Embracing Change

10,000 Hours to Be Me is about embracing change; about moving toward the larger life many of us secretly long for.  Sounds good…even exhilarating!  Then there are the changes we didn’t anticipate or maybe even wish for:  such as the loss of a job or loved one; an injury or change in our health; even new responsibilities, like caring for an elderly family member.  One might feel overwhelmed, scared or even angry.

Some changes we expect; however, the reality of the experience is far more, or far different from what we expected, like moving to anew city, having a new baby or losing weight.  When this happens, change goes beyond the experience.  While we may have expected that a new home, having a new baby, or losing weight would be the change we experienced—in reality it was just the beginning.  The bigger change is the internal makeover that will continue to manifest slowly within us.

For example, living in anew city will demand that we find our way in unfamiliar territory and start over creating a home.  It is a fresh start in the truest sense.  Having a new baby will, day by day, encourage us to develop patience, force us to reorder our priorities, and increase our capacity to love.  Losing weight can change how we view ourselves and help us lose unhealthy inhibitions that keep our inner light hidden behind a false self.  Although these experiences are shifting our very world on the outside and visible to everyone around us, the bigger change is taking place on the inside.

When I had young teenagers, I often repeated the phrase, “Nothing stays the same, except for change.”  You will have new classmates in the fall, friends may move away, your body will seem unrecognizable, you’ll gain new responsibilities and greater independence.  I wanted them to understand that while the world is constantly shifting around them, change is a normal, human experience.  It is the dance of life.

It’s normal to resist change—regardless of whether we judge the circumstances to be desirable or not.  We long to feel comfortable in familiar terrain again.  The reality is change is continually occurring and how we respond will determine the quality of our lives.  We have the choice to suffer in frustration and bitterness; or we can see our personal evolution with a heart of gratitude.  The former keeps one locked in the past with no desirable future to look forward to.  While gratitude keeps us moving forward, open to the new opportunities and miracles that manifest before us.

We may have loved the way the old brand of shoes fit our feet, and wish we could find them again.  However, when we are ready to open our hearts to change—voila, will wonders never cease—those new shoes waiting for you just around the corner are lighter, come in more colors, and look great with your new clothes.

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10,000 Hours to Be…

What qualities does one need to be successful?  Do great entertainers, math geniuses, great writers or leader possess some extraordinary quality different from the rest of us mere mortals?  Are they born with something special, while the rest of us are doomed to live our lives in mediocrity?  How about the silver-spoon theory—is being born to rich, powerful, beautiful people the only way to be rich, powerful and beautiful yourself?

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell analyzed what it is that leads the lucky few to reach the pinnacle of success.  Gladwell references two interesting studies, one conducted in the 1920s by Lewis Terman, of Stanford University, and another by K. Anders Ericsson, of Berlin’s Academy of Music, in the 1990s.

By following the lives of nearly 1,000 gifted children, Termin sought to prove that one’s above-average native intelligence quotient—IQ, would predispose one to becoming important later on in life.  However, while a higher IQ may give us greater innate abilities, the results of the study showed that IQ was no predictor of success.

The premise behind K. Anders Ericsson’s study, was to understand what it takes to become an outstanding musician.  We can call this, the Mozart legacy.  Here again, the theory is that child prodigies are born with talent to which most of us can never aspire.  It turns out that Ericsson and his colleagues were unable to find any naturally talented musicians.  Instead, they found the amount of time aspiring musicians invested in learning their craft and practicing their art was in direct proportion to their ability to demonstrate musical genius.  WOW, who would have guessed—those who worked the hardest had the greatest talent.  It turns out the number of hours necessary to be a world-class musician amounted to roughly 10,000 hours. 

This is the central theme of 10,000 Hours to Be Me.  I believe, investing 10,000 hours into something is more about the character attributes of commitment, perseverance, resilience, and focus.  The problem is that putting 10,000 hours into any one goal arguably means I must let go of so many other potentially, interesting distractions out there.  How often have I said to myself, I’m going to have free time this weekend, so I will do XXX?  Then when Monday comes around, I can hardly remember what I did with my time.  What I do know, is that I did nothing to move toward my dreams!

Most of the time, what I may be giving up is as important as doing housework, reading a novel, watching an episode of the Closer (OK, so I probably won’t give up Kyra Sedgwick), or some other activity that is more likely about avoidance than doing what matters most to me.  According to Stephen Covey, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1990).

Not easy!  So for 2012, my focus is to pay attention to what matters most in my life and see how many hours I am choosing to devote to those priorities.  As a friend of mine noted in her blog—work, family, and taking care of our physical needs are important and take up much of our day.  However, there is time beyond those activities that we can spend doing what we love.

I look forward to hearing the wisdom of others as I move along this journey.

References

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers:  The Story of Success.  New York:  Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

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