Eight years ago I was standing outside the Barbican Centre in London. “I CAN’T change, I WANT to. But I CAN’T!”.
I was uttering these words to the Group HR Director. The same woman who was responsible for creating the corporate leadership programme I was on for six months. It had a specific focus on mindset and how everyone has the capacity, if not the appetite, to be open and curious. And to change.
It was during the morning coffee break that she was asking me how I was getting on. I could have been guarded and pretended I was 100% onboard, big thumbs up. I was somewhat concerned about how open I could be and if our conversation would be reported back to someone. But I wanted to change. And pretending otherwise would no longer serve me personally. Or the team and business I worked with.
“What can I do?” I continued, “I was born this way, I cannot change the whole essence of me!”. She responded; “Susan, you can change whatever it is you want. If you are not happy with how you are living, responding and reacting you can change any or all of it”.
She knew more than me then. I would hazard a guess – she still knows more than me now.
I remember that moment vividly. I didn’t know it then but that was a catalyst for change even while I was uttering the words that I couldn’t change.
Eight years on, I have changed. I am constantly changing. And I am always open to change.
Change is inevitable. I remember saying this to one my team members one day as that company was in a constant state of flux. Her reaction was one of horror, hearing that it was possibly always going to be changing. The fear on her face was palpable. I really felt for her, constant change when you fear it can be so daunting, gut clinching even.
It can create so many reactions – I can retreat into myself, lash out at myself or others, bury my head in the sand, swing 180 degrees to ignore it and make up so many stories I can’t keep count!
One of my biggest blocks a decade ago was thinking that I personally could not change who I was. I thought that changing any element of me was not possible. That it was in my DNA and therefore I would always be who I was. I had another concern.
Who is Susan if she is not, this Susan? This is my identity. Who would I be if I changed?
What about the essence of Susan? We often confuse who we are and our behaviours and beliefs with who we are. Our beliefs and behaviours are things we tell ourselves or we have been told. Some we will have brought with us from our childhood. They are not us. They are often not even real.
They are beliefs like – I love tomatoes or I dislike sand or I am impatient. They are things we tell ourselves and after telling ourselves over and over and over again, we believe them. They are now real. Right? No, they don’t have to be. I can choose. You can choose.
If we change the dialogue, we can change.
So what changed that day on that coffee break in London? I uttered the words – I am not happy where I am now. I want to change. For me. And saying those words out loud was the start.