SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Change: To fear or embrace?


As spring creeps ever closer and we wade into the month of March, it seems only fitting that I would be inspired to write about change.

After all, what better time to visit the subject then when we find ourselves on the precipice of transition between seasons?

It is a time when we wake from the hibernation of winter and start preparing for the longer days to come.

Spring brings to light so many visible changes SEmD from blooming flowers and greening trees, to warmer days and busy Walla Walla weekends. It is amazing how many ways the world around us reminds us that change is coming, whether we like it or not.

This prospect combined with a reading assignment got me thinking about change and how we deal with it through our life, work and relationships. How at different times we openly embrace change and even rush to meet it, while at other times we run from it or hunker down and pretend it isn't happening to us.

We all understand change is inevitable, so what makes something so common produce such a broad array of emotions?

Two experiences in my life came to mind and display this concept. The first was my first day of college. I had moved to Portland from my hometown of Bellingham, Wash., to study architecture.

I had never set foot on campus, knew absolutely no one and found myself in a new town, riding a light rail system without being really sure I knew where I was going.

The second instance was a job interview several years ago that meant going off into a new career and a decision to stay in Walla Walla. Both represented dramatic shifts in my life and journeys into uncharted waters, but my reaction to each was so different.

On the 45-minute light rail commute, I was so eager and excited to embrace a new experience I saw everything as opportunity and looked forward to change.

During the short drive to the interview I could only replay all of the "what if" scenarios, none of which seemed positive. If I got the job, I would need to learn all new things, I would have to change my routine and I might not be as successful as I had been in previous positions.

By all accounts, the first day of college was a bigger change in my life, but the difference was fear. I was more afraid of outcomes that, although small, I couldn't predict. I worried and stressed about both sides of the decision.

It is at this realization that I found the root of my resistance to change: fear. A simple four letter word that I, like so many, avoid at the expense of opportunity and often at the expense of health and our happiness.

Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. We crave security and stability, to be comfortable. The inability to know for certain what may result from change often leaves us feeling like we are wandering through a maze.

I have persuaded myself to stay in less-than-ideal situations because the alternatives were less defined than the comfort of not disturbing a daily routine and knowing what to expect each day.

The question is: Is that the right way to approach change or can we make ourselves adaptable? A short series of reminders helps me assess how I approach a change. They are:

Understand what makes you happy.

Set your priorities.

Don't compromise on what is truly important to you.

Be flexible (things don't always go according to plan).

Don't be afraid.

All things, good and bad, begin with change. You can't get to a better place or improve your life, your job or your relationships by doing the same things you have always done. My recent reading assignment, Dr. Spencer Johnson's "Who Moved My Cheese," put the final piece to my puzzle in place.

The book asked, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" I thought about that one sentence for longer than it took to read the entire 94-page book. Sometimes fear protects us, but what about those times when everything else says take the chance and fear is the only thing holding us back?

I once heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results (it isn't really the definition; I did look it up).

Maybe what we need is a fresh new start, a "spring cleaning" of those old habits we have clung to out of the fear of the unknown that change often generates.

I challenge everyone to look at what brings you joy and what is truly important to you. To open yourself up to changes may upset your complacency, but may ultimately help you find what is important to your happiness.

Joshua Gonzales is associate executive director at the YMCA.


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