By Denise Ryan, MBA, CSP
Human beings—we really are a pesky bunch. We complain when things change (I’ve been doing a bit of complaining about the stock market lately) and we complain when things stay the same (there’s not a soul among us who hasn’t at some point whined, “Mom, I’m bored!”). We take things for granted until we lose them (our health, our youth, oxygen, etc.).
But here’s a fascinating thing about us—as much as change can annoy us, we are the most hopeful creatures created. We always hope that things will be better. No matter how many times our hearts have been broken, we keep looking for love. No matter what our computers do, we cross our fingers and reboot. We dig out from snow, rebuild after floods, and keep going to the polls.
Hope (and change) spring eternal. Here are some ways to embrace change:
- Try new things (this can be simple—read new books, listen to new music, hang out with new people, or attend new events at NCACPA—you get the picture). The more change you bring into your life under your own control, the easier you’ll find change to deal with when it’s out of your control.
- Have fun! Let’s face it—we take ourselves and the things that happen to us WAY too seriously. We think if we make one mistake, our lives are over. We are so hard on ourselves! The truth is, if you gain 10 pounds, most people don’t even notice. But you can sure beat yourself up about it. In the grand scheme of your life—will people remember how skinny you were, or how much joy you brought them? Remember how you thought you’d never recover from the loss of your first love? Now you might not even remember what she looked like (if you are stalking him/her on Facebook, we need to talk). Over time, very few things really matter. Have more fun—THAT is what you’ll remember, and that is how we very often measure the true quality of our lives.
- Live unconditionally. We don’t do this—we hold back. We worry about what other people might think of us. We don’t go to the beach until we lose weight. We don’t say what we really think because someone might not like us. As we age we get worse, we say “no” more to opportunities than we say “yes” to. Our world shrinks. Instead, start assuming wherever you go, people will like you and accept you. Be comfortable being you. Next time you find yourself putting conditions on your life (I’ll do it when I’m thinner, when I have a date, when the kids are older), remember—you may never have this chance again. Embrace whatever change shows up.
- Be flexible, but stay true to your nature. We humans can’t control much—not other people, not the weather, not the stock market. Very few things are under our direct control. To have any degree of happiness, we have to be flexible, be willing to compromise, and be ready to share. We have to accept change. But, you must be true to yourself. If you sacrifice your core values, you will never be happy. If you hide your true nature and try to be something you are not, you will never be happy. The world needs more people who are brave enough to be themselves.
- Be grateful. Let’s stop for one minute and count our blessings. If you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you’re alive. I’m willing to bet you are in an environment that has running water, is climate controlled, and maybe even has snacks. Did you know that if you have a college degree you have more education than almost 93% of the world’s population? Any change can be viewed with gratitude—when my mom passed away, I hated losing her, but I could be grateful for the time I had with her and for the fact that she didn’t suffer. Gratitude is one of the strongest weapons in your mental arsenal.
- Be the change. Yes, Gandhi at work here. You don’t like who’s running for office? Well, time to launch your campaign. Unhappy the company canceled the annual holiday party? Volunteer to organize it yourself and make it legendary. Get involved and take action. Not willing to do the heavy lifting? Then just let it go and honor those willing to do the work by not complaining. It only makes you unhappy and doesn’t change anything. I think Yoda should have said, “Do or not do, but stop complaining!”
I’m not saying these things are easy—I think the reverse is true. But if you can force yourself to do them, I guarantee the results will far exceed the effort. And the more you do them, the easier they become. You have a choice—you can travel in hopeful expectation knowing change will always come, or you can hang onto the past lamenting the way things were.
I say, let’s be eternally optimistic and go to the polls, invest more in the stock market, and try another diet!
Denise Ryan, MBA, CSP, is a professional speaker and trainer who works with organizations to light the fires of enthusiasm in their people. She has spoken many times at NCACPA events and has worked with member firms to help their people communicate more effectively and be more productive. Her website is www.firestarspeaking.com.