The need for change

Recognising that the status quo isn't sustainable is sometimes the hardest thing.

It’s easy to think of reasons not to change. Easier still not to think about change at all but to keep doing what we are used to doing, knowing what will come from it. This is especially the case if things may appear to be going quite well. Degrees, status, financial rewards, praise. These can camouflage the need for change so well that it trails us from a distance, the sharp crack of a snapping twig alerting us to its presence only occasionally. Turning our heads for a moment, we may catch a brief glimpse of something. But the comforting sounds of the status quo are constant and draw us back to the known path. Later, we might wonder if there was anything there at all.

Circumstances are very rarely entirely good or entirely bad. My life as a mid level public servant had many conventional upsides: reasonable hours, engaged and capable colleagues, a salary above the Australian average and reasonable job security. These are the things that I would come back to time and time again to convince myself I shouldn’t change. I trudged on, ignoring the heaviness in my step, the stoop of my shoulders and urged myself to just get on with it. And get on with it I did, securing promotions, asking for more responsibility, seizing opportunities to work on important projects. Like most things, dissatisfaction ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I would be exhilarated by my work. Sometimes I would be numbed by it so thoroughly that I would crumple onto the couch in the evening, unable to think much or feel anything. Sometimes it was fun. Sometimes it was boring for long stretches. It was never entirely good and never entirely bad.

For at least two years, I tried to work out why I wasn’t satisfied with my working life and its advantages. Mostly, I lamented why I wasn’t enough. Not disciplined enough. Not thankful enough. Not good enough for the chances I thought I wanted. I changed positions within the same organisation several times seeking the sweet spot of right team, right manager and right project. These smaller changes would bring some relief and for a time, it would be like the need for bigger change wasn’t there at all. But part of me remained inconveniently restless. The last time I changed positions I knew the pattern so well that I couldn’t even muster the false optimism that things would really change for me. I knew I would succeed and I knew it wouldn’t really matter. The handwringing and navel gazing, the endless plunge into the sinkhole of why hadn’t helped me change a single thing.

Eventually, I realised it barely mattered why I was struggling. I had to face the need to change and simply recognise it as a fact; as inarguable as the existence of any object. There is a table. There is a chair. Things need to change. I tried it out for a while. I savoured it in my mind like a lozenge as I fell asleep. I walked with it to the train station and felt its pulse in my stride. Things need to change. The next time the shiny glimmer of possibility caught my eye I said it out loud. Things need to change. And then suddenly, without noticing, I realised I had I put down the weight of a million whys and with glee moved on to what and how.

What feelings, thoughts or niggles are you ignoring? Do you have a need for change you haven’t accepted yet? Do you get tangled in a web of ‘why’?  Join the conversation

14 April, 2014

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