By Samantha Schilke; May 1, 2022
Change is inevitable. It is a part of life. Without it, our ability to grow and evolve would be limited. It doesn’t matter if it is change you championed or change that blindsided you and sent you reeling. What matters is what you do with it.
Change can come in many forms. In my life right now, there are countless examples. My best friend’s engagement and a TeamStrength member’s wedding. A leader transitioning to the next stage of life after leading his company through a successful sale. A friend completing their final chemotherapy treatment and looking for what comes next. My family reconnecting and supporting each other in the face of a devastating disease. People I care about planning to welcome a child into the world or moving into their dream home. My own divorce.
In a study published in 2013, researchers asked participants to fill out a survey reflecting on themselves 10 years prior and predict what they might be like 10 years in the future. The study then compared the look-ahead answers with their 10-year look-back counterparts (for example, the look-ahead answers of a 20-year-old with the look-back answers of a 30-year-old). The older ages always reported changing in the past decade and yet the younger ages did not expect nearly as much change in the future. This study was repeated with the same results: People are good at gauging how much they’re changed in the past, but struggle to believe the change that will come in the future.
The present isn’t permanent. And there is an opportunity cost to any change, good or bad. Maybe it’s the personal freedoms you give up when you promise to share your life with someone or welcome a child into the world. Or the diagnosis that left a family heartbroken, but more connected to each other than ever before. Sometimes the gift is perspective. Sometimes it’s more time. But the other constant with change is the need to let go.
Time doesn’t stop. The more time we spend clinging to the past or trying to look too far into the future, the less impact we have in our present. Instead, work to actively select what stays and what goes when your world changes, or they will be selected for you. Focus on being where you are.
When my life changed dramatically and surprisingly, it was hard to let go of the life I had – the routines and habits and pieces of myself that I built around another person. With the help of the many amazing people in my life, I kept my eyes and my heart open to the present, learning a ton about myself, what I offer the world and where my passions truly lie. I embarked on new initiatives I shelved and found myself embracing the parts of myself I had quieted for another.
My abrupt transition was painful, and at the same time, it opened me up to a world of possibility I didn’t know existed before. It led to the single most significant period of personal growth in my life.
Change can be a driver to a better future but it’s not always something we can control. What we can control is our reaction to it. Growth happens at the edges of comfort and competency. Early on in my divorce, someone told me, “You can choose to let this experience make you bitter or better.” I chose better. Because at the end of the day, you are not what happens to you. You are what you choose to become.