It’s Fall in Washington, DC.  As I revel in the leaves’ changing color, my thoughts turn to the process of change. A few years ago, I learned something amazing about how the leaves actually turn.  The green itself does not change into a different color. Rather, the chlorophyl that creates the green simply falls away, revealing these amazing reds, oranges and yellows that were there all the time. The leaves don’t make the new colors happen.  They just let go of what’s dominated.

There’s a lesson in this for us.  It’s easy to to assume that we have to actively transform ourselves in order to change. There’s something we have to DO, someone new we have to become.  While I think that’s true to some degree, the leaves are an annual reminder that there is also a more receptiveside to change.  Change also happens when we are willing to simply let something dominant – a long-held belief, a fear, a grudge, etc. – recede.

Here’s an example from my own life.  I face a continual battle with effort.  Effort is my “color green,” one of my most dominant characteristics. I tell myself that it’s essential to who I am, that it’s what makes me valuable, worthwhile, special.  So I live my life thinking that 100% of what I do needs 100% effort, 100% of the time. While this can be great, it’s also something of a mess.  I often expend more energy than is necessary or even useful.  I can get wound up in perfectionism and become judgmental of myself and others.  So, yes, on the one hand, I’m known for delivering consistently high quality.  And it’s also been said that I can be something of a control freak and a prima dona.

Sheer exhaustion forced me to let go of some of that effort.  And what I’ve noticed is that when I stop trying so hard, when I simply let some of my dominant effort recede, something different and quite nice emerges.  I become a bit more open, more collaborative, less tense…without trying.  It’s a whole different hue that shows up, with its own surprising beauty and value.

What about you?

  • What changes would you like to see in your life?
  • What has been your predominant strategy for bringing those about, and how has that worked?
  • If you took the other side and tried to get there by dropping your dominant strategy, what might appear in its place?
  • Are you willing to take the risk?  If so, what would be your first step?