The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new. (Socrates)
Put simply, look ahead instead of looking back if you want to change.
As I have thought about this, a Bible story that I was taught during my early years attending Sunday School came to mind. It was a story that put fear in my heart telling of a couple who lived in the city of Sodom, infamous for some of its resident’s depraved behaviour. The couple had been instructed by God to flee from the city without looking back. Failure to do so, God warned, would be grievous. I can only guess what Lot’s wife was experiencing: curiosity, confusion and uncertainty, feelings of loss, doubt? The consequence of her action was swift and dramatic: she turned to a pillar of salt there in the desert.
The story reminds me of the real challenges a person faces when confronted with any transition in their life. Some transitions such as developmental changes, workplace changes, or the loss of a loved one are forced upon you. Other transitions are a consequence of the choices you have made: living together as a committed couple, marriage, moving location, a change in employment, recovery from an addiction are just a few examples. Irrespective of the nature of the transition you are going through, it is a stressful and emotionally challenging time. The story reminds me how easily you can become ‘stuck’ and even feel like you are ‘losing yourself’ during transition because nothing is familiar or predictable anymore. The ground is shifting beneath you and the natural desire to turn back and look at the old familiar ways can be a temptation difficult to resist. It is a human tendency to go back to the comfort of what is familiar, even if it is doing me harm; to avoid the discomfort of the unknown and unfamiliar.
Trusting the process of change; permanent change takes a long time and tests our tolerance and patience. Transition is not a linear movement but a movement back and forward, testing out new behaviours, falling back on the old, learning by trial and error.
Fighting the old reinforces the old
- You are confronted by ‘demons’ of the past
- You experience an ongoing struggle to resist temptation
- You become physically and emotionally exhausted
- You are more vulnerable to the very thing you are fighting against (‘I feel like giving up’; ‘It’s too hard’; ‘Why am I even bothering?’)
Building the new inspires hope and purpose
- Your back is to the old
- You are thinking about possibilities and dreams
- You are focused on finding solutions
- You are focusing on the goal
Whatever transition you are presently going through, be it as an individual, a couple or as a member of a community, remember Socrates advice and focus your energy on building the new.
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