Sunday, March 22, 2015

How to know it's time for a change

"For the last eight years, I've had an internal struggle: between wanting to improve myself, and wanting to be content." -Leo Babuta 

And so have I. And though I was pretty happy with my latest approximation of a solution--that contentment is appropriate in some circumstances but not in others (like when being chased by a lion), I realized I lacked an easy way to determine when to choose contentment and when to opt for change.

And this is key, because when I'm not sure whether I need to change or not, or I have a vague sense it's needed, but not sure how to do it or if it will work, then that causes anxiety. The feeling that I am not where I need to be causes anxiety. And it's not a good anxiety.

If it's clear that I need to change and I'm working on it, it's OK to be a bit anxious, like when I'm running from a lion. But if the anxiety is not necessary, then I want nothing to do with it.

So here's my first approximation at a change matrix: a strategy for determining when I should just sit tight and when I should start running.

Basically, I need to ask myself two questions:

1) How likely is it that this plan for change would succeed? Can I really pull it off? What are my chances for getting a new job, running a successful mastery-based classroom, getting six-pack abs, learning to keep bees, or learning to speak Chinese?

2) How certain am I that the benefits will outweigh the costs? And here I need to consider investment costs, opportunity costs, and collateral damage that the change may cause. I may have to put in some long weeks if I decide to pursue my administrators certificate (and I sure did), and I may miss out on time with my family (and I did), I may not be able to eat pasta and bread if I want six-pack abs (and I don't), and I may not get through the same amount of content if I switch to mastery-learning in biology. And the costs could get more serious than this.

And the oversimplified idea is this: If I can't be sure the benefits will outweigh the costs and that I have a decent likelihood of success, then I'm better off just forgetting about the idea and being content where I am--practice mindfulness and learn to enjoy the moment. If there's a high likelihood of success, it'll probably be worth doing more research to find out more about the costs and benefits. And if you are sure it would be a good thing, but it's just not likely right now, then start laying the groundwork for change in the future.

Just a start, but an important first step for a change addict who routinely defaults to "Change it now!"

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