Winter is taking over where fall left off, and the Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner. This time of year we are compelled to give thanks, to look at life from a place of gratitude. 2018 has been a year of change for me, and I suspect I am not alone. Change can be wanted or necessary, but that doesn't make it less hard or stressful. Change is a process that requires us to evolve, to allow more of ourselves to emerge.
Whatever the change you've experienced this year, here are 5 ways change is something to be grateful for:
1. Personal Growth.
I have a jade plant in my kitchen. Some days I find new, small, light green leaves pushing out from the top of the plant. It's exciting! It's a sign I'm doing something right: my plant is growing, not dying.
Personal growth works the same way -- except it's harder to see. Even if you've changed your eating and exercise plans and transformed your body, the most important changes are on the inside. As your inner thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes change, your outer conditions change.
My coach calls this "making better mistakes tomorrow."
Chances are you weren't perfect. You may have even abandoned your goal along the way and had to start over. Every time you choose to try again you build the muscle of resilience. You know the cliches: you fell "off the wagon" but found the strength to climb back on. You got "back in the saddle" after falling off the horse. Your "stick-with-it-ness" muscle is stronger today than when you started.
To build outer strength, you first build inner strength. It's one thing to fail and restart; it's another to do a little better each time. In her song, "Stronger," Sara Evans sings about a hard loss and how each time she chooses to face a new day she gets a bit stronger. The victory is in showing up.
Change is a challenge. Every time you rise to that challenge, you get a little stronger.
In high school I participated in a music contest. Kids from all over our state came to the city to take part. I competed on both piano and french horn. You were assigned a room and a time slot. During that time you presented your piece to the judges, while also serving as an audience for the other competitors. We were not competing against each other, though. There was a set of criteria you had to meet to 'star.' Everyone could star.
My piano piece went well, and though my interpretation was different from the judges, I earned a star. My french horn piece was a disaster. Ever had cotton mouth? I couldn't shake my nerves. I did my best to get through the piece, and the judges were empathetic, but I did not earn a star.
The main difference? I'd played piano before an audience many times before -- since I was 8 years old -- in piano recitals. This was my first time playing an entire solo piece on the french horn in front of strangers. My recovery time from the fight or flight adrenaline rush was faster for piano -- and I knew what to expect. It's possible I also got cotton mouth during that performance, but I was not aware of it, nor did it impact the ability of my fingers to move across the keys.
I learned something about my own preparation -- information that I still use today when I prepare to go on stage. If I am in a familiar situation -- people, room, equipment, topic, I prepare differently than I do for a new audience, a new room, etc. If a physical stage is involved, I practice on a stage -- or at least take time to get comfortable on stage before the session.
Change is an opportunity to learn something about ourselves -- learning that can serve us for a lifetime.
"I love it when a plan comes together." That's a quote from one of the characters on the "A-Team," one of my favorite TV shows from the 1980s. Of course, if the plan had actually come together flawlessly there would be no need for an hour-long show. Somehow, though, at the end of each hour, after overcoming unforeseen obstacles, the goal was achieved and the team celebrated their success. There was, if for a moment, a sense of real joy.
Change is filled with opportunities for joy. Every success and every failure, real or perceived, is a call for hope, joy, and wonder. Unlike the A-Team episodes, your endings are not scripted. As Natasha Bedingfield sings, "the rest is still unwritten." That reality alone is call for joy.
Let's be honest. Some change doesn't feel joyful. More than a year ago one of our friends ended his own life. We are still grieving the loss. It's an unwanted change that is difficult to find joy in -- but there is some. Over this past year, friendhips were renewed, past mistakes forgiven, and a family pulled more closely together. His death prompted friends, family, and others to make changes in their own lives. Some, like me, were finally able to grieve old losses along with this one. As sad as his death is, in the joy of living our lives, we celebrate and honor his.
Change is a challenge, but with that challenge comes the opportunity to experience growth, build resilience, develop strength, learn something, and feel limitless joy. What's not to love? In this year of change, I have much to be grateful for. You?