Move Slowly If You Must, But Move

Sometimes a paradigm shift looks like a tiny change. If we want change, even slow movement will serve us better than immobilization. We don’t have to rush, but we do have to move.

Of late, a large enough number of friends and acquaintances is making big changes in their lives (leaving one geographic location for another, contemplating switching jobs, etc.) that I’ve started to think there’s something in the water. Or rather, they WANT to make big changes, but are leery of the implications of those changes. They are tired of the profession they’re in, ready to move to a location that suits them better, or otherwise ready to initiate some kind of paradigm shift, a significant change to some aspect of their lives that has reverberations throughout all other aspects of their lives.

But they are afraid to do anything drastic, for fear of the unknown, a very powerful fear since it is by definition unidentifiable. So they are at a standstill, wanting something different, but unable to picture it clearly and fearful of making a misstep. Note that this is not a judgment, but rather an observation. And these fears and desires, in my experience with paradigm shifts in recent years, are a necessary precursor to any meaningful action. Given that I have shifted paradigms several times, when the friends in question ask for advice, I have some to give. Whether it’s good or not is a separate question, but it basically amounts to, “Move slowly if you must, but move.” I haven’t always been able to articulate it quite so pithily, but there it is.

Let’s say, for instance, that you want to change careers, which one of my friends does. This friend dislikes her job and has a vague sense of the kind of thing she’d like to be doing, if relatively little experience doing it. So there are three challenges here: no clarity, no credibility, and no self-confidence. When she asked me for advice, I suggested she volunteer one or two times a week at something resembling what she thinks she wants to be doing professionally. Even if it’s only a vague notion, it’s something to go on.

That would help her begin to address all three of the aforementioned problems – slowly. My friend would be able to say “I like/dislike this type of work,” which would be useful information to apply to subsequent decisions. She would gain some experience and perhaps some connections. And she would likely start to feel good for having taken some action, which could lead to additional action. Equally importantly, doing something like this would require very little change to the status quo.

I know that doesn’t sound like a paradigm shift. We think of them as happening quickly, like the way winning the lottery changes everything. (Well, I would imagine that’s what it’s like to win the lottery; I haven’t had the pleasure.) But when the situation is within our control, such shifts actually can start small, as I described elsewhere. And they are more likely to stick if we do them slowly, because we have time to adjust our expectations and attitudes along the way.

tortoise and hare, turtle and hare, rabbit, turtle, tortoiseThe point is, as I have mentioned to my friends, if we want to make a change, it is important to move, even if we must move slowly. We might find we pick up speed in some places and slow down in others, but if we just move, we’ll make it to the next step. That next step might not lead us exactly where we think it will, but it will be where we’re supposed to go.

So what does this have to do with BJJ? Well, reread the previous paragraph. Does any of that sound familiar or like something your coach might say? As in life, it might not be the only way to move, but if we have no other ideas, it’s a place to start.

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