I have been working with this word through the weekend and unbeknownst to me this has been a theme since last October.
According to the dictionary, being reluctant is to be “unwilling,” 1660s, from Latin reluctantem (nominative reluctans), present participle of reluctari “to struggle against, resist, make opposition,”
Reluctant, literally, struggling back from, implies some degree of struggle either with others who are inciting us on, or between our own inclination and some strong motive, as sense of duty, whether it operates as an impelling or as a restraining influence. [Century Dictionary]
On further contemplation, to be reluctant is a struggle externally as well as internally.
Externally, we drag our feet when we are pulled towards something that we are not quite ready to make a decision yet. For those of us who are tired of the accelerated pace of our world, where everyone talks faster, acts immediately and where hustling is some sort of admirable quality, reluctance shows up in various forms.
Sometimes it shows up to self sabotage or procrastinate. Sometimes it is in our best interests to preserve rushing hastily into realms we are not yet ready to undertake. It is born out of the fatigue of the past and in the confusion of transition. Sometimes reluctance is rooted in a deeper intuition around the importance of right timing.
Last Saturday, poet David Whyte spoke to us about reluctance and what it meant to each of us. How we could stop running away from it and instead sit with our struggle. For in our very resistance lies the way through the current that is swirling around us. In our ability to recognize our own reluctance, we develop greater compassion for the suffering of others.
All great movements, all inspired creations were birthed in the cauldron of opposition. Ideation and innovation spring from the push back to status quo.
If you are dragging your feet, feeling generally disobedient, it could be a good time to examine which area of your life lacks luster or where tiredness has robbed you of your inner vision.
When I allow myself to relax and watch my girls, I walk away with some wonderful insights. Take the whole concept of change. It is everywhere. It is constant.
Who moved the cheese? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
If you don’t change, you will not evolve. Right, we get it. Over the past decade, we have witnessed countries struggling, giants toppling, goliaths emerging, traditional strategies failing and unconventional wisdom prevailing. The “future” slogans come at you fast and furious. Jack be agile. Jack be quick. Jack be nimble.
We listen to all these mantras and continue to resist change in all ways possible. Why? Because change is a tough six letter word. True change is to re-fashion, re-mould, renovate, recreate. This is hard because we programme ourselves to resist and love to settle into the habit of reproach. Darn, I do not want to give up my cozy armchair of old habits and use that new wooden chair with no cushion. Like Goldilocks, it’s too hard, it’s too soft, and I want it just right.
Children, however, are faced with change constantly. Every year, they have new teachers, new classrooms, new schedules, new friends, new enemies and new challenges. My daughters go to different schools every few years. Even if they are not changing schools, they change classes. They go from familiar to unfamiliar with manic schedules, new faces, new bus routes, more homework and new projects. If your kids are a little older, change comes when the first semester ends and another one starts with new electives. I am in awe of their resilience and their ability to weather movement.
Adapting to change is not easy, like the inverse bell curve, you will bottom out but when you climb out of it, your reality shifts. As we grow older, we tend to relegate discovery to the basement. We become hard-wired and rigid. Fear replaces wonder and we lose our agility along the way.
When you hit the trough of disillusionment (I just love the Gartner Hype Cycle), reach out to your family and close friends. We have no trouble with the happy face, but would rather suffer alone than admit that the curve ball that life just threw at you is more than you can handle. That cold, clammy whisper that tells you that you cannot cope is very real and the sooner you talk about it, the easier it becomes. Little ones come home and rattle off their woes. “Hey mama, I hate xyz. She made fun of me in class.” Or “I don’t want to go to school anymore.” The issue is still there, but sharing it is great therapy. Everybody hurts, everybody cries.
Voluntary or involuntary, the more you fight the change, the harder it gets. Like the Chinese finger puzzle, you sink deeper and deeper into the stronghold. Downsized. Laid off. New job. New home. New country. New friends. It is done. You look at the cards you have and figure out how to work the deck. Kids walk into a new class every year. Yes, they do complain about their teachers, but they know that this is a fact of life.
Or like that Greek myth, you turn into stone. Which is what happens when we stay in the past, we cannot move forward. The past is always sepia coloured and despite the flaws in the pictures, we knew the past so it was safe. If you have moved to a new place, embrace it whole-heartedly. Don’t hanker for your old home. We cannot live in two worlds at the same time unless you know a lot about time travel and the string theory. Children rarely stay in the past or worry about the future. They might miss it, but they are too busy being in the present. And they just don’t have the bandwidth to fear the future.
My 3-year-old nephew is always “pushing buttons.” He is ready to go anywhere with little or no notice. He runs after a butterfly, grabs the neighbour’s dog by its tail and lives completely in the moment. Instead of fearing change, we can practice flexibility by starting with small practices like taking a different route to work, joining a multi cultural group or learning a new skill.
There is a big difference between paranoia and alertness. When you are paranoid, the paramount thought is that the world is out to get you. When you are alert, the focus is often about seizing the opportunity. Adapting just means changing the lens of your own perception. Kids are naturally alert. A cardboard box can become a fort. A walk can become an adventure.
In the words of the greatest change management guru, Darwin,
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.