Why Resist Change?

March 6, 2012

Resist

I used to resist discomfort.

And breaking norms. Stepping out of the box. Disappointing people.

I used to build entire social structures or lack thereof around my own comfort.

For the longest time, I just did the easy thing. I avoided people. When I was a boy, I used to run from one end of our townhouse to the other, watching the other kids play outside. All the while, I vicariously joined their adventures from the comfort of my own home until my mom kicked me out of the house, forcing me to make some actual friends.

In middle school, I became friends with one of the most popular guys in school by chance. We did everything together: lunch, recess, parties. He was cool, and so, by association, I was cool. Seventh grade was a blast, because of my link to this cool friend. But then eighth grade came, and like many things, my coolness was short-lived. I got into chat rooms, landed myself an Internet girlfriend, and became the laughing stock of the school when a friend found out. Once again, I was alone and afraid.

This is the pattern we all face. Comfort leads to complacency, which is only disrupted by something cataclysmic.

In high school, I got picked on for being chubby and short and a little bit smarter than the rest of the pack. So I did my best to disappear from the bullies and pretty girls alike. I didn't want to be exceptional. I wanted to be mediocre. I wanted to blend in with my surroundings, matching the lunchroom linoleum.

But then Doug died.

Doug wasn't a close friend, just a classmate. Everyone liked Doug. He was hip and popular and most of the girls wanted to date him. I don't know what it was about his collapsing on the gym floor one afternoon that pushed me to get off the couch and take more risks. I started calling friends, asking them to go out. I started talking to more people, breaking out of my comfort zone. That was only the beginning. I took up running, started losing weight, and went on my first date with a girl. It was junior year. And it was the beginning of the rest of my life.

After that year, I began exploring colleges I would attend. I traveled. One brave decision after another all because of a death that taught me how to live.

The greatest changes in our lives happen to us; they force their way into our lives. And we have little choice but to resist or persist. That s what happened to me that year, and it carried on for the rest of my life.

In my junior year of college, I boarded my first plane to leave the country. On that seven-hour flight to Spain, I was scared. Not of my crashing, but of the people I knew I would have to interact with. The new language I would need to learn. The foreign culture I would have to adjust to. I was afraid of making new connections, taking risks, and investing in new relationships.

It seemed strange to feel so afraid again, especially after overcoming it in high school. But that s the thing with comfort: it always creeps up on you when you least expect it. Over time, I had once again grown comfortable. I was complacent. This new adventure required me to risk once more.

Though it was hard, I slowly started to step out of my new comfort zone. Every night, I went out, visiting flamenco bars and coffee shops, meeting locals and tourists. I asked questions, introduced myself, and adopted the Spanish name Pepe. I immersed myself into the lifestyle of Seville.

This was just the beginning. That semester abroad, I learned the importance of forming deep relationships, wherever they could be found: my host family and brother, study abroad classmates, even the people I ran into on the street. One relationship at a time, I was challenged to grow, to step out of my shell and make new friends, allowing their influence to shape me into a new person.

After this first trip abroad, I went back to Illinois, but I wasn't the same. I had changed. A year later, I graduated college. I traveled the world. I went to Europe and Asia and Mexico, made my way across the U.S. I began to live and breathe new experiences, sights and sounds that I had only lived through others before. For a year, I lived in a van, playing music all over the country. Eventually, I moved to Tennessee to see about a girl, where we're starting a whole new adventure.

Life became an adventure only because I walked through my fear and into abundance. Because I decided to step into discomfort. Because I didn't resist. It wasn't easy, but it was worthwhile. And every day, I wake up and try to do it again.

Do you resist change? Share your story with us in the comments.

Jeff Goins is a writer, idea guy, and difference maker. He works for Adventures in Missions and lives in Nashville with his wife and dog. He is finishing up his first book Wrecked. You can find Jeff on Twitter or his blog.

Photo by jenny downing.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth Zimmerman March 7, 2012 at 12:36 am

I would but it’s 11:30. My alarm goes off at 6:30 (annoying how that happens every day) at which time I will get up and go to a job that I hate. (Jon Acuff and my husband have told me that I can’t quit yet!) Plus I took my Ambien a while ago and I’m reputed to become very entertaining if I don’t go to bed soon thereafter! But to answer your question in brief … My nature fears change … my life is now ready to embrace it! Gung Ho!

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clm March 7, 2012 at 1:09 am

Wow, what serendipity following links today to find your Twitter feed. I used to be adventurous but had gotten pretty complacent until this winter when the rug was yanked out from me with an unexpected job transfer. I’ve been fighting the change and it’s been so stressful. I’ve finally decided to just embrace it. Any tips for Nashville? I have a feeling it will be a bit of a change from Northern California.

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Deanne Bullock March 7, 2012 at 5:19 am

Good word, Jeff! Funny how we (meaning I!) make excuses as to why we can’t do something when the opportunity arises, but the real reason is actually fear. If we call it by its name and face it head on and refuse to give in to it, we can begin winning battles against it, one by one. God reminds me regularly, “We will not make decisions out of fear”, and I enter another round of victory when I trust Him and obey His guidance. Thanks for reminding me that “fear” is the root of my excuses so I can deal with them today!

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Eileen March 7, 2012 at 5:56 am

“One brave decision after another all because of a death that taught me how to live.” That sentence resonated with me. The death of my mom when I was a teen is still teaching me how to live and inspiring me to step past my fears today over 20 years later. I faced many of my fears and have done things I never thought I would do…overcome addiction, run 1/2 marathon, lead small groups, speak in public, take mission trips, put my words down on paper. But the problem is, the more you choose to live the more fears you seem to encounter. And the choice to face them needs to happen again and again. It’s always worth it, just hard to do. Thanks, Jeff.

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Laurie March 7, 2012 at 6:12 am

When you experience death and learn about it, you learn about life.

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Pooja March 22, 2012 at 2:18 am

What an intense statement, Laurie. It looks like you’ve seen life (and death) from very close. Care to share your experience with us?

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Pooja

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Karen March 7, 2012 at 7:39 am

Great read and inspiring, but to be inspired without taking action means nothing! I’m working on it! Stepping out of my comfort zone is tough, but I’m taking baby steps every day!
Replacing those negative, down talking, thoughts with “YES I CAN” thoughts help tremendously!
I work on diminishing fear and anxiety with action and it’s working!
Thanks Jeff, I love to read your stuff!

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Pooja March 22, 2012 at 2:17 am

Karen,

You hit the nail right on its head. Baby steps, it is. Let us know how you go!

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Pooja

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Alasdair March 13, 2012 at 2:00 am

Love the article and the Good Will Hunting reference!

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