Instant or Gradual Change?

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Photo Credit: Jeff Sheldon

Here’s a question: Think of an area of personal conduct that, when expressed, you later regret and/or know is not how you really want to be.

For me, it’s assuming I know what’s going on or what people are thinking when there is silence.

This has been a life-long nuisance. I want to not jump to conclusions when I experience “silence” from an individual. But, it’s something I still struggle with. As I look back I can see progress; but it’s slowwwww progress. Yes, I’m better today than I was 10 years ago, but dang, sure wish I would grow in this area in leaps and bounds. Nope. It’s a slow journey. Yes, I’m moving forward, which is the most important part, but nonetheless, slow.

Growth is gradual. Often, we desire and want immediate change. It’s fun to experience instant change in how we view life, how we relate to life, and how we conduct ourselves in life.

Think of a metaphor that exemplifies gradual growth or change. For example, a river creates gradual change. When a river shifts its bed, it begins to manipulate and erode the land to fit the new course.

Other examples of gradual change can be a seed to an oak tree, a baby to an adult, a university student to a CEO – each morphing in its due time. Bodybuilders and athletes understand the discipline of gradual change. Even rocks change with time!

What truly remains the same? What never alters or changes in pattern? Try to come up with one thing that won’t change at some point in time. Chances are, you will not find an example that depicts absolute dormancy. Without being too morbid, even a decaying body will eventually turn back to dust.

What about instant or unpredictable change? Things like a tornado, a car accident, being laid off work, winning the lottery, falling in love.

Gradual change and instant change both carry a different form of impact. We say we want immediate change, but do we really want it?

What are the contrasts of instant and gradual change? One is slow & probable; the other is sudden and startling.

What are some negative experiences we associate with gradual and instant change? With gradual change, it is common to experience impatience because it’s going too slow, insecurity because we are unclear of where ‘this’ is going. It can create doubt.

With instant change, it’s common to be unprepared for its immediate impact. It can have a dramatic affect on how we relate to our environment, and it can also create different levels of distress.

What are some positive experiences we associate with gradual and instant change?

With gradual change, we might experience introspection and contemplation. We might be more evaluative and measure our progress, and we will have a calmer and simplified process with the change.

With instant change, we might have a life-changing experience. It can push us to make a decision and not procrastinate, and it helps create new thinking.

What would be your answers?

So, where am I going with this?

Don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t see immediate results when you desire change. Take inventory of your life. If you look back ten years, do you see any change? Never underestimate the small victories and accomplishments, even if they seem minute. Celebrate it!

If, in reflecting, you don’t see the change you hoped for, embrace the journey of gradual change. Just like a river, it is a beautiful thing to watch a current transform landscape. You are just like that river. And your landscape welcomes the change. It’s just that sometimes, it takes time. And that’s okay, because time is your friend.

– Karen Thrall

* also published on www.karenthrall.com

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