The speed of change

Friday, 17 May 2013 how change happens

Often when we decide we want things to change, we expect it to happen immediately. Hollywood feeds us stories in which change happens instantly – falling in love, finding the house of our dreams, setting up a new business – and so that’s what we expect: instant gratification.

Many times in the past I have wanted change to happen immediately, but now I realise that things don’t work like that. I see that change is like a good tea that needs time to infuse. When you read about life in history books, when you read all about the revolutions and wars of freedom, you read about the excitement and the drama. It seems instant and spontaneous, but that’s because they don’t always focus on the slow evolution that’s required to get to that point, because it won’t make people spend their money. They don’t tell you about the decades of growth and planning that came first, because it’s boring. They don’t tell you about all the stuff that came before the bit that is written as history – all the sleepless nights spent wondering, the private late-night conversations, the chance meetings in cafés and the words overheard. They don’t tell you this because no-one wants to know.

History seems so obvious when you see it written down in black and white, but that’s the skill of writers and historians – to create a coherent story that satisfies the curiosity of the masses. So it is with our lives. People tell us the stories of how they changed their lives, but they don’t tend to focus on the weeks or months of pain or indecision prior to the change; or the sleepless nights as they tossed and turned wondering if they’d made the right decision. People tend to tell you their stories as a summary – the key points and the positive outcomes. Their stories make it all sound so simple, and perhaps it is; but they also focus on the end, rather than the process.

Counselling is about the process and the process can be slow. It can be frustrating and annoying; but, as with a good tea, you can’t really speed things up – at least, not if you want the best possible outcome for yourself. I guess the most helpful thing I’ve learned is to enjoy the process – to view change as a journey of exploration and discovery; trying not to focus on the outcome, so much as the process. When you do that, it feels as if nothing changes for ages, then suddenly, one day you wake up and realise that, somehow, something has.

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