendent. And so are you.
By Andrea Bath
Writer | Writing Coach