“All we know about the future is that it will be different.
Perhaps, what we fear is that it will be the same.
So we must celebrate the changes.”
– Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
We’ve all heard people say it, and we’ve maybe even said it a few times ourselves: “I don’t like change.”
But, I want to challenge anyone who simply says they don’t like change. How many people wouldn’t like to suddenly have an extra $10,000? Do you know any one who doesn’t like getting an extra hour of sleep at Daylight Savings time? Would you ever turn down an extra week of vacation time?
We like change – we sometimes even love change – when it brings us things that we want. But sometimes change brings us misfortune, pain and suffering, so avoiding change feels like playing it safe. We feel like we can trust the status quo.
But the truth is that there really isn’t a status quo. The future is unknown, as Judi Dench’s character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel says: “All we know about the future is that it will be different.” Even if our circumstances don’t change much, we change in them. We start to look older and, as a result, the world around us changes how it responds to us. Being in the same job for 5-years is a very different experience than having been in the same job for 25-years, and we are different as a result of having that experience.
Most of us know this already. We know that change is inevitable. We know that change can bring wonderful things and that change can bring heartache. Change is certain. When we say, “I don’t like change,” what I believe we are really expressing is the very common human experience of struggling with the uncertainty that the certainty of change brings to our lives.
I struggle with uncertainty. I love you and the thought of losing you feels unbearable. The thought of that pain makes me want to freeze time and hold onto this moment as hard as I can. Because you might not be in the next one.
I struggle with uncertainty. I cannot feel at peace with the amount of money that I have because the future might bring a tragedy that prevents me from supporting myself. I need more money to protect myself and my family.
I struggle with the uncertainty of it all. It overwhelms me. I am afraid of being hurt. I am afraid of being alone. I am afraid of seeing the people I love suffer. I am afraid of losing the people I love.
I struggle with uncertainty.
There is a part of the classical yoga practice called ishvarapranidhana; this practice asks us to trust in what we cannot see or know. Most simply, it asks us to trust in the future, to loosen our grip on the attachment we have to our actions leading to specific outcomes. The practice of ishvarapranidhana requires that we give up the illusion that we can control what will happen to us and to the people around us.
Our struggle with uncertainty and our desire to protect ourselves and the people we love from pain sometimes leads us to live life with a cautious rigidity that shuts us off from the wholehearted human experience. We have an endless stream of catch phrases with which we endeavour to knock ourselves out of this gripping place: “Dance as if no one was watching, sing as if no one was listening,” “Live as if you were to die tomorrow,” and “What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?”
Brené Brown, one of my favourite writers and speakers, powerfully reframes the question above about failing, and asks: “What’s worth doing even if you fail?” The value of failure aside (perhaps for another post), the fear that our actions won’t lead to our desired outcome keeps many of us frozen. But our actions don’t predictably determine the future. The truth is that terrible things might happen no matter what you do, so lean into change. Explore it. Trust it. Take advantage of it.
Feel it when it breaks your heart – so you can feel it when it fills your heart with joy.
Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov