Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Musings on Change

© Russ Beck

Photo by Aude, Wikimedia Commons

The past week I had a discussion with a fellow therapist. He said he wanted to change his eating habits. His waist was expanding and walking across the Utah State Hospital campus proved to be a challenge for him. I listened as I thought about my own past struggles with change. It is a difficult process and without proper motivation, it’s darn near impossible to accomplish.

I remember one such event when in my younger years, I decided to change the way the refrigerator door opened. It swung from left to right, which blocked the way into the kitchen. A minor inconvenience, but something I wanted to alter by having the door swing from right to left.

One Saturday morning I gathered my tools together and started the process of taking off the door. I knew I needed to move swiftly as the cool air wafting down upon me reminded me it was still full of food. Unplugging the white behemoth so the motor did not run constantly, I began the process of re-hanging the door.

After an hour, and several scraped knuckles, I managed to get the door on the way I wanted. I paused for a moment and admired my handiwork, amid the now much warmer food. Dusting myself off, I put away my tools and waltzed into the computer room to tell my wife what a great job I had done. She mumbled something, waved her hand in the air and went back to typing the newest chapter in her book.

That night, I woke up around 3 am to use the restroom. On the way, I shuffled into the kitchen to get a glass of cold water from the fridge. Still more than half-asleep, my mind was on autopilot. Pausing in front of the door I automatically reached for the handle. What a shock when my hand slammed into the door where the handle used to be. Biting my lip to keep from saying something the rest of the house would hear, I opened my eyes wide to figure out just what had gone wrong.

Now, fully awake, I muttered to myself about changing the dumb door and all the accolades of earlier faded away like wisps of smoke from a dying fire. I realized what a mistake this had been. Rubbing my sore hand, I returned to bed where I spent the next hour staring at the ceiling, fully awake. I thought about what a waste of time this project had been and how tired I would be at work tomorrow.

After an especially long day at work, I got home, gathered my tools once again and prepared to rectify my problem. My wife looked at me, shook her head, and proceeded to fix dinner. I knew she was impressed with me and probably would say so to the other sisters in the ward.

As I unplugged the refrigerator and lifted my wrench in preparation for taking the handle off, I opened the door just a crack. A blast of cold air swept across my face. Coming to my senses, I hesitated, and pondered what I was about to do.

This was nuts. I knew the reasons for switching the door in the first place were valid. Why had I changed my mind? Moreover, why was I so quick to put things back as they were before?
Closing the door, I walked into the family room to contemplate my situation.

OK, I made the change because it would make for easier access when taking items from the refrigerator to the kitchen for meal preparation. It only made good sense. So what went wrong? I thought again about last night when in sleepy stupor I hit my hand causing me to wake up and have a difficult day at work due to lack of sleep.

Then it came to me. Even though I knew that over time I would adapt to the new way the door opened, I still had to go through the transition time and it would be “painful.”

I laughed at myself and resolved to endure the transition in order to achieve my desired goal.

It has now been many years and another house ago since that event. I still marvel at how difficult making such a minor change was in my life. We all need to recognize the transition stage of change is hard and there will be a large desire to go back to the way things were, but we must persist. Whenever we decide to make a change in our life, the transition time will be long and difficult. It can, however, be overcome with patience, persistence, understanding and proper motivation. By sticking it out we will eventually relish in the harvest of positive change.

Until next time …

~ Russ


  1. Seriously, thank you so much for a message as simple, yet as profound as this. I am coming off of over a year of unemployment, and now expecting our first baby in less than 3 weeks. I do now have a 2 month job lined up, and plans to work at the Utah State Hospital as a patient advocate after that, yet after over a year of not much of anything really, it's some major change. Thank you!!

  2. Is emotional eating considered an addiction? I commit to change each and every day, but whenever I get upset I eat and eat and don't even realize it. How do I get the change to "stick"?

  3. Anonymous: I'll be addressing addictions next month. I hope it helps.

  4. Brown Family: Congratulations on your new baby, your job, and the hopes of working at the USH. Perhaps I'll see you there.
    Thanks for the kind words.