This chapter is about change and how it relates to our purpose. I break down change into a three-step process and end the chapter with a deeper look at my theory of “trajectory.” Embracing change helps us flow with life as it unfolds instead of pushing against the reality of what IS.
Life is Change
Positive Affirmation: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.
—”Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971)
One of the constant factors of life is change. If we learn to change with life, we release the struggle of forcing life to be something it isn’t. The mind wants us to believe that the events unfolding in our lives can resist change, but nothing is ever the same from one moment to the next. If life unfolded the way our mind thought it should, it would become very mundane, or we would find out that what we think we want is not what we really need. This chapter is about change and how it relates to our purpose. I break down change into a three-step process and end the chapter with a deeper look at my theory of “trajectory.” Embracing change helps us flow with life as it unfolds instead of pushing against the reality of what IS.
Life Is Change
I struggled to embrace change for many years. During that time, I often found myself stuck in the limitations of my desires. I knew how I wanted my life to go but my inability to change and roll with life tethered me to a limited reality, squeezing out greater possibilities that were waiting for me. This was the case when I was first looking to expand my business to a storefront. At the time, a friend of mine offered to sell me his commercial property. I went to every bank in the area trying to get a mortgage. After several months of constant frustration and anxiety, I finally surrendered my plan and resolved to change my approach, deciding that a better option was to rent, which I did. After two short years, I was able to purchase a downtown storefront property. Had I bought the first property, I would have never been able to expand or had the exposure this new property offered. Initially, I couldn’t see how renting a store would ever be a better option than purchasing a building, but in the end, that greater potential came into being from being flexible in my plans. It’s helpful to understand that our life is a complex network of creation in motion—countless potentials waiting to be discovered at any given moment! Change will come into our lives whether we want it or not.
Sometimes the events around us are signs of the future showing up early. This statement will make little sense to our logical, linear minds because we believe that life only moves in one direction—forward—but what we end up doing in the future creates opportunities in the current moment we are experiencing, for example, why certain people show up in our lives unexpectedly or why certain conditions or opportunities arise. Many years before I became an author, I started attracting writers around me and began receiving messages that I would someday write a book—which at the time seemed highly unlikely. What we end up doing in the future begins to attract the tools, skills, and material objects we’ll need in the present, in order to actualize that future. Therefore, we need to be ready to receive what is already on its way, and that can require that we change our approach to life. In Chapter Two, I wrote about how, when anything moves into form, it continues to change for the remainder of its lifespan. Human beings follow the same path as we move through the many seasons of our lives. In every season there are sunny and rainy days, it’s warm and cold, windy and so on. No two days are exactly the same. Nature’s many expressions invite us to embrace change and accept what happens without the commentary of our minds. The maple trees don’t cry out with disdain when winter arrives. They drop their leaves and surrender into a deep restorative sleep. When spring arrives, they return full of life and delicious sap.
Accepting change allows us to flow with life rather than fight with change when it arrives at our door. No matter how much we prefer the warmth of the sun, there will be cold and rainy days. Resistance to change can ravage our minds, driving us crazy in the process. However, accepting change allows it to become an adventure to explore. We are free in our minds to make plans, but we must also allow flexibility to live within the plans we make. By welcoming change as a respected guest, it removes our struggles and moves us into a place of peace.
Change Facilitates Purpose
To fully embrace living our purpose, we must flow with the changes that come, because our purpose is often just around the corner, out of view. The most beautiful gift that purpose offers is the element of surprise! We never know when our intuition will have us turn on our heels and start heading in another direction. When we master change, flowing with life becomes more effortless. It’s the difference between floating down a river versus paddling up it. While floating down, we row when we must direct the boat; the current does all the hard work for us.
