I saw this meme the other day:
This quote (that I’ve seen attributed to multiple people) has been tumbling around inside my head for a couple of weeks now. I think it is truly powerful. Often, we desire a change, but fall short of taking the necessary action to bring that change about. We procrastinate, fumble, and otherwise delay moving forward. There are many reasons why we equivocate in this manner:
We get stuck in inertia.
It is far easier to live in a way that is familiar than to strike out on a new path. We “rest” in our habits. Momentum is powerful, and we lack the energy to interrupt the normal trajectory.
We doubt ourselves.
When contemplating change, even appealing change, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the “what ifs?”
- What if things don’t work out the way I think they will?
- What if I make everything worse?
- What if I get what I want, but I’m still not happy?
- What if the people around me don’t support me?
- What if I’m just being selfish?
- What if this change ends up hurting someone I love?
We lack resources.
By definition, change is going to require that we do things differently. This means that we are likely going to find ourselves needing money, knowledge, skills, connections, time, and other means that we may lack. Obtaining new resources is an investment that may feel risky and beyond reach.
In spite of these valid excuses, failing to choose to make a change is actually a choice we make to perpetuate the status quo. In other words, “no choice” is a choice. We may tell ourselves that we are undecided, haven’t really had a chance to look into it, or aren’t sure what our plans are yet, but these rationalizations are simply variants on the choice to do nothing.
The headline is: If we want a change, we have to pursue it.
Change is happening all the time, but it rarely unfolds in the specific way we desire. Rarely do we sit and wait with no action, prayer, or intention and get a longed-for result. I won’t say it never happens, because sometimes good fortune simply drops onto our doorstep, and these are wonderful moments! However, generally speaking, we need to take an active role in order to bring about a coveted change.
It is my experience that we often put off difficult endeavors for a long time, and then suddenly find ourselves ready to act. I call this being “in the mood.” Something triggers us and we can no longer continue with things the way they have been. For example, we can’t bear to look at the stain on the wall and decide to paint this weekend. Or, we knock a stack of papers to the ground with our elbow and determine it is time to clear off the desk.
I had my own experience with this last week. I had been putting off dealing with a couple of cysts on my right hand (my “good” hand). One was painful and pressing into my fingernail, and the other was clearly not going away on its own. It took me a long time – more than a year – to decide to have them removed. I delayed because I knew it would knock me out of work, be painful, and cost money. Then COVID came along and we were locked up for a long time. Suddenly I couldn’t get these cysts removed even if I wanted to. When my state finally began to open up, I decided to bring up the issue with my doctor, who said, “Now is as good a time as any. You never know, we may lock down again in the fall, and even if we don’t, it may be difficult to schedule a procedure in the future as we have a backload of surgeries from the spring and summer.” With this perspective in mind, I found myself “in the mood,” and set the date.
Here is a photo of me hours afterwards.
Needless to say, it has been challenging. I think all went well, but it isn’t easy to live without your dominant hand. Here are two lessons I’ve learned about what to expect when you take action.
#1 We can’t predict or plan for every eventuality.
My procedure went smoothly, but there are always developments that are unexpected, unplanned for, and/or unwanted. The medicine that my doctor ordered got lost in the email between the doctor and the pharmacy. I ended up not getting the pain medication until the next day. Fortunately, the Advil and Tylenol I had on hand did the trick. Also, I had an allergic reaction to the antiseptic they paint all over your skin before the surgery. It is fading, but I’ve been itchy.
When things like this happen, it is easy to become discouraged and doubt the wisdom of the path we have undertaken. In reality, these kinds of scenarios are common. We should be mentally prepared to have to deal with problems and try to pivot and move on.
#2 Things might take a bit longer than we think.
I’m happy to say the healing is coming along, but I can see I won’t be back to “normal” for a long time. Nerves are tricky little things. They don’t like to be touched. I may have to do some therapy, and there may be some residual “tingling” for a while.
When we pursue something new, rather than set our hearts on a “best case timeline,” we are wise to prepare for everything to take longer than we think it should. By mentally gearing up for an extended process, we are less likely to experience frustration and disappointment, and will be pleasantly surprised if things move along at a speedy pace.
#3 Creative thinking is a plus.
To this day, I haven’t been able to get my right hand wet. As I sat in the recovery room, I wondered how I was going to shower. Plastic bags have been in short supply since a ban went into effect last year. As I walked out of the hospital, I passed a stand which had long, narrow plastic bags for holding wet umbrellas. I took one look and thought, “Those are shaped just like my arm. I bet I could stick them on, roll a rubber band on top, and keep everything dry!” I spontaneously grabbed two and they have been working like a charm!
When you encounter inevitable challenges, don’t panic. Be resourceful and keep an open mind. You may figure out an ingenious solution. Don’t let people box you into one approach. Many great ideas have been the result of roadblocks and problems.
As I sit here more than a week after my experience, I am glad I did it. The worst is behind me, and I am glad I decided to “go for it.” That said, I also want to acknowledge that sometimes we intentionally choose to continue with the status quo, not because we are procrastinating, but because we believe it is the right decision. Life is never perfect, and each of us needs to decide which situations are worth accepting and which we truly want to change. Most of us will have a bit of both, and this is both practical and wise.
Is there a change in your future that you might be getting “in the mood” to tackle?