“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
~ Helen Keller, The Open Door
There is a natural curve happening in all of us when we “wake up” to the state of our lives, our relationships, our career or the general state of the world. This curve is both grief (to the loss of our own naiveté, the change from “not knowing” to “knowing”, from “not feeling” to feeling and caring deeply about something or someone) and change of behaviour (from pre-contemplation to actual action and maintenance of the new behaviour)
Any transformation involves a loss and some pain. All transformations involve the acceptance of challenges…
Someone once said that “change happens when the pain (or discomfort) of staying as we are is bigger than the pain or discomfort caused by the change itself”
With our current systems shaking all around us, it is normal to feel lost, frustrated, trapped and move between the extremes of denial/paralysis (“business as usual” even when we suspect it is not sustainable) and action/reaction that may not necessarily feel as efficient or even fulfilling
Some compare it to the stages of grief: shock and denial (when we can’t believe things are so bad as we find them to be, so we keep looking for evidence); anger (“how come we/they/anyone have allowed things to become so bad?”); depression and detachment (“there is nothing we can’t do about it, I don’t want to feel this anymore”); dialogue and bargaining (“if we just do this everything will go back to normal” and the sort); and finally, acceptance: when we accept the pain for the world, for what it has already been lost and what will be lost no matter what we do…but we also embrace that there is a way to live through it and still have a fulfilled life, contributing to that we believe in and being there for others while they go through the same…
It may also resembles the “stages of change” model, where we go from a pre-contemplative stage (where we don’t even know change is needed, or “we don’t know what we don’t know”) to thinking about changing or contemplative (here is when we discover things and “wake up”, usually an emotional trigger more than being saturated with information, a common mistake many social, psychological and environmental activists make, thinking that people change once they “know”); then it comes the preparation to change (usually collecting even more information than in the previous stage and trying things out but having many relapses); the action stage and finally the maintenance…
Many stay at the denial stage (we don’t want to see what’s obvious); others stay at the anger one (and complain, blame, judge others for all what’s going on); others go into depression, sometimes after years of trying to “change others” and find a way out of the pain…many decide to stay at the bargaining stage because it feels good: there is a sense that you can negotiate things out and feel less guilty, less responsible, less scared of what’s coming…
Few go into acceptance, and it is amazing how many are still stuck into “anger”, “depression” and “bargaining” while thinking they really are in acceptance…
In reality, none of these stages is static and none of these cycles are linear: we go in and out of many of these stages as we confront different phases of our own personal lives: a private loss may speed up our acceptance for the pain in the world; while being in love may get us back to bargaining.
“To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV
2016 started as an interesting year for me: I feel less inclined to write and share my own journey through the above stages and more attracted to listen, understand, co-create, build and share tangible things. I’m moving to teaching, presenting, sharing and doing more at all levels.
One of the little projects that has the potential to grow into something much bigger is “Ethical Pathways”: both the title of a new blog site and a book for those living within “mainstream” who may be in the contemplative state of changing careers, businesses, lifestyles and even relationships towards something more ethical, resilient and truly sustainable. The book will also feature stories and interviews with those already at the “action/maintenance” stages and advances levels of “contemplation” as well as resources and ideas of how to navigate from one stage to the next and how to coach others in our lives through them…
If you consider yourself in either side/stage (i.e. someone “stuck” in a system you can’t change and may consider unethical, un-resilient or unsustainable; someone who has already gone through the transformation and lives an ethical and fulfilling life or someone still struggling in between) and you would like to contribute with your story, questions or resources, please contact me through this or the “Ethical Pathways” contact form.
Theories of behavioural change: http://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change
Image from: http://www.2legsgood.com/
Category: Empowering, Energy Descent Action Plan, Grief, Holistic Goals, Independence, Life Changes, Life Choices, Life Coaching, New Economy, No Waste Living, Pay It Forward, Resilience, Resilient Living and Choices, Right Livelihood, Simply Living, Social Justice, Spiritual Journeys, Sustainable Living, Transition