Creating and Holding Space for Change

The holiday season, surrounded by friends and family, is often a hotbed of emotion and opportunity to interact, or choose not to interact. We are faced by a variety of situations and must decide how to approach them. This holiday season was a GIFT of opportunity. I say this with just a little sarcasm.

In November, I received an email from Ticketmaster. I get these emails periodically with concerts I should be seeing, but I rarely open them. This one caught my eye and sparked an idea. Bob Seger – I grew up listening to Bob Seger with my dad; he represents the soundtrack of my childhood, and I still hadn’t sent my dad a birthday gift or Father’s Day gift. Please don’t judge! I was seriously waiting for something perfect, and this was it! I excitedly called my brother. Part of my brilliant gift would be concert tickets for my brother and I to take my dad. My excitement was quickly extinguished by the conversation, and when the call ended I felt deflated, defeated, a little angry and sad. Was it the screaming children in my car that kept my brother from hearing my idea and catching my enthusiasm? Did he think I was calling to ask him to chip in to buy the tickets? Was it a bad idea? What was up with him???

I sat on it for a few days, talked to my dad to learn what his ideal concert gift would be, then called to check on my brother, deciding I actually had no idea what was going on with him and maybe curiosity was the best approach. I learned from my dad that he would love for our old core-four – my mom, brother, himself and me – to go together. I also learned from my brother that he hadn’t been well and had been suffering from some things that had distracted from my excitement. I took a moment to understand where he’d been and where he was at, I was able to revisit and adjust, and then we were able to discuss the idea and become a team, also armed with my information from our dad. I had to reflect, get curious, research and change my approach, and I was greeted with a different but better response – we met in the middle and found a solution – everyone won.

Recently, I had a similar conversation with someone who wanted to plan a special birthday trip for her mother, but her brother wasn’t sharing in the excitement. According to him, he didn’t feel like planning a big trip out of guilt. Guilt…where’s the guilt coming from you ask? The idea was phrased as such, “We need to do this for mom; she deserves it after all she’s done for us.” I suggested she rephrase her approach, hearing her goal was really to do something nice for her mother, period, guilt eliminated. What if you simply say to your brother, “I really want to do something special for mom. What do you think?” We talked it through and she continued to add the caveat, “because she done so much,” “because she deserves it.” Much to her chagrin, she continued to also get the same response her brother – crickets.

As I thought about both situations, I started thinking about change, especially with the approach of the end of the year and the beginning of a New Year, a time for reflection and resolutions. So often, when we consider change, we first play out how the shift might impact our life, “our world” and we determine it won’t be worth it, it will fail, we stop before we even try, certain we already know the outcome, or certain the price will be too great. Or, we try the change, and greeted by resistance, we quickly recall it, give up and revert to our old ways as quickly as possible, as if we are embarrassed and hope no one saw our feeble attempt. Maybe things get heated, hot, messy, and we get triggered and fail to maintain our resolve to stay in the change and let it play out. Self-doubt wins and chases us back to our places. Possibly, we’re too stubborn in our efforts; we expect change to occur without cultivating space or opportunity. We simply double down on our broken methods and for some reason expect a new and different, more pleasing outcome.  Rather than creating or continuing a stalemate, make a different move, be the adaptability and flexibility you desire.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about change. Change takes time and patience, commitment and grace. We need to extend those ingredients to ourselves as well as to the other side of the change equation. What happens if you change first and offer a different opportunity, phrase, or possibility? Perhaps then you will be pleasantly surprised and the other side will react likewise, with a new response. Communication is a two way street. There is the way the message is delivered and there is the way the message is received or the response it elicits. Two opportunities to create change! What happens if you take a chance and alter your approach, be the first to be authentic and vulnerable, to create a message that is succinct and to the point? Might the answer be different?

It never ceases to amaze me just how often I get in my own way and shut down opportunities for change. An important lesson I’ve continued to learn: Get out of your own way! Create space for change. Don’t quit too soon, but don’t be too stubborn. Be prepared to reflect and own your part. Be brave enough to change first. Choose relationships to practice change that can withstand the shift, or relationships for which you can withstand the loss. Preferably, choose relationships and support systems that will also give you feedback and stick in the process with you. Change is a process! Change takes courage! Change can be like crossing a street – Look left, look right, look left, and make your move. Do not stop in the middle! Look back, look forward, look back, now go! Remember, “Being and becoming is better than having and getting.” (Unknown) Staying in relationship is better than being right. Be open for change to happen; create opportunity for transformation.

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