5. You’re never too young or too old to change.
Why is that when someone approaches us and tells us they think we “need to make some changes” our first inclination is to get defensive, if not defiant and openly confrontational, even when that “someone” is a friend, a lover, a parent, a sibling or a medical professional who plainly has only our best interests at heart? The answer is simple really: “Change” has lots of negative connotations, particularly when associated with our person-hood. No matter how well-intentioned it may be in the offering, the phrase “I think you need to change” is typically heard as conveying any one or all of the following “not-so-easy-to-embrace” messages: “You’re just not good enough the way you are and unless and until you’re willing to become the person I think you should be (or would like you to be), I’m not inclined to continue to offer you my support and/or affection;” “There’s a piece missing somewhere in ‘you’ that needs to be filled in order for me to love you or be your friend and I suggest you get busy figuring out what it is, where to find it and how to plug it in before it’s too late;” or, worse yet, “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you’re deficient or ‘defective’ in some way and we need to figure out a way to ‘correct’ that.” Don’t get me wrong, there likely are times when any one or all of those messages are the ones the sender actually does intend to convey and when you determine that to be the case, I recommend that you run, not walk, away from that person as quickly as possible!
With respect to the rest, however, I’d like to offer a different perspective on “change” that I only recently stumbled upon, due to the insight of my friend, Alison Smela (http://alisonsmela.wordpress.com) – to whom I owe full credit for this key piece of advice and the phrase used to introduce it. You see, I’ve come to believe that change is really less about becoming a “new” and “different” person and much more about the process of returning to a former, truer version of our “authentic self.” Simply put, rather than the “putting on” of something new, change actually is the stripping away of layers of “contaminants” that have been thrust upon us or that we have acquired and/or taken on over the years – pollutants, if you will, that have obscured from view or altered the person we were intended and came into this world to be. Viewed in this light, the call to change is a far more adventurous and far less threatening/intimidating process than the one we typically associate with the word and the accompanying journey. This is not to say that it is any less challenging! To the contrary, anyone who has ever gotten lost on a hike will attest to the difficulties and anxiety associated with finding their way back home. Still, knowing that it’s “home” (and everything that goes with it) that you’re striving to return to makes the process considerably more tolerable than continuing on a path into the unknown.
Regrettably, this potentially life-altering perspective was first presented to me back in 2000 in the following scene from one of the best “I-know-you-think-it’s-about-golf-but-it’s-really-about-much-more-than-that” movies of all time, The Legend of Bagger Vance, but I just didn’t “get it” the first time around. Fortunately for me and all the rest of us – you’re never too young or too old to change!