By Katie Roche
Humans have a paradoxical capability to both adapt to change and at the same time an inherent resistance to change. Our ability to adapt to change is why we are here as a species. Our resistance to change is what allows us to function on a day-to-day basis, if we only thought about the imminent change then we’d never do what we do every day because we’d only have to change it. So, in this sense, not changing and changing are things we have to embrace depending on the circumstances.
Everyone has had a year with lots of changes – good, bad, or otherwise. With some changes we’re on top of the world. With others, we may feel as if we have lost our foundation. In these times it is tempting to look inward, withdraw to within safe boundaries and wait for things to happen. But, if embraced, change can give birth to our greatest life successes if we open ourselves up to the possibility.
Ruairí McKiernan recently left his job to explore new possibilities. For the first time in his life, he is unsure of what’s next and he’s loving it. He is founder of the multi-award winning SpunOut.ie National Youth Organisation, and was a co-host of the Dalai Lama’s 2011 visit to Ireland. “I’m interested in embracing change because I want to realise my full potential during my short time here on planet earth,” he says, “There’s something in humans that crave security. However, previously secure systems are now insecure so we might as well embrace the massive changes of the moment,” says Ruairí. He refers to what Michael D Higgins said at an event recently: we need to “be the arrow and not the target”.
Change can be exciting and empowering, and act as a catalyst for inspiration. Noeline Kavanagh, artistic director of the performance group Macnas, is someone who never lets a good crisis go to waste. She likes to see change and challenges as a chance for personal growth and renewal. “If your mind is open to certain things, you’re going to be constantly responding to inspiration. You’re going to be imagineering continuously,” she says. It was when Ireland started changing she conjured up the idea of The Boy Explorer – a 15ft eight-year-old who travels the country gathering ideas about how to make Ireland a better place.
“When changes happen, we can like them or dislike them, but either way we have to adapt to them,” says Suzie Cahn, co-founder of Carraig Dúlra, and owner of the OutOfOurOwnBackYard (OOOOby) store in Co Wicklow. She’s been very aware that profound changes have begun in society and believes people are making big changes in terms of how they live. “We have a choice when faced with challenge, and it’s various parts of our lives and the world that makes us feel like we don’t, but we, and the well-to-do West, have a great deal of choice.”
These choices include adapting in engaged optimism and making a decision as to where to direct your thoughts. “Positive thinking says it’s easy to do that. But it’s important to make the choice to continue that. I started with a fairly optimistic outlook. You can fund your pessimism throughout life if you want, but you can also fund your optimism too. You can shift it.”
Thinking outside the box and thinking big are two things needed to be done in times of challenge, to gain a sense of perspective and to yield the things you want. “You tell me this is the way and it’s the only way it can be done, and I won’t believe it”, Suzie laughs, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It is this way of thinking that manifests all the great things in her life, like, for example, when she set off in an old Volkswagen with her family and dogs for a year, travelling around Europe and meeting other families. She didn’t know what was going to happen, but it turned out to be the most amazing and reviving time in their lives, and it funded the life they now live.
Thinking big means training yourself to see not just what is, but what can be. Expert on motivation, Dr. David J Schwartz, says, “A big thinker always visualises what can be done in the future. He isn’t stuck with the present.” Susan Jeffers, author of Embracing Uncertainty and Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway, thinks that it’s letting go of trying to control the unknown that gives you a sigh of relief – again, restating what Suzie shares above: it’s how you choose to live.
Jeffers shares good insights: “There is a great adventure in the unknown that propels us to discover powerful parts of ourselves that we didn’t know were there.” She talks about incredible freedom there is when one recognises that we don’t really know anything, as Leo Tolstoy observed long ago: “The only thing that we know is that we know nothing and that is the highest flight of human wisdom.” In a world of discovery, instead of blind certainty, we can relax and let go of our need for things to be a certain way. Of course, it still means that we can create change, but we can let go of how things were ‘supposed’ to be or how they ‘should’ turn out.
Anything is possible if you think anything is possible. We can make whatever changes we want in our lives. Life likes changes. Accept this and see what unfolds. It is the cosmic dance of change and movement, and understanding the nature of our reality that assists us to be more in harmony. And when you make that choice to embrace change, and look at the bigger picture and see the whole panorama, then wow… life is beautiful.