What if you gave up on the idea of change?

Embracing Responsibility Without Forcing Change

What if there really wasn’t a problem to solve? What if everything as it is right now is all okay? How would that feel?

When I try that idea on, my resistance comes on strong. What do you mean, no change? How on earth could it all be okay like this? I need to work for it to be better. There are so many things in my mind that need changing; it couldn’t possibly be okay like this. What about my agitation, anxiety, and apathy? That surely needs to change, right? Or what about the anger and frustrations I hold? That, too, must be a good candidate to put through recycling. All in all, I have work to do and better get to it! No time to waste.  That’s the director  in me right,  that strong voice that tells me I’m not even close to good enough without all these changes.   Renowned coach Jerry Colonna calls it the crow on his shoulder that doesn’t let up easily. Even this voice can be included as part of the phenomenon of unneeded change if we understand that its undertone is about safety and belonging.

Notice what’s already changing. Life is change; it’s always changing. The one universal law we can count on is that change is constant. Without us needing change, we look around and change is happening. The problem is, it’s often not happening in the ways and timings we want.

Imagine for a moment that you didn’t need to change. What’s that like to take that level of pressure off? And what if there was no problem with the worst of how you are—even that didn’t need to change. What if even the parts of you that you feel hold you back don’t need to change?  Notice how that feels to let yourself be in  your present imperfect shape.

It’s a radically different way for those who have been in the change game long enough, undertaking endless workshops and change making processes. When I was young, I took all kinds of courses, some even going far enough as to promise enlightenment. When I look back at the common thread, I was almost always looking for ways to change. And it was often coming from a lack of acceptance for myself, and the conditions of my life.

I am looking at change from a very different lens now, one that does not have the outcome in mind as a starting point. Well, you might say, what is the point of doing anything then? May as well just give up, if this is the person who I must accept. And that is my point—that’s like going to see a movie and disagreeing with the characters. He or she shouldn’t be like that. They’re not even close to good enough; they should definitely show up differently. That would be ludicrous, right? We don’t expect characters in stories to be different. Why hold that idea towards ourselves?

What if you knew that you were good in your essence? Naturally like the rest of us—human and flawed but basically good. And at the essence, nothing you did or didn’t do would take away from that goodness.

Now let’s look at the idea of radical responsibility, an idea I borrow from Diana Chapman. She says, in almost all situations, no matter the challenge, we can ask ourselves who we need to be in order to create a better outcome. For instance, you feel your partner doesn’t listen to you, or maybe understand you. Well, you could either put the pressure on them to change, or you could take a more radical approach and ask yourself who you would need to become in order for your partner/friend/colleague/boss, etc. to listen to you.  Its kinda crazy right, your boss doesn’t acknowledge your efforts, no problem;  what’s the change  in me that’s needed, not them ..

Granted, you may become that person and they still legitimately don’t listen or change their behaviour. Then, stepping into those new shoes, maybe it’s more about listening and understanding yourself. This allows you to communicate your needs in a clear and non-reactive way. Or, who knows, it could be this newfound responsibility of becoming someone worth listening to that gets you airtime in unexpected places. The point is not making it about the other is a radical move.

But then, what’s all this about not needing to change? How does that play into the world of responsibility and becoming?

I think the most important task we have is to hold both as equally true. It’s true that we are fine the way we are, and it’s also true that we must change. Not necessarily because our aspirations for personal growth demand it, but rather because it is the very fabric of life. We must change and keep changing, because as we allow the change that naturally wants to happen, we move with life. But its not from force, judgement or any echo of the crow on your shoulder. I love Bruce Lee’s analogy “be like water.” Water is the ultimate shapeshifter.

So, if not being listened to is your trigger, you might actually trick yourself into looking forward to the next time they don’t listen to you. Why? Because it tests you to see both how responsible you can be and also equally compassionate with yourself.

Here are some practical steps to integrate responsibility and change:

  1. Mindful Self-Reflection:
    • Practice mindfulness during self-reflection. Observe your thoughts and actions without judgment, focusing on learning rather than self-punishment (or  the crow on your shoulder)
    • Practice: Set aside time daily for mindful reflection. Notice any harsh self-talk and consciously soften, and invite compassionate awareness.
  2. Gentle Goal-Setting:
    • Set realistic and compassionate goals that honour your current abilities and limitations.
    • Practice: When setting goals, ensure they are achievable and allow for mistakes. If a goal isn’t met, reflect on what you learned rather than leaning into the critic.
  3. Curiosity Over Judgment
    • Approach situations and feedback with curiosity instead of judgment. Ask “What can I learn?” rather than “What did I do wrong?”
    • Practice: In moments of disappointment or challenge, pause and ask yourself questions that promote understanding and growth.
  4. Self-Acceptance in Responsibility:
    • Accept your current state while taking responsibility for your actions. Recognise that growth is a process that doesn’t have an end point. We never actually get there!
    • Practice: Regularly affirm your worth and progress, even if it’s small. Celebrate your efforts and learnings as part of your journey.