Why should you change?
As a life and leadership coach, I sometimes get asked: why should I change and grow?
Why should I put in the hard work of digging deeper to uncover the shadows of my soul and my unconscious, or become deeply uncomfortable at times and even break off certain relationships, or risk rejection and failure, or loneliness, abandonment, and pain?
Change can be hard, why do it?
Because change is growth and, in my estimation, growth is essential to living a fully-realized human life.
But here are several arguments for and against this belief:
1) Change is the only constant. Whether change happens or not isn’t really up to us. However, how we experience change, as a blessing or an avalanche, when it happens and at what pace, can be up to us. Choosing to embrace change allows us to make it enjoyable and have a say, a choice in the way our fate reveals itself. Resisting change does the opposite. Ever had your entire life unravel for you? Well, that’s because you weren’t embracing change when you could … then change slapped you in the face.
2) Your fullest potential. Without deliberate growth, even through pain, there is no real gain. There’s no full realization of our greatest potential. Think of it as liking a job vs. loving a job. Existence vs. bliss. Comfort vs. joy. And so on. Of course, you don’t have to reach your fullest potential, but…
3) Gnothi Sauton. Since the beginning of recorded history, various cultures have verbalized growth as the essential ingredient of human condition. For example, the Ancient Greeks were all about “knowing thyself” (gnothi sauton) — the catch is that we cannot get to know ourselves and what we are made of unless we are willing to step out of our comfort zones, dig deeper, learn, risk, and change. They go hand in hand. That is why, after all, we have logos or reason … another term that the Greeks coined.
4) Regrets of the dying.
I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me [or programmed on me]. #authenticity
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. #balance
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. #emotion
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. #companionship
I wish that I had let myself to be happier. #be
These are top five regrets of people on their deathbed. If nothing else convinces you why growth is important it should be this: you don’t want to reach the end of your life regretting and wishing you’d lived differently. Growing, stretching, risking, changing, healing … all those things make sure that we reach the end of our lives knowing we are empty of all possibility. That’s true peace and freedom. We’ve truly given it our all. We’ve lived authentically. We’ve loved. We’ve experienced. We’ve felt deeply. We owned it.
The only worthwhile epilogue to life is that we owned it.
Alright, here are just a couple of reasons why not to change and grow:
1) Comfort. Why don’t people change? Because we don’t want to get uncomfortable ever. Because we focus on the price, not the reward; because it seems difficult, so we (most often unconsciously) think it is better to live in a quiet desperation than in a blissful state; because people focus on things not working out (that’s literally how our brain is wired, to think of a potential danger) instead of them actually working out.
Don’t get me wrong, comfort can be great. Unfortunately, nothing grows there.
We often mix the concept of enjoyable, comfortable living with this type of comfort. Having a comfy, well-provided for, peaceful life isn’t the comfort I am referring to here. Comfort here is the path of least resistance, status quo, non-confrontation, settling. In the short run, that is easier than the work I described above. In the long run, however, when we break through our own limits, grow, and transform—the actual comfort, peace, and joy are far more rewarding.
2) Sleepiness. The only way to avoid deliberate, life-altering growth is to stay asleep, so-to-speak, stuck in the dream-like state, fairly numb, and cycling the narratives of the past, chasing the future while distracting from the present moment. This certainly is one way to go through life, and many of us choose do it, the only problem is we’re never really alive. Remember those moments when you lost track of time and yourself in spending time with someone or working on something, yet you felt so alive? Those were the moments of aliveness and alignment; what if we lived more like that? When we are chasing to do lists, distracting ourselves, and going through motions … that’s the proverbial sleep. We can stay asleep or we can awaken.
I have to make a confession. I totally lost myself in writing the first part of this essay: “the pros”. I struggled to keep it short; I can say so much about it! It’s exciting. It’s enthralling. It’s blissful. But then, I wanted to portray the other side and then I got stuck. I got stuck just like many of us get stuck surviving and existing.
I felt like I was lying to you because there is no good reason on God’s green earth why NOT growing and changing is a good idea. It isn’t. It isn’t even possible. We can force it or fear it, sure, but it is against our nature.
People much smarter than me have concluded, long ago, that we are on this planet to have an experience of life. And experience, much like a mythological hero’s journey, requires that we change and grow. Why? Because, if not, the hero in each of us will never reach our ultimate destination.
Life is worth living fully, completely, holistically.
And as for comfort and fearing growth, remember the ring in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? The ring is the allegory representing the illusory, false sense of safety—that is why we keep chasing safety, thinking that is where the ultimate power is … when, in reality, we are the safest when we courageously take off the masks and actually dare greatly.
Nothing can insulate us from the truth—only by taking the proverbial ring off, when we stop hiding in the shadows, do we transform and become invincible.
Remember, “a person who has conquered others is strong, a person who has conquered themselves is invincible.”
Change and growth make the latter possible.