Matters Column

Moving from what you are to what you wish to become

May 16, 2014
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When we are satisfied with what we have and where we are in life, we tend to cling tightly to who we are and what we have become. We find comfort in the familiar without feeling the need for change.

Should you be so fortunate to find and have all you might ever wish for, congratulations! You have attained what you sought by choosing carefully the roads you travelled. You have arrived at the destination you planned, surrounded yourself with people who support your dreams, and found happiness where you landed. You have found comfort and satisfaction in all that is around you and all who touch your life, not seeking or wishing to gain anything. You have established peace with yourself, accepting the things over which you have no control and embracing the things that fully utilize your abilities. 

Many, however, seek to change — often for no other reason than the opportunity to change. Unless one knows how or where to begin, however, they choose to do nothing, living life on the fringes rather than fulfilling their true promise — living within their world of “what is” rather than grasping the world of “what could be.” 

If you could do anything you want in the world, be anything at all, what would you chose? Would you wish to be what you now are if you could re-do the decisions that formed your life and values, or would you make different choices that might result in a different outcome?

Would you study the same things or choose a different career path? Would you prefer to be a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a professional athlete, a business manager, a politician? Would you be a laborer having to make few decisions, finding fulfillment in hard manual efforts that let you leave the worries of the day behind when your work was finished?

Would you want to make a fortune or earn only enough to satisfy your basic needs? Would you live in a larger home or seek a smaller residence? Would you seek to live in an urban neighborhood or a rural community? Would you keep the friends you have or would you seek a different support group? 

Most people would prefer to remain within the comfort of familiarity once they have “arrived” at where they feel they should be, but far too often “life happens” and we must react/respond to outside turmoil to create internal change.

We all make decisions, whether they are calls to action or an unconscious choice of inaction. Our lives are a result of the thoughts we have and the choices we make in response to those considerations.  What we are results directly from the choices we made when we were growing up, when our ideas, thoughts and responses were not yet fully developed, but it does not mean we cannot change or alter our direction so that we might one day be what we wish to become.

A train does not go from one station to another by standing still. A student will never advance unless he or she reaches out to attain and utilize knowledge. A gas engine will not run unless it is given fuel, air and spark — necessary components of fire. 

Likewise, our station in life will not change until we take intentional action to move from where we are toward where we wish to be — or actively choose not to act after recognizing and acknowledging the consequences of our inaction.

If we recognize what we are and acknowledge what we might prefer to be or do, what stops us from moving toward the fulfillment of our dreams? For some it is a fear of the unknown. Surprisingly, for others it may be a fear of succeeding and the responsibilities that success brings.

Many fear change, somehow feeling that what is known and comfortable (though perhaps not the most desirable) is better than something that might be bad and unbearable (no promise is made that change will always be for the best) should they seek something different.

Unless you seek an outcome that you are not physically or mentally capable of bringing to fruition (change must be realistic), a fear of something or someone is what usually keeps us from being all we can be or doing all we can do.

What keeps you from changing, from moving beyond where you are to a place you would rather be? Are you afraid to leave the comfort of “what is” to face the fears of an unknown “what could be?”

If we do not establish goals, we may never fail, but if we do not try new things or learn from our failings, we will never grow. Should we fail to understand what we must attempt to change in order to transform ourselves into something different, we will never become what we wish to be, remaining what we always have been due to our own complacency. Much like an individual who fails to vote, once the opportunity to act has passed — and nothing has been done — it is too late to assign blame or accept credit. When someone actively seeks what they wish to find without fears or apprehensions, they will realize what they seek without restriction or limitation.

David Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids.

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