Being the Change

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” ~ Mahatma  Gandhi

So often in life we think that if someone else changes, our circumstances change or if God would just change us, we would be happy. The happiness that endures comes from within, from being our authentic self. Sometimes even the smallest change creates enormous joy. Culturally, change is viewed as one of the most difficult things to manage. Fear of change often causes stress and immobilization. As Gandhi says, however, our greatness lies in  our ability to change.

One of the ideas that I start with to impel myself to change is: Accepting the unacceptable.

The power in this acceptance is that often we are not in control of the thing we want changed (our partner, our boss’ behavior, the presidency, our neighbor playing loud music every night…). We find their behavior unacceptable. We can and often do try everything to get them to change. We try to convince them of our perspective, we withhold our love, we get angry,  we manipulate, we call the police, we tell our friends and get validation of our opinion, we do a lot of things under the guise of control when in reality, the only thing we are in control of is ourselves: our beliefs, our reactions, our attitude, our behaviors and (I’m a broken record) our choices!

I will share a personal example of accepting the unacceptable:

While still managing my architecture firm, I had a client file a lawsuit against me and my firm. I believed strongly that the liability did not lie upon my firm nor my consultants. For two years, I worked with my defense attorney and was adamant that we were innocent and that the case had no merit. I personalized the case and experienced a high level of emotional stress, anger, disdain and finally a sense of apathy for my career in designing public schools. This brought me deep sadness as for the previous 20 years I felt I was contributing in a substantive way to the world. I tried all of the tactics I previously mentioned. One day, I realized that the emotional cost to me to defend myself was too great. Trying to control and change others was not getting me anywhere.  I decided I had to accept what felt unacceptable: that the client’s position was not going to change, and that the chasm could not be bridged through the legal process.

I requested that my attorney schedule a mediation conference and that we settle the case as quickly as possible. I changed my reaction from defense to acceptance. My belief in my integrity did not change, I did not acquiesce to any fault or liability, I did not diminish my faith in truth and justice. The case was settled in one day. No damages were paid, no admission of fault was required, and reciprocal agreements were made to not defame each other’s character or business.  I attained the intention behind the external changes I had been trying to control: my intention was to feel peace, security, and trust in my own integrity.

Is there a place in your life where you feel “stuck”?  Consider what you view as unacceptable, open yourself to options you have not considered, make a new choice…

Be the change you want to see


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