Monday, September 26, 2011

Change! Stop Being Afraid!

To take the red pill, or the blue pill. That was the question facing Neo in the mega-hit movie The Matrix. One pill led down the rabbit hole, where all of his questions would be answered and the life he knew would be gone forever. The other pill led back to his own bed and his old life and he would be left wondering if this had all been a dream. Because he's the hero in our movie, he chose the new life. He chose to leave his old life behind and face the unknowns of a world he'd never experienced before.

How many of us would have had the courage to make such a choice? Not many, I'm afraid. For most people, change is terrifying, sometimes even infuriating. Try changing the location of the coffee machine at your office or if you're feeling particularly brave, try changing the flavor of the coffee. Do both and you're likely to need a police escort to your car! Such a meaningless thing, but it would generate such a large reaction.

People hate change. Is it because they like their lives so much? I don't believe so. I read that Oprah recently had a poll on her website where the question was simply, "Are you happy with yourself". A whopping 75% of those polled responded 'no'. Only 1 in 4 of us consider ourselves to be happy. Isn't that shocking? Isn't it sad?
So should we conclude that people are generally unhappy and that they generally want to stay that way? That doesn't make any sense either. Walk up to any random person on the street and ask them list off the things that are going badly in their life right now and they are almost certain to rattle off a quick list of five or ten things.

So it's not that we're already happy...and it's not that want to be unhappy. There must be something else to this.

I recently read about a scientific study that had been done on mice. Researchers had set up a pedal that the mice would push to get a food pellet. Once the mice had mastered this, the researchers played a cruel, cruel trick on them. They wired the pedal so that it gave the mice a large shock of electricity at the same time it dispensed the food pellet. It shocked the mice every time they went for a food pellet. Reading the results of that study, it appears that the most a mouse ever went back to that pedal was five times. Never did a mouse go for a 6th time. The mice literally starved to death rather than go back and be shocked again (sounds like a horrible experiment doesn't it?).

I think that as children grow to become adults, with regard to change, we are very much like those mice. I think we've learned that trying to change and failing is very painful. I think we've learned that trying to change all on your own is incredibly difficult. I think we've learned that if we announce to the world that we're trying to change, there will be a long line of people looking to tell us why we won't be able to do it and why we're almost certainly going to fail. I think we've learned that because of their own insecurities, people love to point and laugh when they see someone fall short of their goals.

The world is a cruel place and changing requires courage and thick skin. Those are two qualities that many of us just don't feel like we've got. Not today anyway. Maybe tomorrow. No, not tomorrow, but Monday for sure. Or maybe after the holidays or after New Years.

I think at the most basic level, people don't change because of OTHER people. That is a horribly sad reason to continue on a course that has led to unhappiness. Isn't it time to to start making the best decisions for yourself rather than choosing the path with the least amount of risk or the least amount of difficulty?

You CAN change the way you want to change. You CAN be the person that you want to be. Isn't it time you stood up and embraced your true identity? It all starts with a single choice, a single decision. Make that decision today.

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