Change is pain.
It’s the truth. When you decide to change, you risk losing your friends, your financial security, your reputation, your comfort, and your wellbeing. What if the people you care about cease to care about you, all because “you’ve changed”?
These are the types of fears that cross my mind when I think about change. Yours may not look the same, but I bet they’re just as scary.
What do I mean by change? I’m talking about the radical change you spend time fantasizing about. Change that’s significant to you, whether you want to scale mountains, taste success for the first time, or just live a freer, more meaningful life.
What pops into your mind when your head hits the pillow at night? What are you aching for? It’s likely you know exactly what you want and what you need to do to achieve it, but you still refuse to change. Why do you think that is?
It’s because you think change will uproot your life. Change will invite judgment. Change is going to hurt like hell.
And you know what? You’re right on all counts.
But there is a pain far worse than change.
A Pain Worse Than Change
To paraphrase the late Eyedea:
“You can only build if you tear the walls down.”
There is no way around it. But you avoid it, push it away, and try not to think about it.
What I do is assure myself of all the time I have. I have the resources, the know-how, and the ability to create the change I want. It feels so good to know you have time and that you’re capable.
But this is self-sabotage. If I truly do have all the time in the world, then I have time to put off change indefinitely.
Imagine spending years showering yourself with false promises until one day, you look down at the hands that were meant to set you free, and they’re spotted, wrinkled, and withered. You spent your life in a state of low-grade misery all because you preferred it to the discomfort of change.
And what an illusion, thinking you have time. Taking time for granted, and thinking it’s inevitable you’ll get around to changing one day, is the biggest trap there is.
Regret is the ultimate tragedy. And I’m talking about regret over things you didn’t do. That type of regret more painful than any attempt at positive change could ever be.
I don’t say this to make you feel rushed, because turning your life into a pressure cooker of always having to act would not only be unproductive, it would be a wasted life.
Meaningful change has to come from the intrinsic understanding of what you can gain. You respect yourself enough to go at your own pace while knowing that staying the same could be the most painful thing of all.
Examining an Old Quote
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
Allegedly, Tony Robbins said this. But whether he did or not, is it true?
Is there a tipping point where the situation you’re in becomes so intolerable that change must occur?
Well, yes and no.
You can know it. You can know you’re swimming in a sea of your own dissatisfaction, but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to do something about it. It will be difficult to leave your miserable, comfortable, and familiar life behind. Even if you know you must change, it doesn’t mean you will. For that reason, there needs to be a conscious commitment.
You have to embrace the fact that potential destruction is more appealing than staying stagnant.
Forgiving Yourself for Not Changing Earlier
There’s another trap you can fall into when you’re trying to change. You can blame yourself so much for not changing earlier, you end up not changing anything. You hold a grudge that prevents you from moving on and being happy.
Self-forgiveness is a process that starts and ends with the individual. You won’t get beyond anything until you restore your relationship with yourself. This is difficult because it requires you to learn to love the person you’ve been abusing for years. Healing that dynamic will take time.
Maybe how you acted back then was the best you could do. Maybe you’re not considering all the factors you were dealing with that prevented you from taking action. Maybe the weight you carried was so heavy that what you did was understandable. You need to examine your past and try to be objective with these questions. Would you punish a close friend as you punish yourself?
You’re responsible for your actions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t forgive your shortcomings. Taking responsibility is what makes self-forgiveness (and positive change) possible.
When my mental health was at its worst, I wanted to punish myself until the end of time. But what I’ve come to realize is that this punishment serves nothing, and helps no one. How long is a person meant to punish themselves? What is the magic number? How much self-inflicted suffering is enough? You’re the only person who gets to decide.
It’s important not to cheat yourself in this process. The more you put off following through on your commitments to change, the less motivated you’ll feel, and the more difficult it will be to forgive yourself.
Here’s what you should know about change and forgiveness:
- Change is painful, but it’s worth its weight in gold.
- Don’t think you have all the time in the world to change, but don’t rush yourself either.
- The motivation to change has to come from an intrinsic understanding of what can be gained, and what really matters to you in life.
- You can forgive yourself for things you never did, and changes you never made. Forgiving yourself is the key to change.
- If you don’t follow through on your commitments to change, you’ll start devaluing yourself again, and then you’ll go back to feeling like you don’t deserve it.
One minute of being uncomfortable in an honest attempt to change, even if it fails, is worth 100 years of being timid and choosing comfort.
Don’t waste your life punishing yourself. Embrace change, so you can finally get where you’re trying to go.