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Change: I’m Warming Up to It.

By: Glenn Waterman, Vice President of Marketing and Development

Most of my life I’ve said I didn’t like change.

I thought that I should be in a job, a relationship, and a lifestyle that was the same, day after day; the less change the better. I viewed change as upsetting, messy, nerve-wracking and something to be avoided.

But in the last few years I finally admitted to myself, and more importantly to others around me, that I was wrong. I like change! It sounds like a small thing but ‘changing’ your self-image is hard. Admitting it is harder.

At the ripe old age of 58, I can look back and see that the times in my life where I was most alive were when I was in the middle of change—a job change, family change, or even a health change. It was upsetting, messy, confusing, nerve-wracking, and at the time I would have said I wasn't enjoying it, but it was also interesting, exciting and I did things in new ways. This realization has ‘changed’ the way I look at life.

Something similar happens when your world view is changed for you-- whether it's through friends or family doing things radically different, or realizing that something you believed is just plain wrong.

That happened to me when I was approached to join IJM. My initial reaction to the work of our organization was, “What do you mean slavery still exists?!”.

When I learned just what was going on, it was like opening a window and seeing clearly. I really didn’t like what I saw, but now I could do something about it. Again—upsetting messy, nerve-wracking and at times, not enjoyable. But when I meet the rescued child, woman or man and realize that our work is making a difference, it is so worth it.

Change and transition are often used in a similar way, but, as William Bridges explains in the book Managing Transitions, there’s an important distinction between the two. Changes, like moving to a new job, are situational whereas the transitions associated with change—ending the old job (ending), figuring out how to move on for a while (neutral zone), and adjusting to a new beginning (beginning), are psychological (Managing Transitions, William Bridges). Transitions take longer and the time needed can vary from person to person. I recommend reading the book to get a better explanation, it is worth it

Our clients in the field experience are a prime example of this. The ‘change’ for a girl rescued from a brothel is immediate, but the ‘transition’ from a life where she is being assaulted numerous times a day to one where there are caring people trying to help her is overwhelming. Transitions take time, sometimes years of time, but they are so important to work through.

So, what’s the point?

After almost 6 decades of experience and life here in safe and secure Canada, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Changes and transitions are going happen
  • They will often be upsetting, messy, confusing and nerve-wracking
  • You can get through it (although it may not seem like it when you are in the middle of things)
  • You need to have changes and transitions happen or you will not grow and learn

What you believe about yourself may need to be examined and questioned, particularly about change and about your reaction to it. As you get older—and I am older—you see change as a smaller part of your life.

What seems like a huge issue at 20 can be a fairly small and easy to handle change in your 50’s. And by that time, you will have seen so many changes that one more may not make a great deal of difference.

So as hard as it might be, when change and transitions come upon you, take a deep breath and remind yourself that, just as our clients around the world transition from lives of violent oppression to restoration, hope and thriving, you too will be able to handle it. Sometimes that reminder is all it takes to switch from grumpy and resistant to curious and open.

And that switch in attitude can make all the difference.

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