Fearing or resisting change can lead to stagnation. I experienced this firsthand during the ten years I worked in a paper box factory. The longer I stayed, the more stagnant I became. I also became more dependent on my job because, in my mind, I perceived that the factory was my only option. Changing my job felt risky and uncertain, and yet I desperately needed change. My mind calculated all the risks and pitfalls I felt would happen, but I was also becoming aware that I was no longer following my heart, and I was certainly not living my purpose. Had I not been willing to face my fears and listen to my heart, I would have kept postponing my life and running from my purpose. The first step toward making a change can be the hardest. Sometimes there will be leaps of faith that require vast amounts of courage. However, I would rather travel thousands of miles into the unknown if it led me to a place of purpose versus staying safe, walking in circles, and going nowhere in the process.
Life expresses itself through changes and transformations. All we can do is trust it.
Making Personal Changes
Some of the changes I’ve made were hard to warm up to because I felt comfortable in my routines and beliefs. For example, how I responded to my emotions, staying the course with not allowing myself to go so deeply into my anger proved to be the most challenging task of all. However, when I reflect on those changes, I can see a pattern around the process I used to get there. More specifically, I was able to break down that transition process into three stages that work for both personal changes we choose and those that come into our lives unexpectedly:
- Discovery that something needs to change or has changed – Idea/Awareness
- Acceptance to do what is necessary – Action
- Devotion to stay with the choice made – Sticking with Change
Discovery – Idea/Awareness
The discovery that something needs to change usually begins with an awareness. In this stage, we are willing to look at aspects of our life that aren’t working—even those that others might point out, as I’ve experienced at times when I didn’t know that I needed to change. Once the idea or awareness comes to us and we are willing to make the change, we start to design a plan for getting there, which leads us into Step Two.
Acceptance – Action
By applying the plan we made in the discovery stage, we have accepted that change is necessary and committed ourselves to seeing it through. Moving into this part of change takes work. For years, I wanted and needed to change how I responded to my emotions, but never took the time to design a plan for how I was going to do that. So, when I finally made and accepted a plan, I knew it was time to actually change. I started with my employees. Instead of going right to anger when something went wrong at work, I would ask them why the incident happened. I would listen to their side of the story, and then I would sit with the information until I felt I could respond without inserting my emotions. Applying my plan was the action phase of moving toward making lasting changes.
Devotion – Sticking with Change
The final stage is to actually stick with the changes you have put in place. This can be the most challenging part of making a permanent change. After we put our change plan into action, we often need to go back to the first stage and reaffirm our discovery and acceptance many times to maintain our commitment. The changes we want to make may have a long history behind them and may take time to overcome. There could be generational layers behind the way we act or behave and/or issues with your parents or childhood traumas. There is often layers that lurk behind our impulses living in our unconscious — involuntary responses that arise without any external factors. Psychology refers to these involuntary responses as “Operant Conditioning”— Learned Behaviours that are created by rewards or punishments—while others arise out of our biological drives. A biological drive does not require outside stimulus and it could be as random as liking or disliking mustard. We often dismiss our biological drives as our preferences. Therefore it’s important to look at what drives our behaviours. The good news is that we can overcome these forces through our devotion to change.
Devotion is just the right energy to add to the process of making change, for inside of devotion, the motivating factor is love. If we were only dedicated to change, we might have good results, but dedication falls short because it doesn’t include love. When we are devoted to change, we make that change a loving practice. We make changes because we love ourselves, not because we feel bad about our actions or behaviours. When I needed to change my response to my emotions, I made the choice out of love. I could see that being trapped in my feelings drove me away from being at peace. I celebrated my wins and gave myself grace for the times I slipped up.
Our habits and behaviours become infused with momentum when we continuously allow them to live in our life. That momentum slows down as we begin to let go of the habits and behaviours we choose to change, but doesn’t stop them right away. For example, if you switch off an engine that doesn’t have a break, it continues to spin until it expels the stored centrifugal force. If you switch the engine back on before it comes to a stop, it reaches full speed much quicker. When it comes to personal change, this phenomenon validates the saying, “Old habits die hard.” So once we make a change, we must become extra vigilant in our devotion to building up new momentum that helps us maintain the changes we would like to see. If we slip back into our old habits, they can quickly ramp-up to full speed, as if we never tried to change them at all.
