“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.” This quote from Lao Tzu is profound, true, and contrary to what most of us would like to be true. Possibly you are an enlightened being who is at full peace with this statement. That’s not currently true for me. I still like to cling on to things too long. I try to keep things static. I feel afraid of dying, in a million little ways. Not physical death, but the death of a part of my current life. I never want to let go. When a change has happened, I can still keep a tight grip on what was by feeling guilty about having not maintained the status quo.
You might be able to relate – you keep calling your old friend weekly, even though you both know it doesn’t really fit anymore. You’re afraid of your partner’s desire to take tango lessons, and want her to just stop and remain the same. You’ve been unhappy in your work for more than a year, but you refuse to look for other opportunities. It could be something even smaller than that – even though you know peanut butter makes you feel sick, you refuse to let go of it.
We both know this is not working. You may have heard the phrase, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” We’re going to be looking at the cycle of growing and dying over the next five weeks using Martha Beck’s Change Cycle model. Check it out below:
© Martha Beck, www.marthabeck.com
Before we do that, I want to talk about the alternative to growing or dying – stagnation. It could be argued that stagnation is also growing and dying; when water stagnates, the plants and creatures in it die, and it provides a perfect place for the breeding of mosquitos. Sometimes we’re so afraid of the change cycle that we flee into a horrible subcycle that squelches that which nourishes us and generates that which feeds on us and creates disease. I call this The Stagnant Pond, and I’ve hung out here quite a bit. Check out my graphic below for a visual:
When you know a relationship is over, and you stay anyway, but spend 95% of your time with that person drinking, watching movies, or scrolling through Facebook on your phone, you’re in the pond.
When you want to start your own business, but are terrified to try it and instead spend your time at the mall, you’re in the pond.
When you go after one of your dreams, fail, and decide you’re going to see how well you can do on the slots instead, you’re in the pond.
When you’ve created your dream business, and work yourself way past what is needed, you’re in the pond.
Here’s the sad news: the pond is almost completely pointless. It doesn’t let us skip squares of the cycle. It doesn’t even really let us stay in a square. The change has already occurred. The only gain we get out of hanging around in the pond is pretending it hasn’t happened, while engaging in self-destuctive behaviors to distract us. We still have to go back to the same square and deal with the full cycle; it just makes the whole thing take longer and adds on something that hurts us in the long run.
I am very, very familiar with this pond, and I’ve never had a good time there.
This week, I’m inviting you to pick one small area of change you’ve been avoiding looking at. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic – in fact it’s easier to do this with something fairly non threatening. Maybe you want to spend more time on a creative project, but you’ve been spending hours on Facebook instead. Or you want to walk in the evening, but you’ve been watching TV instead.
Next week we’ll go through Martha’s Change Cycle so you can see where you are and what is needed for that phase of the cycle. For now, though, pick one thing, leave a comment, and go back to any pond activity of your choice.