Yesterday I was swimming laps at the pool when I spotted a toddler about two years old sitting on the edge of the pool in the next lane. She was contemplating whether or not she wanted to “jump” into her father’s waiting arms. She was nervous and hesitated. She attempted to leave her safe place sitting at the pool’s edge a few times by leaning forward and then decided each time to stay put. Her father was smiling, encouraging her and patiently awaiting her decision. He didn’t pressure or rush her. Clearly, this was to be her decision and she would go when and if she was good and ready. After a few false starts, she finally let go and landed in his welcoming arms. He congratulated her with a big hug and a smile and she squealed with pride and delight. You can picture this scene, right?
It made me think of how we as adults are faced with such decisions in our lives, those moments when we are willing, ready and able to leave the safe, or at least known, place where we are and step-or leap-into a risky next step. This is a much more challenging process than we usually give ourselves credit for, since we are not likely to be landing in safe and welcoming arms and are not necessarily celebrated, or even acknowledged, for our bravery. And, every new step toward something new or unknown does require significant bravery. Any change is challenging for most of us, but a risk into the unknown is downright terrifying at times. I remember when I bought my first condo in 1997 and was terrified about taking on the responsibility of home ownership. No more landlord to call if an appliance broke, if there was a plumbing problem or if the roof needing to be replaced. It became up to me to take care of it. It felt new, unknown and very scary. I did make that leap and got accustomed to the new status in my life. And, though there were big decisions to be made at times, it ended up being far less overwhelming than I had imagined at first. Same thing when I opened by own business and again when became a Mom.That’s the way change is. We anticipate, often fear and then adapt. I am not a risk-averse person and I generally relish change for the challenge and growth that I know by now is inevitable eventually. But there are time, even for me that change is downright scary, and that is when it requires me to access parts of myself that doesn’t feel strong or sure or when I can’t anticipate the outcome.
I work with clients daily who struggle with taking a leap to the next step in their life: leaving an unsatisfying job, starting or ending a relationship, traveling alone for the first time or, most challenging of all, facing the fear that arises from a deep piece of personal growth work that involves painful feelings, memories or experiences. I know that eventually almost everyone is able to adapt to change, no matter how scary it feels at first, but it sure helps to have faith in yourself or in the process of change and to be appreciated and congratulated once you have made the leap. No one ever promised that this journey called life would be easy. Finding yourself suspended in mid-air with only faith and a cheering section to buoy you is required at times. You can do, and you must do it when you believe that NOT doing it will only limit you or keep you stuck. As the writer Anais Nin so beautifully said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” This is one of the most powerful reasons why clients choose to work with a therapist or a life coach, to have metaphorical “arms to jump into” when risking to blossom.