Sunday, November 20, 2016

“Understanding the Science of Change” by Jacqui Henry


Before ... After
Change is a constant whether you're ready for it or not. Change is always here and it's always coming!   It is something we have to live with regardless of race, gender or political leanings.  We are all subject to a slew of life-altering physical, personal and environmental experiences from the moment of conception till our last breath of life. We are all affected by global revolutions in finance, politics and technology accompanied by shifts in migration, which significantly impact our communities and families.

The truth is change will be our constant companion throughout life, so manoeuvring the constant adaptations to our human experience is crucial if we want to win at this thing we all call Life.

Whenever I speak to someone who migrated to Canada 20 years ago or more, all they seem to talk about is the relentless transformation of Canada’s landscape with its ever-increasing tapestry of cultures and races or its ever-expanding metropolises in Toronto, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver.  

“That was all farm land when I first got here” is what you’ll hear people say time and time again – as they bemoan Canada’s disappearing countryside that has been mercilessly usurped by subdivision upon subdivision of cookie-cutter suburbs.  But, mostly they complain of soaring property prices and the cost of the living – however, take a step back and analyze what they’re really saying and you’ll quickly realize they’re  just recounting their experiences of change.  

The overwhelming sense you get from hearing these accounts of earlier migrants to Canada is that their lives today are the direct outcomes of how they faced the constant adjustments to their migrant experience. Consequently, taking a moment to reflect on the impact of change on their day-to-day lives is important, because in this way we can discover what essential life lessons lay hidden in their stories of success, disaster and indifference.

So, what can we ascertain from those further down this path who overcame such perilous tides of change?  Well firstly, attitude is everything! You can, with the right attitude, make change a positive experience and in this manner, rule out the negative.

One approach when faced with a situation you cannot alter is to respond by shifting your attitude.   James Allen wrote about this principle more than 100 years ago in his book, As a Man Thinketh (1903).  He reminds us so that, “A person is limited only by the thoughts that he chooses…” 

This means when you can’t change your situation you should instead change how you think about it and in so doing turn the tables in your favour.  With this simple method applied effectively, you then have the tools to transform your life by changing your perspective.  

The other important rule is to keep calm and carry on. When you see a lot of change it’s easy to panic and make a rash decision in response. Instead, make your decision from a calm rational place, weigh your decision against who you are as a person, your value base and by the goals you set before the change happened. With this approach you may be required to adjust your plans but you don’t have to abandon them.

Give yourself some time to think. One of the known habits of successful people is they take time each day to think!  Really think, giving themselves a designated amount of time each day for considered thought.   We would all greatly benefit from shutting ourselves off from the world for 30 minutes of quiet contemplation each day and in so doing allow the solutions we seek to come in search of us instead of the other way around. We can always find answers but only when we make ourselves available to them.  

Also, those people who really want to win at the game of change will always increase their knowledge – the Internet is here to stay, so why not learn how to use it and begin Skyping friends and loved ones you left back home.

The best way to manage change is to be intentional and stay proactive as a means of keeping pace with life’s many variations.  

In my assessment of the stories I have heard, I have found change generally produces three kinds of people, those who resent change and complain, whine and wallow in self-pity because of it. Then there are those who completely reject it by signing off from life preferring to hang a ‘closed for good’ sign on their door.  And then there are those who regardless of how many times they are knocked down keep rising to the top – armed with determination in one hand and steel-like focus in the other.

People like this take on change as fearless warriors and, despite the obstacles, they triumph at life.   As a newer migrant myself, these are the types of people I am sticking with.  After all they say – “Show me your friends and I will show you your future”.  

So when you see change all around you, try to stay positive – it’s easy to set aside the hopes and dreams you had when you first came to Canada, choosing to put them on the back burner, remembering them only as the crazy ramblings of a mad person.  Change does bring challenges, I will admit that, but it can also come with unexpected opportunities and new prospects, it really just depends on you.

Keep riding the tide now, voyageurs!


Jacqui Henry was born and raised in London, England, but has lived in Toronto for the past six years.  She is very passionate about community and has provided management consultation and leadership to numerous non-profit organizations over many years.  Drawing from her own experience Jacqui is very committed to helping newcomers settle and establish themselves in Canada. This article was first published in African Immigrant Magazine. Check out another of Jacqui's articles on AIM here

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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