Change: The Only Constant In Life

A friend of mine whose son has qualified for one of the top engineering colleges in the country is inconsolable. Because the son doesn’t want to join the engineering college and wants to pursue development economics instead. My friend and her husband always knew their child’s interest in development studies but since he was supposedly brilliant in science and mathematics, they continued egging him to prepare and appear for various entrance examinations for engineering courses. But their son after reaching a crossroad and finally confronted with a choice decided not to join the engineering course after all. His parents however continue to lament and just cannot accept their son’s rejection of a ‘perfect’ career choice.

As we course through life, relationships, careers, periods, and places, one thing which remains constant is the need for myriad changes from time to time. In our attitudes, mindsets, behaviours, habits – presumably for better, improved, renewed, sager versions of ourselves. Perhaps, even more, accepting and humane avatars. But most of the time, it’s easier said than done.

We are often resistant to change. My friend for example simply refused to change her conventional mindset that there are only set career choices for the intelligent and studious. Also, as a parent, she was unable to accept that her son had changed his mind to pursue something unconventional. Both the boy and his parents are going through a family battle at present, and I sense, the sparks will keep flying for long.

Why is it difficult to accept, embrace and initiate change? It may be a change in our age-old beliefs and conventional attitude, long-held habits and routine, our learning and skills or simply trying new experiences.

We are all hardwired to resist new situations, unfamiliar circumstances, and experiences where the outcome is uncertain as we are naturally inclined towards the predictable and comfortable. The comfort of the status quo is a familiar terrain – in our thinking, behaviour, lifestyle, and routine. But while the routine may be familiar, easy, and comfortable, it is a stagnant place to be, with little scope for growth, development, and learning. And sometimes it’s an uneasy place to be. So, change often begins at the end of our comfort zone.

Change encompasses a gamut of alterations from our current situation and thinking. It could be small steps every day leading to a bigger change, a transformative process initiating a metamorphosis, a well-reflected decision, or a sudden U-turn. Or a silent battle against the odds or an obvious revolution. Change can also be internal and external, both equally important, as the psychological and physical together truly determine a balanced life.

While sometimes we are forced to change, at other times a particular situation or incident triggers the change. And sometimes, the change is initiated by us. When we begin the change ourselves, it’s easy to accept and adapt to it. It’s the unplanned and unexpected changes that build resistance. But when we don’t change with the times, move with the flow, for our sake and those around us, it’s a series of heartaches, disappointments, stagnation, and monotony.

We grapple with change in different spheres of our lives – personal and professional and social at different times. Sometimes we change and sometimes we don’t, and depending on our decision, we reap the outcomes or endure the consequences.

The first step towards change is recognising the need for it. Once we realise the need for it, we get the courage and take the first step towards it. There are things in our lives we all want to improve through changes big and small – relationships, careers, finances, health, attitude, behaviours etc. And we cannot expect to change by staying where we are and thinking the way we do. We need to do things differently to get different results.

Like all changes, the first few steps feel difficult, prickly, and awkward, but after a while we adapt to the change and get used to it, beginning to relish the new experience. When something changes or shifts, we evolve and learn different things, discover new insights and aspects of our lives.

Also, certain changes are often accompanied by an element of unpredictability. Not all changes lead us to positive or pleasant outcomes and occasionally, we never know what the intended change may bring. Sometimes, our attempts at change do not necessarily lead where we want to be, and yet we invariably learn valuable lessons from it.

Each change is a turning page. Changes bring new beginnings and excitement to life like new chapters and shifting seasons – triggering progress and growth. It is due to changes that things move forward and develop. And when we turn from our usual paths, there are fresh and exciting opportunities and experiences waiting for us. As George Bernard Shaw rightly said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

We often hear from our friends and families how a particular person is still the same with no change in his behaviour and attitude, often remarked considering a typical rigid trait. Over the years, these traits become so deeply embedded that even if one realises the need to change, one cannot do so easily. These changes are indeed daunting and scary and are the hardest to implement.

While physical changes are easier to practice, it’s the mental change, which is the hardest. We have often experienced how physical changes are simpler to adopt like shifting to a new city, a better house, school or even to a superior organisation for our jobs. However, embracing and managing psychological and mental change is challenging.

Few people realise the need to change their mindset and attitude on their own. Quite often, an exceptional personal experience or circumstance brings about this change. A phenomenal cinema, a pathbreaking movie, an individual encounter can sometimes be immensely moving to spark a change.

But undoubtedly, changing the mindset often changes the outcomes. When we are able to change our mentality towards change or go through the process of change, we overcome obstacles, learn to deal with adversities and discover strengths within us, which we never knew we had. Sometimes, the change is so fundamental that it is like a catharsis from where one emerges stronger, mature, and braver. When we accept change, we become flexible, accepting, tolerant and empathetic. And humane to a large extent.  Its change, which gives us a different perspective and allows us to embrace new beginnings.

It is up to us to give change its due place in our lives. It’s important to reassess our life from time to time and evaluate from all aspects and different perspectives. Accepting change and letting go of the fear surrounding it is the key. We all need to unlearn, relearn, upgrade, upskill, renovate, renew at different phases of our lives. Nothing is ever constant. Like nature, we need to shed the old leaves and grow new ones.

And one can’t talk about change without citing the greatest insight on change by Mahatma Gandhi – “Be the Change that you wish to see in the world.” In an imperfect world, it’s perhaps one of the surest ways to embrace change.

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