There is nothing more certain than what I am about to say: We are all continually confronted with change throughout our life. It couldn’t be more evident than what we are all experiencing right now with a global pandemic. The question set before us is: How do we become a champion of change?
Despite the certitude of change in our lives, many people either fight against it or withdraw from it through inaction, hoping to find themselves in one piece when it’s all over. The exception is that most will embrace change when they believe it will yield positive results. The steeper path of accepting change is the one fraught with greater unknowns or perceived hazards. I want us to concentrate on the experience of change which generates feelings of fear and despair. It is this experience of change, when harnessed for growth, will produce astonishingly positive results in our life.
Down the path of embracing change
Before we set off down the path of embracing change, we must accept that inherent to any type of change is the experience of loss; it could be emotional, physical, or financial, but change is the interplay of loss and gain. The challenge is we are evolutionarily hard-wired to look at the negative and focus on the loss first, as a mechanism for survival. This is sometimes called negativity bias. But, if we are proactive in how we perceive and react to change, we can move from survival to thriving.
Have you ever tried to raise a sail on a sailboat? It’s tough work. Chances are you’ll discover a few new muscles and experience a different kind of fatigue at the outset. But once you’ve harnessed the wind to move you in the direction you want to go, you will be overwhelmed with a sense of empowerment. It is the same experience when first raising the mainsail of your life. Over time, it becomes easier to capitalize on the winds of change for growth. How do we get started?
I want to illustrate this getting started experience with you through a deeply traumatic life event I experienced many years ago. I employed three critical tools to move through that experience. I want to share them with you today.
The deeply traumatic life event that forced me to embrace change
I want you to go back with me in time. August 2009, New York City. I am staring out over Central Park from the 11th-floor window of Mount Sinai Hospital’s palliative care wing – the same teaching hospital my wife, Desiree, graduated from years earlier. I remember the joy on her face and the tears rolling down mine during her graduation. When she appeared on The Graduating Against the Odds episode of The Oprah Winfrey show in 2002, the camera panned to me in the audience as I sat and cried. Oprah later joked with me off camera about my “ugly cry.” When it came to Desiree, I was, and always will be, a softy. But on the day in question, many years later, there were no tears. I couldn’t allow it.
Desiree was approaching the final days of her valiant battle with cancer. A journey that taught us so much about the meaning of life, self-actualization, what it means to live life fully, the inherent joy within the present moment, and the value of ordinary moments. Within a matter of two-weeks Desiree passed away. She had never wanted to use the word “death or dying”. One day she just turned to me, as we lay side by side on her small hospital bed, and said to me: “Robert, I’m tired”. Three small words that were filled with so much meaning – exhaustion and release bundled together. She was asking me to transition from life-sustaining to comfort care in preparation for the end. All I could say was: “Okay baby, rest”. That was our last conversation before she drifted into a coma and passed.
Moving through the enormity and complexity of change
I am using this personal example to highlight the enormity and complexity of change. Important that we acknowledge that life experiences are never to be compared; we are all on different paths. The biggest thing that happens in your life, your biggest tectonic shifts, are the biggest for you regardless of what others have gone through. These changes may bring about similar sensations of loss and confusion. There is another side to that change coin. It can also bring about motivation to grow, or what I call, “possibility-in-action” – something that awakens in us the desire for transformation and focused action.
We live in a society of “move-on”, and “get over it”. Many will never “move-on”. You can, however, “move through” and grow into new possibilities. We can all travel to Oz, but we may have to endure the turbulence from the tornado of painful changes swirling around us.
We live in a society of “move-on”, and “get over it”. Many will never “move-on”.
Despite my wife having undergone chemotherapy for 11 years, I was not any more ready for her death than I was when she was first diagnosed. The pain of losing her, the despair, and sadness, were overwhelming. So how did I re-design my life after losing Desiree? How did I use change for my benefit?
Let me share three essential tools that empowered me to rebuild.
#1 – Know Thyself
The one thing I know for sure is that the ancient proverb “know thyself” is the key to designing your best life. The problem with change is the complexity of loss embedded deep within the shifting sands of our life. After my wife passed, I was struck with a loss of identity. I was no longer the husband, I was no longer the caregiver, I was no longer part of a whole – I had a new identity; “the widower”. What if you lose your job and your identity was tied to your job title? What if you lose the use of your legs – what is your new identity? Many times, people quickly assume the identity of “victim”, but research has shown that when one is clear on their values and uses them to guide their life, one can more easily stay grounded. Knowing your values allows you to sway like bamboo when confronted with gusts of change. Alternatively, not knowing your values, creates the sensation of being a leaf in a storm, hence feeling like a victim to life circumstance. Values clarification is an integral part of modern therapy and is equally rooted in the practices of ancient stoics like Marcus Aurelius.
The ancient stoics practiced a daily review of their values, asking if they were living life in accordance with their values. Many of us have assumed values without being conscious in the decision-making process or understanding how important they are in building resilience. Resilience is not about weathering a storm; it is about transforming from a storm. Therefore, the first step in being able to move through change positively is to understand your north-star values because they are the true foundation of your identity and are fundamental to manifesting your personal power.
Staying with the sailboat metaphor, one’s values make up the fabric of the mainsail.
#2 – Compass of Curiosity
Many among us want control, certainty, and security. Safety is one of the fundamental building blocks of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Control is an illusion, however. There is nothing that we can control or predict in life except how we chose to show up. We can only ever control the attention we pay to our thoughts, efforts and actions.
Therefore, moving through change positively, being possibility-in-action, requires us to be curious and give up the need for control. After my wife passed away, and having worked through my values clarification, I chose to be curious about what life could offer me. I asked myself the question: “What’s next”?