When Unanticipated Change Creates Adversity
We don’t get to choose some of the changes to fall into our lives such as job loss or the passing of a family member or friend, and this can cause us a great deal of stress. How we manage that stress will move us either into or away from adversity. When we have trouble accepting unanticipated changes that have come into our life, adversity is soon to follow, and we must find a way that hopefully leads back to acceptance.
The following chart maps out a generic process for moving through change:
Breaking Down the Model
Adversity can fall into our lives for many reasons. Whether it comes from our choices or takes us by surprise, working through it follows the same process. When dealing with adversity, we can choose to either accept a change that has come into our life or resist it. If we can accept the change, we move down the right column of the chart above, moving us out of adversity. However, if we resist the change, we move deeper into this model.
Even with our acceptance, some of the events that occur after a change can create challenges, such as grieving for the loss of something or someone we cared about but needed to let go. As we grow, we may need to adapt and be creative to accommodate change. We can do this by stepping back from the problem and looking for solutions from a bigger perspective. Letting go of our thoughts and emotions helps us rise above our difficulties, it also broadens our view of the situation we are experiencing. By stepping back and taking a moment to breathe and look at the situation, we may find solutions we hadn’t seen earlier because we were too close it.
The last step in this process is moving out of adversity altogether and into acceptance. This process will be different for everyone, but it’s a necessary step. Often we will find that all we need is time to work through our emotions. Once we’ve been able to process our feelings, the struggles we are experiencing fall away on their own.
Resistance has two sides: Refusal and Passive Resistance. Refusal can still lead us out of our adversity—though depending on our situation, we still might need to work deeper with our thoughts and feelings before reaching acceptance. The same applies to Passive Resistance.
If we still find ourselves digging in our heels, we move into absolute refusal or passive refusal.
This is the last stage in this model:
This model for moving out of adversity doesn’t cover all the grey areas in life, nor does it account for being stuck in one of the stages. We might find ourselves moving in and out of acceptance. We may need the support of others to help us see a situation in a different light. However, it serves as a reference tool that can help us find our way out of adversity. The stress we feel from change can range from simple to complex. At any stage, we could find ourselves letting go into acceptance or moving all the way into negative refusal. Working through change and adversity and transcending our struggles require our attention and sometimes hard work. There will be many situations that we can’t control. How we manage and process them will make a big difference in how long we struggle or how fast we learn to adapt and thrive.
Adversity can become a tool that helps us in several different areas. It teaches us problem-solving, how to regulate our minds and emotions, and helps us build resilience. It might just be just the thing to get us moving into a more purposeful life. I became very clear about my path and what I needed to focus on because of my struggles. Staying comfortable would have never brought me those realizations or propelled me into a life that is aligned with the Divine.
Many changes come from choices we make that raise or lower our level of consciousness. For example, I can see how some of the choices I made have enlivened my purpose, while others caused more struggle. The sum of the choices we make create our trajectory—the direction we are pointing ourselves in. There are many roads we can travel, ranging from difficult to joyful. The choices we make determine the road we take and the line of trajectory we follow. As our consciousness grows, our trajectory changes. The more conscious we become, the wider our trajectory, expanding our reach to encompass greater goals and affect more people.
The illustration below shows how our trajectory changes as we become more conscious:
This diagram illustrates how the range and reach of our trajectory grows as we expand our consciousness. While in lower levels of consciousness, we have very little reach, making life more difficult and our goals harder to achieve. As we expand our consciousness, our reach grows considerably. With a greater reach, life becomes more joyful and our dreams more likely to become a reality. As we grow in consciousness, our energy moves further into the world, drawing more to us in the process. Once I departed the lower states of consciousness, I found that people, objects, and experiences began to flow into my days at a much faster rate. I could have a thought about something, and the next thing I knew, there it was on my doorstep!
