January 16, 2007

How do you decide to change?

There are times in your life when you happen upon something that makes you believe it will take you to a better, more fulfilling place. That something may present itself in the form of religion, or a new partner, or a new athletic endeavor, or countless other ways.

If you follow that path and journey down the unknown road to the potentially fulfilling place, you may find the answers to questions you never knew existed, or you may find yourself absolutely clueless.

But every time you stumble upon such a fork in the road, you have to ask yourself this basic question: Do I stay or do I go? Do you stay in your comfort zone or do you reach out and grasp at the unknown, with all of its potential promises and possible pitfalls?

There are three basic things you have to know before making the decision to plod into the unknown or stay the course.

First, you have to know what the worst that can happen by not trying this hot new thing. Will you die of your otherwise incurable breast cancer without trying the experimental drug? In addition to the potential physical consideration, the emotional toll of not trying can be devastating on the psyche. Can you live with yourself if you don't do it?

My dad used to tell me a story about an opportunity he had to go rafting on the Colorado river. A couple of his friends were going, and they had invited him along for the 5 day camping and whitewater trip. Well, he didn't exactly have the money at that time, although he told me later that he thought he probably could have pinched pennies and liquidated a couple of assets to ante up. He didn't, and he regretted until the day he died turning away from that opportunity.

The second thing you have to ask yourself is what are the potential benefits from trying the new road? Is this going to lead you somewhere that you might want to go? Or is the journey itself worth the risk, no matter the destination? I decided when I was a teenager that I wanted to complete a marathon. It took me more than 20 years after making that declaration to finally do it. For me, I followed that path because the destination was the goal, not the journey. But there are just as many examples of the means and not the ends being the path to fulfillment.

The final thing that you must consider when deciding whether to venture down a new path is whether you can handle failure. If you venture out, and it leads to a place you don't want to be, are you willing to backtrack? Can you pick up the pieces and move on? Or will you be stuck in the miserable job that looked so promising when you pursued it and be fearful of trying something different because, who knows, it might even be worse?

This brings up one of the strongest factors that anchors us to the status quo - fear. There are so many people, I among them, who are afraid of change.

One of my nurses in the ED has worked in our department for the last 5 or 6 years. She is a hard-working, compassionate nurse but absolutely hates her job. We've talked about this on several occasions, and I have tried to persuade her to try working in another part of the hospital, or even at another hospital. But she won't, because she is concerned that even though she is miserable now something different may be even worse. And so she is stuck.

There are examples of fear of change everywhere. I drink about 12 ounces of coffee each morning. It's something I've done fairly consistently for many years. Now I know that caffeine is an addiction and I am an addict. But I am afraid to stop it - I don't want to deal with caffeine-withdrawal headaches, I don't want to increase my morning fiber to take the place of that wonderful, moving, side-effect of coffee. I'll accept this fault because I'm afraid of changing. Is it a good thing? I don't think so, but I'm not always a good person.

So fear has to be overcome before deciding to journey on a new or unknown path. And the risks and benefits of taking the journey versus staying your course need to be considered.

Life constantly offers us diverging roads. Some we take, some we ignore. The roads we choose suggest who we are, and they determine who we will become. So choose carefully, but not too carefully, and always enjoy the moment.

Thanks for reading My Daily Spin.


Laurie said...

I decide to change when I am confident that the change will make me happy or happier.

The woman you work with is not confident that a change will make her happy.

It is hard to make that leap without knowing but sometimes we have to.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

rocketpants said...

Thanks...i needed to hear someone else pondering this. As it has been on my mind recently.

Bike Chick said...

I think for me, change comes when I'm tired. I'm tired of complaining about something or worrying about it or losing my hair over it. Then I take the step. There's this quote that reminds me of this.

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~Anais Nin

I hope to someday be able to take the step toward change without reaching the boiling point.