Why (and How) Change Happens
Think about something you would really like to change. Now, imagine yourself actively engaging in the process to change that—feeling strong, focused, and determined. What happens between that gap: the moment when we want to change and the moment when we begin? We all have something we want to change, but we often hesitate to start because it’s exhausting, especially if it involves a high degree of uncertainty. Let’s look at why change happens, and what is it that propels decisive action.
In the world of beer and wine, brewers understand the importance of time. The process of fermenting itself cannot be rushed. Once the sugary wort is turned into beer by the yeast, many brewers let the beer age in barrels. This process called barrel-aging transforms the beer in very unique ways. However, this change takes time. It may sound romantic that change can happen overnight, but only slow and constant change is lasting.
To understand why change happens, look at the moments in your life when change occurred. Did they happen because:
- What you set out to change aligned with your values?
- You imagined yourself learning and having fun?
- You lowered your expectations favoring action over being perfect?
Before we even begin, that moment when we want to change, why do we not commit to begin something that we so desperately want to change? Could it be that we are not ready? Or that it’s scary? Perhaps. We tend to commit when we evaluate or envision our story positively, and we can clearly see the benefits we’re looking for outnumber our perceived risks. But that’s exhausting. We’re not fortune tellers. We can worry so much and spend so much energy telling ourselves negative stories that we become stressed and we never begin.
So in-between finding what we want and taking action, we must not forget to understand how change happens. Like a fine wine fermenting and aging, it happens slowly. You are more likely to pioneer action if you do it, at least initially, for pleasure. For the sake of learning and development. It’s fantastic embracing a beginners mind!
Engaging in practice to change and learning to love this process seems to me like one of the most important yet underrated skills in modern times. The usual business of working under extreme pressure, being results-oriented, and multitasking is, in my opinion, the main reason why change becomes grueling. In his book The Practicing Mind, Thomas M. Sterner offers a refreshing alternative: “When, instead, your goal is to focus on the process and stay in the present, then there are no mistakes and no judging. You are just learning and doing. You are executing the activity, observing the outcome, and adjusting yourself and your practice energy to produce the desired result.” Being a first-mover, aiming high, and expecting perfection is not the best approach to begin personal change. Keep it simple. Set reasonable goals. Small milestones.
Why change happens is due to your commitment. And commitment springs out of clarity and good personal coaching. How change happens (getting to commit) is about telling yourself a different story: a more positive and compelling story of you succeeding, enjoying it, and taking it slowly. Forget about unrealistic, unfair, and judgmental ways others may think you should do. Conventionally, society thinks you must go first, go fast, and go big. But when you rush the brewing or fermenting it is a sure way to overlook a step and ruin beer. No world-class beer or fine wine is made overnight. So take the barrel-aged approach to change: it’s way more likely that you will actually begin, and make the change you seek!
Juan F. Diaz
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