When I look back on my ordinary life of the last 40 years, I can still recall a few but critical incidents such as imbibing values by observing actions of my parents, a schoolmate ridiculing my dark skin, an inquisitive childhood enquiry to my mother as to why she worshipped tulsi (Ocimumtenuiflorum) plant, tragic death of our close relatives in quick succession, the hollow feeling one got even after topping the university graduation exams, inability to write quality report, leaving an old job, and exploring spiritual journey along the way to understand the many changes. Choices I made and response to such changes has together made me into what I am today. I feel content but there is still a long way to go.
Life-changing experiences like these baffle all of us. Our response to such changes depends on our mindset and value systems. We feel that good times pass fast while bad times linger, and we expect the changes to happen. However, when change happens, we often do not have the insight to understand what and why things happen the way they do.
What is change
We all grow up observing cosmic changes such as the rising and setting of the sun, wind flow, varying temperatures throughout the day and seasons, cloud formations that cause rain, storms and other natural phenomena. These changes impact us all.
At personal level too, changes do occur constantly. We age and our internal and external organs slowly refuse to function. Too, involuntary changes such as blood circulation and formation of new cells continue to happen.
In a nutshell, every moment, voluntary or involuntary, changes take place outside as well as inside our body. Present moment is connected to the past moment on the one side and with the future moment on the other making an infinite continuous chain of past-present-future link. There is no moment without change.
How change happens
Strong emotions emerging out of a tragedy, fight, love, feeling of loneliness, disease, leadership, plight suffered by others, loss of job… can bring about a spontaneous or a gradual change in us. Change happens at three levels: thought, speech and action. An idea enters our mind through a sensory organ. It agitates the mind until it is expressed or repressed depending on whether intelligence can control the mind or not. Change at the thought level is most difficult to notice as it involves unlearning past habits and belief systems and learning something new or harbouring different perspectives after you have accepted the shortcomings in your way of thinking. Once change happens at the thought level, through repetitive actions it becomes a habit again. Also, repetitive speech and action can bring about change in our attitude.
Why we resist change
We change voluntarily only when we are not satisfied with the existing situation and practices of past no longer work. Change may be for the better or for worse depending upon how we view its impact on us. A supposedly bad impact may turn out to be good long after it has happened. Changes press us out of our comfort zone. We take our time to adjust to the change. However, once adjusted, we have a natural tendency to slip again into our comfort zone and resist any further change that presses us to move out from there. It upsets our control over outcomes.
How to bear change
Change will continue to happen whether we want them or not. Any anticipated change can make us nervous, scary, excited, or happy depending upon its likely impact on us and we may act proactively or reactively to it. Change is easily accepted by those looking constantly for new things to improve their work and life. Change may not come quickly and easily. Despite my interest, desire and continuous actions it took me 10 years to write my first quality report. Change seeks a better state of mind and is complete only when you feel you have achieved that.
What you can do when faced with an undesirable change
Let go: When you feel that despite your best efforts an unfavourable situations exist, letting go helps. Try not to hold on and allow it to pass on.
Bring out learning: Every change in our life happens for a purpose and offers a unique learning opportunity. Reflection and introspection help us develop awareness and understanding of the learning. Listen to your heart to bring out the learning.
Set a higher purpose: In response to change one is facing, I developed a phrase ‘move forward and rise upward’. This works perfectly with me. It helps you decide your own purpose that will guide you in difficult situations and to make right decisions when in doubt. Setting a higher purpose for yourself will help you apply ‘let go’ and ‘bring out learning’ easily in unfavourable situations.
By Sanjay Kumar Gupta
Sanjay Kumar Gupta is market, enterprise and value chain consultant. He is a consultant to UN Agencies, ADB, INGO/NGOs, Poverty projects in India and South Asia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.