“Progress is impossible without change.” ~Walt Disney
I want you to look in the mirror and tell me what you see.
Do you look older? Does your skin have more wrinkles? Do you notice dark circles around your eyes or white hair on your head?
You are looking at massive changes from a decade ago. A lot of it you probably don’t like—changes due to your body growing older. Changes that you cannot resist.
Now look in the mirror again. Do you notice a more confident person? Someone who is self-assured, optimistic, and happy in life?
It happened to me a few weeks back when I was getting ready for an interview. For my preparation, I was talking to myself in the mirror, and as I paused, I had this moment of mindfulness in which all I noticed was my confidence, optimism, and positive energy.
This one epiphany completely shifted how I looked at change.
That day in the mirror, I saw progress. I saw a shy anxious kid—one who was afraid and bullied— completely flip the script on its head to become a confident, happy, and self-assured human being.
We all react differently to change. Some of us seek it. Some don’t mind it but won’t actively go looking for it. And others don’t like it.
Regardless of where we stand, I can bet that none of us like it when change is forced upon us. So we fight it because we feel out of control, and the unknown generally feels scary. But what if taking back control was all a matter of perspective?
Change is automatic. It happens whether we like it or not, and we have no option but to face it. It is up to us to make the most of it. We decide how we react to it and what we do with it.
Think Progress, Not Change
All progress equates to change, but not all change equates to progress. You losing your job is change. You deciding to pursue a career that’s more in line with your values and passions is progress.
Progress makes us happy. It makes us want to jump out of bed every day with intent and purpose. Progress pushes us forward. It has to be worked on. Unlike change, it is not automatic.
When I look back at all the progress I have made, it always makes me pause and smile and fills me with joy. It also renews my intent toward my own development.
You cannot sit on your ass and hope to progress. It requires movement. It demands you put in the hours. And in the process, it pushes you to grow. To become someone capable of handling any problems that come your way.
Progress, in the end, pays you back tenfold! And it all starts with change.
Change Can Be Distressing, Progress a Blessing
For a lot of us, change is a constant source of worry. I don’t have to look very far for examples. My parents get stressed even at the smallest sign of change.
If you are anything like my parents, at the first sign of change, you start to rumble and complain. Instead of thinking of how this change will benefit your life, you start to think about all the ways in which it will impact you negatively.
This is evident in the vocabulary we use when we talk about change—scary, hard, overwhelming. It’s also evident in our behavior toward people who push us to change—we may recoil, resist, or even resent them.
In that moment when we are facing or going through a lot of changes, we have the opportunity to recognize and get excited about the progress we can make, but instead, we often choose fear.
When we focus on the excitement of progress, change feels a lot less scary and we feel inspired to take action. Because like survival, curiosity is one of our greatest instincts. We get energized when we imagine fun new possibilities and focus on what we can control to create them instead of worrying about what’s out of our hands.
So next time you’re faced with a change you didn’t choose, instead of asking…
What did I do to deserve this?
Why now? I am not ready for this…
How is this pushing me to progress?
What new experiences and opportunities will this bring?
What can I do to be ready for this?
It’s all a matter of perspective. Viktor Frankl, the famous Holocaust survivor understood this better than anybody else. In his book, he writes:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”
In one of my previous posts, I shared how I used to rumble and complain. It was easy for me to play the victim card and think only about the negative impacts of change, completely overlooking the good it might bring.
When I first moved to the US, I hated my life there. I was forced to move against my wishes. I went from a carefree eighteen-year-old kid to someone who had to work minimum wage jobs to help pay the bills and save up for college.
In that moment, I hated it. I was angry and frustrated and constantly biding my time looking for an escape. But now when I look back, I recognize that my work ethic came from working at a Subway for five years. It helped me grow from an introvert to someone who can easily start a conversation with any stranger at one arm’s distance. Coming from a country where English is the second language, it sharpened my English-speaking skills.
The change, in hindsight, led to progress.
When a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, you see progress. And isn’t it beautiful?
Maybe it’s time you started to look at change in your own life in the same light. You can think of is as losing the safety of your cocoon, or as an opportunity to transform into a beautiful, colorful, magnificent butterfly.
The choice is really yours….