We know that change brings new opportunities, new learning experience, and ultimately new growth, but yet we are afraid of change. I’m one of those people. Looking back in life, I have gone through major changes, coming to a totally new country all alone without knowing the language, working 3 jobs to put myself through school, and changing jobs to new areas that I know nothing about. Each of those changes came with much nervousness, but each of those changes brought exhilarating personal growth. Picture it with your mind eyes: a little girl who looked up at the sky almost every night and wished that one day she could be on an airplane and journey to a new country. Now, fast forward 10 years later, that little girl was offered an opportunity to go study abroad. Going from a country with a GDP of 10 billion USD to a country with a GDP of 8,000 billion USD (800 times higher) is a big change, and yet, challenges awaited her. Upon arriving to her new country, she found out that her host family couldn’t host her any more. She was faced with a tough decision. If she decided to go back home, she would come back to the comfort of her family. If she decided to stay, she had to figure out a way to earn a living and pay for her schooling all on her own. That young lady decided to stay. And, she grew.
Change often happened when we are forced by circumstances. A tragedy or a major life event happened and forced us to examine our life and to make changes. Stephen R. Covey explained that when there is a death or loss of job, people look for changes. Life event caught us off guards, and in those situations, when we are caught off guards, changes are usually painful. The best way to make changes is to integrate it to our daily activities, expect changes always, and come to enjoy changes in a positive light. Make changes when things are going well.
How do we integrate and encourage changes when things are going well in life?
We knew the first source of changes is major life event. When there is no such major life event, the second source of changes is inspiration. If we surround ourselves with people who are better than us, who want to do things that are bigger than themselves, who want to leave a positive footprint on earth, we are encouraged to be better. In order to continually make positive changes, we need a constant source of inspiration. Inspiration comes from the people we meet, speakers we listen to, or the books we read. We should and must surround ourselves with sources, people, stories, and books that serve to inspire us and help point out to us what can be possible. John Maxwell says we are the average of five people whom we most hang out with. The people we hang out with are not necessarily those we meet face to face, but also can be those we meet through their speeches and their writing. We become what we see, read, learn, and surround ourselves with. Be a good learner, observer, listener, and aspire to be greater. Whatever good and beautiful, think about such things. We must avoid all the pettiness of life and keep our focus on the higher purpose of life, the contribution that we can add to this world and to the people around us. As we nourish our mind with the right intention and inspiring sources, we aspire to be better ourselves. As a result, we start making changes in our lives so that we can become better.
Have a changeless core to help you overcome fears
Why do we need changes? Why can’t we just live day in and day out in a survival mode? What is it about changes that motivates us? Is it about gaining personal success? Is it about achieving fame and fortune, or a new height of recognition? Success is good, but is it the ultimate goal of life? Let’s read this passage from Joseph Addison and think together:
When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tombs of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow; when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great Day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together. ― Joseph Addison
When we connect our life purpose to external recognition and materialistic means, we fear of losing such things. We become risk adverse, fearing that the new changes will take all fame and fortune away. What if I try that, and it fails. What if I stand up for this cause, and the majority disagrees with me. What will I become if all my money and power are gone? Let’s keep doing what we have been doing and hopefully, things will keep going well for us. Let’s hold on tight to all materialistic things that we have worked so hard to attain. No risk needs to be taken. Those are the voices that speak to us when our life is one fight after another to gain possession and prestige for ourselves.
Now, what if the reason we want changes is because we want to increase our ability to do more for the world, to serve more people and live a life of service. If our life purpose is to contribute to others, can that be taken away from us? No. As long as I can breathe, there is someone I can serve. I can serve that person simply by being positive, simply by a smile, simply by knowing and treating him/her based on the best potential that he/she can become. No one can take my heart of service away from me. How I think and my attitude toward life is something that I have absolute control over and cannot be taken away from me.
Social status, fame and fortune, all that external stuffs are left behind when we leave this world, and they can be taken away from us by many forces that are beyond our control. A change in the marketplace, a change in the political system, or an act of nature can take fame and fortune away from us. But, the difference we made to people stays behind.
Viktor Frankl’s life story is an excellent illustration of this. Before the Nazi took over Austria, Viktor was at the height of success. He found a private neurology practice that treated thousands of patients. He wrote many publications, was very wealthy and well-known to the people in his society. When the Nazi took over, Viktor lost everything. He and his family were sent to the concentration camp. There, he witnessed the death of his wife, mother and brother. Even his identity was taken away. Viktor no longer had a name. His identity was reduced to a number, and even that number was changed whenever he moved to a new ghetto. He was subjected to physical abuse and severe labor. In that circumstance, Viktor not only survived but helped others around him to survive by teaching them psychological healing methods. He continually found ways to serve others, and through serving others, he found the meaning of life, which led to his own pathway to survival.
Our legacy is determined by what we do for others. The changeless core – our desire to make a positive impact to the world – is what helps us overcome our fear of changes. In any given society, there is always a need for people who want to serve others.
What if we do indeed fail?
With the mindset of serving and adding value to others, we can experience new ways of thinking and doing so that we can benefit more people.
What if we fail? In that case, we just discovered one way that doesn’t work, and we try again. We learn from our experience, and we do better. John Maxwell said each of us should keep a journal of our failures. Experiences alone won’t teach us a lesson, only evaluated experience does. We have to be able to look at failure with an eagerness to learn from it, and write down the lessons we learned. Looking at failure as a teacher, a mentor, an opportunity to learn will help us not only welcome success but also welcome failure. The more we learn, the more we grow and contribute.
Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning. ― Dennis Waitley
Change fuels growth.
When we embrace changes, we stretch our mental capacity and our skillset. We reach a little further, and we push our boundary a little. When we overcome the uncomfortable nervousness of changes, we become stronger. Changes bring uncertainty which leads to fear of failures. However, if we combat that uncertainty with the changeless core principle of changes which is the desire to live a significant life – a life of service, of making a positive impact to the world, of learning and growing – we can look fear in the eyes and say: “Get lost. I’m growing. And, it’s for a better world.”