There’s an old adage that “people don’t change.” I’m not sure where it came from, but I do know there are nearly 5,000,000 results when you Google that phrase.
The more I think about those words, the more I think that phrase is complete and utter bullshit. This makes more sense: people decide not to grow. They become complacent, stuck, lazy, unwilling to adapt and grow.
“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” -Anais Nin
Life is all about growth and change. You can either accept that and do great things or be stuck and boring. When I say great things, I don’t necessarily mean world-changing on a macro level. Doing great things on a smaller, personal level is just as important: being a great parent, husband/wife, friend, doing things you love, or becoming a better person.
“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.” -Gandhi
For the first time in my life, or at least for as long as I can remember, I am working on myself. Growing. Becoming a better person. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life and most of them are because I took the easy way out. No longer. I want to do great things.
“You change for two reasons: Either you learn enough that you want to, or you’ve been hurt enough that you have to.” -Unknown
I’ve always been quiet/shy and considered a “nice” person. That’s a dangerous combination while growing up — especially with regard to relationships and social situations. Your weaknesses are never exposed or questioned. You are never pushed to grow because, after a while, you become an after thought to many. After awhile I stopped pushing to make myself heard. I started preferring small groups and a tight-knit group of friends. With that I missed out on many social situations, meeting new people, and girlfriends.
“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.” -Buddha
During college I started pushing myself a little more because I had to, but in the end, college became a new small group of friends. (Some of them were actually friends from high school too.) I found people I liked and could relate to — then I stopped again. Luckily, one of those friends became my wife and best friend. But even then, it was way too easy — I didn’t have to push myself to grow or change, so I didn’t.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” -George Eliot
That changed this year. Between seeing relationships crumble around me, my sister being diagnosed with MS, and my marriage falling apart, I started looking inside myself. I found a person with misplaced priorities, someone overwhelmed in all aspects of life, someone who had no idea what they wanted or felt or needed. I was lost because I stopped pushing myself to grow a long time ago.
Luckily I re-discovered Buddhist philosophy to help me explore my life, my thoughts, my feelings and how I looked at the world. It helped immensely. It also helped that I have an amazing wife to talk to and come home to each night.
Ever since our kids were born (and to varying degrees before that), I neglected our relationship. Not because I didn’t love her or want to be there, but because I let everything else take priority. I didn’t control the moment and make my priorities. I let my life dictate where I spent my time and attention. I was comfortable in our relationship, so that always finished second. The kids, work, chores, and who knows what else took up my time and attention. It was so overwhelming, it was easy to let that happen. This was obviously not good for her or our relationship and because of that, we slowly grew apart.
This summer I began to push myself to grow; to take chances; to be emotional; to share my feelings, thoughts, and needs; to live in the moment, with the right priorities. I know it’s the right decision because I’ve been happy. Happier than I’ve been in a long time — probably for as long as I can remember. I’m not done, either. I’ve got a lot of growing to do — aspects of my life I want and need to work on to become a better person.
Great people change. They grow. They adapt. They keep learning and pushing themselves. I want to be a great person. If you don’t want the same, I feel sorry for you. I was lost once too.
“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” -Benjamin Franklin