I remember setting up a Christmas display in my store. As I was decorating, I said to my employee, “I wish we had a mantel to hang the stockings on.” Within a couple of minutes, a friend dropped by. When he saw what I was doing, he said, “You need a mantel. I’ll be right back!” The next thing I knew, there he was with a beautiful mantel to hang my stockings on. This is one of hundreds of such stories I’ve experienced over the years. As you grow in consciousness, watch how life starts to come to you versus having to work so hard. Our trajectory isn’t fixed; we can change it at any time by becoming more conscious.
One of the fastest ways to expand our consciousness is to make choices that embrace love and service to others. Remember, expanding consciousness is not a linear process. Our state of consciousness can go up or down at any time. By moving onto a path that embraces higher consciousness, we step off the arduous road of struggling with life and place ourselves on a more joyful one. This transition happens when our words and actions come from truth and integrity.
How Change Effects Trajectory
As our consciousness grows, so does the importance of trajectory. Think of it this way: If you were standing at the edge of a field looking straight across and started walking, you would end up directly where you pointed yourself. Now, if you were to turn your head just a few degrees to the right, you would end up a long way from the centre of the field by the time you reached the other side. One change in our lives can profoundly affect where we end up. At the beginning of a change or choice, we might not see much of a difference. However, as time passes, the small changes or choices we make can move us a long way from where we would have been had no such change been made.
As we grow in consciousness, our circle of influence gets larger, our actions affect more and more people, and we manifest things faster. Discernment becomes increasingly important because the path we are walking gets narrower. The more conscious we become, the more impact our choices have.
For example, you join Instagram and post a loving and positive picture that only attracts one follower. But if that follower sees your picture, you’ve still affected one person. As you keep posting loving and positive images, six months down the road you end up with 600 followers. Now, every time you make a post, you have the potential to affect up to 600 people. And it keeps growing. That’s how it works with consciousness. As we become more conscious, both our range and reach begin to grow. Eventually, our reach affects many more people than the ones we touch personally. If we project loving and conscious actions in the world, we may inspire others to do the same. This is how our reach begins to grow exponentially.
Understanding and working with trajectory gives us perspective on the power that lives in choice and how change affects our personal lives and others. It’s also essential to know that our trajectory affects not just what happens in our own lives as we move forward but extends in all directions, past, present, and future, affecting everything around us. The diagram depicts a more accurate interpretation of how our trajectory actually looks.
The Other Side of Change
As we continue to grow in consciousness on the journey of enlightenment, change is inevitable. Understanding what change is and overcoming the challenges associated with change aids us on our path. Allowing change to flow in our lives stops us from becoming servants to our habits and stops life from turning into a repetitive motion that eventually wears us down. Change has a way of bringing balance to our lives, even if we don’t realize it at the time, and mastering change helps us to become flexible. We don’t break down over trivial experiences. It gives us the power to move away from people and experiences that no longer serve us. Mastering change will not only lead us to be at peace with the experiences that flow into our lives but allow us to reach deeper into our purpose and our ability to grow and evolve into higher states of consciousness. Change is inevitable for a good reason: It is part of the human imperative to grow.
Tools to Deepen Your Experience of this Chapter
- How flexible are you with change? Take a few minutes to review how you handle change.
- Can you think of a time when an unwanted change came into your life? How did that change affect your life for the better? Of course, not all changes make life better. However, they can set us on a different path that brings us to a greater purpose.
- Our desires deeply impact how we accept and perceive change. The next time change comes into your life, try to be accepting and let go of any desires that come up in your mind. Then, take note of how easily you were able to work with change.
- Do you have any fears about making changes to your life? Is something needs to change, challenge yourself to take it on. Then, apply the following three-step process:
- Discovery that something needs to change or has changed – Idea/Awareness. In the discovery process, we begin to plan how we will make the changes that need to take place.
- Acceptance to do what’s necessary – Action. We put our plan into action.
- Devotion to stay with the choice we have made – Sticking with the plan
- Has change created adversity for you? If so, go to the model for working through adversity and use it as a tool to find out where you are stuck.
- Spend a day being mindful about how your thoughts and actions affect your trajectory. At the end of the day, did you change anything because of this exercise?