In the Middle of the Change

I’m in the middle of change…which is often a hard and awkward place to be.

I’ve made some major changes for my health this year; working hard at the gym almost daily, changing my diet. And I’ve seen results. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and am enjoying health benefits like more energy and less headaches. I’ve lost 22 pounds.

The problem is that I feel like I’ve worked so hard but, because I have so much further to go, I’m easily overwhelmed. I have so much further to go that it’s hard for others to notice what I’ve already done. I feel tired form the work I’ve done and, on my not so determined days, daunted by the work that lies ahead. On those days I lose site of where I was and can only see how far I have to go. Change comes in fits and spurts sometimes and the results are not always easy to see.

Change is hard work. While going through some significant personal change at earlier stage in life,  I told my coach I felt like I was just leaping in the air, choosing the leave the ground behind me where I no longer wanted to be but not sure where I was going to land. I also knew that I still had so much work to do that it would awhile before I landed anywhere and when I landed, it would not look familiar. I was tired from the work and from all of the unfamiliar.

My coach very seriously asked, “Do you want to go back? Do you want to stop moving forward?” I quickly said, “No!” and then as I reflected longer, “I can’t go back. Knowing what’s possible now, I can’t go back. That place doesn’t really exist anymore.

Any significant change is hard and usually takes longer than we think it will. Whether it is personal change or an organization we are leading through change, the work has been so hard but there is still so far to go that sometimes you forget where you have come from. There is nothing familiar or comfortable around, nothing settled. You’ve left so much behind but you haven’t reached your final destination, and the final destination is so far into the future, you are not even sure what it looks like or when you will reach it. You are tired.

As the instigator or leader of change, you are more aware of how far you have come. You may feel more invested in it than others because you are living and breathing it and so the change may be more obvious to you at times than it to others. It is easy to be frustrated when others don’t seem to notice, don’t thank you, don’t congratulate you. In fact, when change affects others, people will often do whatever it takes to get the system back to a normal they understand. Often people are understanding of a certain amount of change, but too much time in the in between space and they begin to panic, wanting to go back to what they know. It is the Israelites in the desert all over again; we begin dreaming of what used to be just because what is “right now” is so unfamiliar.

It is also tempting to focus on what you are not, where you haven’t grown, what hasn’t changed, to the point that you become weary under the weight of it all. Sometime the hardest work is just pushing through. Sometimes the hardest work is just not giving up. Sometimes the greatest change happens simply because we are wandering or leaping into the air, not knowing where we will end up. The leaping, the wandering, the awkward become the hard work and somewhere along the way the change happens in small increments.

Choosing to stay this unknown path, day after day, past the point where it is easy or exciting, is where the change happens.

  • Ask yourself the question, “Do I/we want to go back? Do I/we want to stop? What are the implications if we stop?”
  • Remind yourself of what you have accomplished, even if progress feels like watching grass grow sometimes.
  • Celebrate where you have come, celebrate this awkward, in the middle place. What is great about right here?
  • Stay focused on the destination. Celebrate what is to come.

Lean it to the awkward and feel the frustration, feel all of it because it is a reminder something better lies ahead, just keep working hard and dreaming.