Sometimes we really do commit to making a profound change in our lives. We start off cheerfully enough, full of hope and energy, thinking we are just going to buckle down and change a behavior or an attitude. Very quickly we realize that change is a real journey and we anxiously hope we have packed everything we need for an extended trip.
Of course, one of the most valuable tools we can take with us is a map to show us not only where we wish to go, but also where we have come from and, most importantly, where we are right now. The Equation for Transformation by Meredith Little and Steven Foster, is such a map. The three steps can help keep us from getting lost:
The work of the first step is to honor our pasts, sort out our beliefs, and let go of old fears and limitations. Once we have done all the hard, often emotional work of endings, we may find ourselves in a rather quiet place. This is the doorway into the middle phase of the journey.
As we step through the door, we may feel an urge to be more internally focused. It is important that we make and take the time to listen to ourselves; however we like to do that. In addition to all the external demands, we have our own conflicted feelings about being still. We feel guilty when we are not “doing something,” as if we are wasting time. We really hate the feeling of waiting with nothing to do. Like being midway through a dark tunnel, we feel tempted to turn back. We do not really want to, but the end is not in sight, and we are impatient and frustrated, waiting for something to happen. We lose our momentum and start to worry: “Have I made a mistake? What was I thinking? What is going to happen?”
This in-between place, the pause between the old and the new, is where we must trust and be patient. Why do we have to sit and wait? Because it takes time to digest all that is in us, to let ideas simmer and brew. To let that happen, we must stay in the present, not dwell on the past or try to impose an old idea on the future. Distracting ourselves with busy activities or unhealthy habits is tempting. Instead, the challenge is to be creative and find ways to fill our moments and days with healthy, joyful choices that can make this stage positive and constructive rather than torturous.
Nature provides the perfect reminder of how this process works. We plant a seed… and then we wait. The miracles of life and growth all happen under the surface where we cannot see them. If we anxiously dig up the seed to see what is going on, we will kill it. Remember to trust in this: the dark places where we plant seeds are also fertile places and what we have planted will become visible. The key to the process is patience (and some of us might be a bit short on that!). It’s what allows us to stay present and keep the door to hope open, because the next phase, new beginnings, will be well worth the wait!