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  • Writer's pictureHeather Koubek

Change actually requires stumbling blocks

Let me just say this for anyone who needs to hear it: making a big shifts in one's life is never a linear process. Never a straight and predictable line. NEVER. I've known this for a while, but just learned there is actually science behind it.

To keep it simple: ALL of us are complex bio-psycho-social systems. That means that the many facets of our individual existence (physical, emotional, spiritual & environmental) are all in the mix when we decide change is needed. Change requires what's called a POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOP (hereby to be referred to as PFL) , which adds a disruptor into your biopsychosocial cocktail, so things will start to percolate. Negative feedback loops (NFS) work their asses off to keep everything the same- that's what homeostasis is. But if you have begun to work on something in your life, homeostasis (NFS) ain't where it's at for you anymore. You began this journey because things weren't working so hot for you where you were. SO, these disruptors, as generated by the PFL to achieve these goals, override the NFL’s that have been keeping us still and same. This overruling, my friends, can make us feel all kinds of awful. And scared. And discouraged. Because there is simply no complex system that welcomes change easily.

Now please add something else into this already intricate mix that is the individual human experience mentioned above. We, in and of ourselves, are also components of larger complex systems. Our family units, cultural norms, communities, genders, religions, professional lives. Thus, when we move into a state of a PFL, we inadvertently generate change in all the systems in which we are a part of. We create a PFL in all the systems we touch! To steal an analogy from an amazing instructor of mine, think of an infant’s mobile hanging over their cribs; move one part of that mobile, and all the other parts have to move with it. PFL’s can create resistance, generate fear, and can produce further stumbling blocks in this process. Our environments may push back!! This can be experienced overtly or subconsciously; because frankly, being in a state of PFL can feel downright disorienting. Systems wants to feel in balance. But the truth is, imbalance in a system is what makes it grow, evolve and adapt even better.

Being this arbiter of change can be exhausting. It will make you want to crawl into a hole and wish you never began. But the amazing reality is, your growth positively affects the systems around you. Your trailblazing creates shifts in systems that are static both intrinsically and externally. All of this discomfort is how complex systems actually survive over time. But to narrow this lens a bit, this individual journey of yours involves many facets, some of which are your own, some of which belong to others.

The amazing news is that our systems are literally built to adapt (thank you Darwin, for eyeballing this early in the game.) Taking one step forward and two steps back is actually a natural part of this process, as our complex systems try to make sense of new information and experience. Instability is purposefully created (PFL), which sometimes triggers us to want to go back to the same old shit (NFL). So, please take a deep breath, give yourself and your individual, gorgeous systems patience and grace. Know that while the path may take some hairy turns, and you WILL stumble over some boulders, this is all part of the normal process when change occurs in a complex system that also exists in complex systems. And give yourself mad props for taking this insane leap into new things. It will be worth it.

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