Einstein famously said: “Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries to comprehend only a little of this mystery every day.” Eleanor Roosevelt is known for saying “Life must be lived, and curiosity kept alive.” In other words, it is curiosity which allows you to move beyond crushing events. Curiosity fuels resilience.
Curiosity supports conscious decision making. It helps us become proactive in designing our lives and seeing opportunities. It moves us away from the negativity bias and failure-only-focus and allows us to ask the questions: “What if I can pull this off? What if I succeed?”.
When we do not take an active part in designing our lives, we quickly become demotivated. Remaining curious brings with it the sensation of “how can I use this for my benefit?”. That is why I ask my clients to follow a compass of curiosity and ask themselves if they are “B-E-A-M ing”.
B: Beliefs – limiting or empowering
E: Experiences – additive or detractive
A: Actions – constructive or destructive
M: Mindset – growth or fixed
#3 – Journaling
Now while one can read every self-development or personal growth book that exists, it is only when you take action that you use change and life to your benefit. The problem is we live in an instant gratification world and many people give up expecting immediate results. Moving through change positively – AKA resilience – is a philosophy which needs to be lived. It needs to become a habit. Research has shown that it requires a minimum of 66 days to form a habit. Therefore, the tools I am sharing with you need to be woven into your daily life, which is why I strongly advocate that my clients start journaling.
I started journaling from the day my wife was diagnosed. It supported me in overcoming my own fears in order to support and care for her. It allowed me to see clearly and be active in how I showed up in our life, and after her death, how I showed up in my life. Journaling helped me re-design my life to reach impossible dreams.
Why is journaling so important? It is a necessary antidote to our reptilian brain which is predisposed to constantly set off warning bells. The brain is evolutionarily wired to keep us safe from saber-toothed tigers. It is always looking for evidence to support fears as a means of protection – where there is no real danger, it will invent some. Journaling will help you tune in to your fear more authentically and become aware that F-E-A-R is often False Evidence Appearing Real.
In 2012, a few years after Desiree passed away, I was contemplating taking a huge new leap in my life. I came across a book written by Bonnie Ware entitled “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”. It describes the top 5 regrets of those at the end of life:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I can attest to Bonnie Ware’s research having volunteered in a chemotherapy clinic center for many years, as well as having watched Desiree become motivated to live her life fully and fight in the name of her dreams. In fact, her entire existence blossomed into an example of learning from life’s experiences and the power of actively choosing how we show up in our life – the one and only true thing under our control.
After much reflection, I decided to take that huge leap. I left a great paying job, security, and my hometown to embark on a new path to become a Life Coach and move to Italy. That highlights the other side of change, not external change, but our courage to enact change – tapping into bravery and using our resilience to pursue new dreams.
The tools I have described above are critical in not only harnessing external change, but enacting change in your life. They allow you to design your best life possible while minimizing the fear of change. You can never be fearless. In fact, fear is necessary. But knowing your values, expressing curiosity, and reflecting through journaling, you will be able to quantify if what is on the other side of fear is more valuable than the fear itself. I was scared to death when my wife was diagnosed. I realized that being the best caregiver possible was much more valuable than my fears. Finding myself a widower years later, and doing the work necessary to move through change, I realized that redesigning my life to use my experiences to help others was much more valuable than my fear of stepping back into life.
My wish for those of you reading this is that you will feel the spark. You will feel the urge to start moving through change in your life positively. Change is inevitable and is an essential part of our human experience – it means we are alive. It means we are being offered the opportunity to evolve, learn, grow, and expand our comfort zone. Change is the name above the arena where we reveal our true character. By being proactive about the changes in our life, we are transformed.
Need help moving through change positively?
Join Robert Pardi for a 7-day Journey that will inspire you to respond to life’s greatest challenges with courage and conviction. Life will never be the same. Become a champion of change. Start today. Download Huddol Journeys; your daily companion for personal transformation. What starts as 7-days, transforms into a lifetime of personal growth.
About Robert Pardi’s 7-day transformational Journey: Moving Positively Through Change: Resilience Awakens
Change is always present and it is only in responding positively that we can live a more balanced and fulfilling life. Yet many view change as a threat because we are physiologically hardwired with a negativity bias. Yet, without change, we would wither from a lack of growth. The person who thrives understands how to leverage resilience and use life instead of being used by life. Join Robert in this 7-day Journey where you will create a road map that leads to the inner experience of resilience.
Explore the various components needed to build lasting resilience and respond well to life’s challenges. By the end of the 7 days you will:
• Understand how expectations and attachment hinder resilience
• Become adaptable in the face of major life disruptions
• Broaden perspectives to transition to a growth mindset
• Understand the role of self-trust in remaining resilient
• Equip yourself with tools for staying calm during periods of uncertainty and ambiguity
Here are some common assumptions that we will challenge in this Journey:
• Resilience is only for the select few
• Resilience is not time-bound
• Resilience is about bouncing back
• Resilient people are completely self-reliant
• Resilience means not being afraid
• Resilient people power through everything
The Huddol Journeys App activates a powerful growth experience:
- Go on transformational Journeys – Take seven days to recreate your life
- Learn with dedicated growth Mentors – Unlock your greatest potential with powerful growth experts
- Make meaningful connections – Social forums to learn and discover with new life allies
- Experience daily tools for growth – Reflections and practices for self discovery
- Access live classes and podcasts – Dedicated time with your growth Mentors
- Journal your breakthroughs – Capture your daily growth reflections
We made it really easy to get started. Simply create an account and start exploring the new Huddol Journeys App FREE! Start with seven days and activate a lifetime of growth.