This past week has been filled with change. Nature has been insistent on change: weather, seasons, moon phases. Work has been demanding of change:  clients needing more assistance/less assistance, articles needing to be written, workshops to be given. My health has tapped me on the shoulder (literally) requiring physical therapy for a rotator cuff issue that now means changing how I do things to preserve what strength and mobility remain.

Situational change includes minor inconveniences like having to take a detour while roadwork and tree trimming are being done, as well as larger challenges like trying to decide where I can afford to live and what I will need to plan for. All of which are challenging my capacity to manage my life.

“I Do Not Like Change”, said Sam-I-Am

Like Sam from Green Eggs and Ham, I do not like change and find myself at this stage of my life more and more aware of how little say I have in influencing events, people, and circumstances to meet my preferences. My preferences are what seem to be stumbling blocks.

For example, I prefer to live in a quiet neighborhood where there is space between the houses, lovely views outside my windows, and no traffic. This is a preference that can be met as long as I have sufficient funds to cover my rent, a kindly landlord who doesn’t give notice or sell the house, a car that works and can take me into town, and good enough health that I can keep up with the housework, do my shopping, and make sure the cats are fed. (The latter is the most important!)

Change and My Basic Needs

It was just three years ago that SARS upended all our apple carts. I did not ask to be infected with COVID. I did not plan for having to wear a mask for years. I did not anticipate how my life would need to change in every aspect of what I did in order reclaim my sense of autonomy. If anything, the pandemic showed us all just how vulnerable we are!  We all had to change!

My need for food, clothing, and shelter was fundamentally impacted by the changes I needed to make. I ordered food online instead of exposing myself to possible transmission while shopping in a crowded store. This meant giving up going to Farmer’s Markets and the grocery store whenever I wanted, and becoming more intentional about what I needed, where I needed to go (and was able to get it), and whether I needed it or not!

Staying inside my home made me much more aware of the all the “stuff” that had accumulated. And since I wasn’t going anywhere, it gave me opportunities to sort and give away. And, I still have much more to do in that regard!  But without the change, I wouldn’t have started it at all!

Post-Pandemic Changes

I trust I am not alone in finding that post-pandemic change is not what I would have predicted. I had anticipated that life would return to what had pretty much been status quo before. I had somehow been able to ignore or had not been touched by the increasing intensity of social unrest, political outrage, and economic insecurity.

Of course, all of these things were bubbling away. And they now insert themselves on a daily basis into my life in ways I theoretically can understand, but have challenges in actually managing. I am more cautious when I am driving, fearing road rage or snipers. I am paying more attention to the cost of food, and cutting back on what I am purchasing and how frequently I buy. I worry about the future of our nation.

The Unquestioned Promise

I grew up in a time where we were told that we could have the “good life” if we just studied hard, went to college, got a job and raised a family. It was like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It was guaranteed. And I never questioned that.

It did not occur to me to question why I was afforded this future when I clearly saw that other people, whose skin color was different from mine, or who spoke with an accent, were not also allowed these things. It was only during the tumultuous 60’s and 70’s that my awareness of the disparity of wealth and opportunity changed.

Stages of Change

One of the most useful tools I acquired in my work as a psychologist was the Stages of Change Model by two social psychologists:  Prochaska and DiClementi. Developed as a way of helping people quit smoking, this model has moved out of the addiction realm and is now applied in many different professions.

Briefly, it outlines six different stages, any one of which we can remain stuck. These are:  pre-contemplation (no awareness of problem or need to change), contemplation (awareness of problem, but no commitment to changing), preparation (ready to change in future, remains ambivalent), action (first signs of behavior change), mastery (working to incorporate and sustain changes), and relapse (reverting to previous behaviors).

Instead of feeling stuck, this model gives you a specific GPS location. If you know where you are, you can decide where you want to go next. If you have been in a similar spot before, then you can decide whether or not you want to make the same choice and hope for a different result, or choose a different approach.

The Past May Predict the Future

Accumulated experiences are a double-edged sword. They are beneficial when we take what we have learned from the experience and apply it to a similar situation while being open to a different outcome. On the other hand, if the pattern is repeated without any variation or with a firm need to have things turn out a certain way, the likelihood for disappointment is high.

You have to have a certain number of years under your belt to be able to look back far enough and see patterns of behavior. The times we are now living in are familiar to those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s. We lived through violence, unrest, the collapse of our government, insurrections and wars around the world, economic insecurity and AIDS.

We also know that we survived those years. Things were pretty good for a fairly long period of time. And we came to think it would always be so. But, the only constant is change. We need to remember that!

Unless & Until

Change happens regardless of my personal opinion, desire, or preference. Unless I have an awareness that change is happening, I cannot do much of anything except be swept along with the current. Until I become aware of the beliefs I have about change, I cannot do much of anything but react.

When I do become aware, then I have choice. And even if my choices are limited, the fact that I can exercise choice gives me a leg up. The goal here is to make informed choices.

Current Climate

Right now, I am needing to make some choices about my future and where I will live. There are lots of variables I need to take into account. Some are pleasant things to think about; others are tedious and frankly, things I would much rather just have somebody else decide for me.

I am in the enviable position of having several choices, rather than having circumstances dictate how and when I need to decide. I definitely have preferences. I will be delighted if my preferences align with the changes that are happening and I get the outcome I want. But I also acknowledge that I may not. This is the new reality for me.

2 responses to “Change Persists Despite One’s Preferences”

  1. Millie Anderson Avatar

    Well said! I got a lot out of learning about the stages of change. We have the personal power to change ourselves but when it comes to external change, I feel like I only have the power to adapt. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, I was also a forward of the good life. Where did that go?

  2. Karen Langer-Gault Avatar
    Karen Langer-Gault

    Well said, Mary! We can all still have the “good life”…it is truly about our levels of awareness, where we place our focus, and the intentionality of the choices we make each step of the way. No matter what else is going on, if we are grateful for the “good things” in our lives and look for the “silver linings” in all that happens in our lives, we are able to remember that happiness is a choice we make each day and choose joy. It makes a HUGE difference when we focus on what we have instead of what we’ve lost or never had. Not just platitudes. It works!

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