Challenge Your Status Quo: Change Is Possible
Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to live in a world that never changes. What if we were frozen in our patterns and life exactly as they are now? Plants and children couldn’t grow and develop; our lives would be frozen right where we are. No more moves, job changes, learning new things or developing new relationships. Every day just like the last.
Sounds boring and horrible, doesn’t it?
Luckily for us, this is NOT how the world works. In fact - the actual truth is just the opposite: There is nothing in life as constant as change.
Do you want to know the most beautiful part of that? The simple fact that we can change too! In fact, our brains are built to constantly grow and change - it’s called neuroplasticity. According to Wikipedia, neuroplasticity, also known as neural plasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. Which is a really fancy way of saying that an old dog really can learn new tricks.
Why then do we constantly and consistently sell ourselves so far short? Why do we say things like ‘that’s just how I am’ or ‘ I can’t help it, it’s just the way I’m wired’. While these are super convenient excuses to use when trying to avoid change we don’t necessarily WANT to embrace, it becomes a rather inconvenient roadblock when we believe it about things we WANT to change.
Think about it.
How many times have we wished our lives were different or that we could do things we see other people doing or have homes or offices that look like what other people have and thought ‘Wow.. must be nice.. I’m just not like that.. I’m not organized, athletic, artistic, etc.’
But what neuroplasticity tells us is that we might not be like that NOW and it might take some effort, but nearly anything is actually possible.
I have learned this over the past few years as I’ve started learning to run. I was that kid in High School -- the nerdy one who could pass any test thrown at them but who got C’s in PE. I couldn’t run, throw or hit a ball (with any implement) and I just chalked it up to the fact that I wasn’t born with the athletic gene.
Then, about 10 years ago, I got something in me that said ‘I want to run.’ I didn’t want to run marathons or anything. I just wanted to be able to put on my running shoes, walk out my door and enjoy fresh air while running a few miles a few times a week. It would be a great healthy habit and something I could do no matter where I was. It would be fun.
After my first baby was born, I downloaded a ‘C to 5K’ app, laced up my shoes and started the program confident that I could eventually run off all that baby weight. About a month later (I think I was up to running a whopping 20 minutes at a time) my knees were killing me and I thought, yet again, “see.. I’m just not an athlete.. my body just can’t run.” However, instead of totally giving up, I once again challenged that statement and thought “surely I’m not the first person that had sore knees when they tried to run” , so I decided to get some expert advice. I called my niece who does run marathons and she told me: “You need new shoes, you need someone to actually do a fit test on those shoes and you need to do weight lifting until you are strong enough to run”.
You mean it’s more complex than just walking out my door and jogging down the road?
What followed was two more babies, new shoes that corrected some physical problems, and several years of weight training and conditioning. Then came years of research in the stretches and exercises to help my hips, knees, etc. Finally, I found myself a running buddy that made all the difference. In the end, I run about 10 miles a week and love it. It gives me much needed quiet time in a crazy life and I’m so grateful that 10 years ago I looked around and decided I wanted to change.
Just because I’d never *been* an athlete didn’t mean I couldn’t learn to run, and learn to enjoy it.
The same goes for so many things in our lives.
Just because it’s ‘always been that way’ doesn’t mean it must stay that way.
This was a lesson I learned early on in my career in Aerospace (I talk all about it and other lessons I learned here), and one that has carried on throughout my life. The same applies to us with our organization and productivity. If you’ve ever said to yourself “I’m just a messy person” or “I’m just not organized.. It’s not how I’m hardwired” or “yah.. I’m just a procrastinator.. It’s just how I am” but desperately wanted to make a change, I’m here to tell you that it can be done.
Why is this so important? This acceptance that change is actually possible? It’s because until we recognize that change is possible, our elephant doesn’t trust our rider no matter what he says. ONLY when we entertain what is possible and then start visualizing what it might be like when we get there will our elephant even THINK about traveling in a new direction. (To learn about your elephant & rider, check out this post).
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, it probably won’t be easy and there might be many mountains to climb. After all, we’re reprogramming our brains. In fact, as I learned on my journey to becoming a runner, sometimes it takes some help along the way. That help can come from those who are experienced in the road you are trying to travel, some new or specialized tools and processes, and/or a coach or buddy to cheer us on. In addition to all of this help, it also takes a fair amount of grace to allow ourselves to fail, sometimes repeatedly, and still get back up and try again. Learning new skills and achieving new goals is a process. It rarely works out the first time we try.
However, in the end, the absolute truth is this:
If you are willing to put in the work, true change is possible.
The hardest part? Looking around with eyes that see not only what is in front of you, but what is actually possible. Then having the courage to believe in your ability to change.
I challenge every one of us to stop and think about anything in our lives that we desperately want to change that we’ve accepted as ‘just the way things are’. Now challenge that belief, envision what life COULD be like and have faith that it’s possible to get there.
Once you’ve convinced your elephant what is possible, and given him a great image of where you want to go - it’s time to get to work!