Are YOU a Victim, a Student or a Master?

By Mike George

Life means change and change signifies the flowing and flowering nature of life.  Life, like a river, is always on the move. Unfortunately we tend to learn that we have to ‘damn’ the river as we try to stop the flow and ‘hold on’ to a) the way things are and b) what we think we have acquired from the river.  This is known as the ‘Damn It!’ philosophy of change management!  A few will learn to practice the ‘Judo’ philosophy, continuously letting go of the old so that they can welcome and ‘embrace the new’, thereby creating ways to flow with and not against the river of life.

Do YOU fear change?  Are you practicing the Damn It! philosophy?  Do you find yourself resisting people and situations?  Any form of resistance anywhere, anytime, means you fear change.  It means you ‘believe’ you are about to lose something, as any kind of fear is always the sign of ‘imagined’ future loss.  The eight most common things that people fear losing when their resistance starts to show up are in the areas of position, power, pay, possessions, people, prestige, privileges or personality.

In the past two decades the ‘change management industry’, established and sustained by an army of highly paid consultants and trainers, have preached their gospels on how to meet, measure, manage and be a master of change in the world.  One of their mantras is:  the only thing in this world that doesn’t change is change itself.  But it looks like they may have missed the main trick!  For there is something else that never changes and that is ‘the one’ that observes change happening.  The one who watches, witnesses and waits on change is none other than ones ‘self’.  It is the one thing that never comes and goes!

The management of change implies that change can be controlled, but the real master of change knows that they can neither control any change in the world ‘out there’ and nor do they need to.  And they definitely do not want to!  But they are aware that they can influence the flow of change. The master of change has realized that change at all levels, from the material to the mental, from events to circumstances, is like background music in a movie, it simply plays through, behind and around every scene.  The symphony of life is called change.  And the symphony is always playing out exactly as it should.

Many of us see ourselves as victims of change, always blaming and complaining about how life is getting in the way of our happiness.  Some of us are students of change, attempting to work out why life throws up people, events and circumstances the way it does, always looking for better techniques and methods to not be affected and stressed by the unexpected and unwanted.  A few are masters of change, fully aware but undisturbed by anything that happens around them.  For the victim of change life is continuously stressful, for the student of change life is both a struggle and a teacher, for the master of change life is a dance.  The consultants and the trainers need victims and students of change otherwise they would be out of a job!  The last thing they want in their strategy meetings or their classrooms is a master of change, as they would then have to become the student!

So what are you?  A victim, a student or a master?  Here are some other signs and symptoms of each and an opportunity to see where you sit along the spectrum.

Perception of Change

The victim of change is always singing the song of, “Why is this happening to me?”, as they attribute their loss of happiness to someone or something ‘out there’.  The student of change endeavors to view any changes in the world ‘out there’, that are about to have an impact on the way they live and work, not as events that might force them to lose something, but as opportunities to gain something.  They are practitioners of ‘the shift’ from the ‘Damn It’ philosophy of change management, which states that you must hang on to everything in your life, to the ‘Judo’ philosophy of change management, which states that all change is simply energy coming towards you and the wise thing to do is embrace it and make it’s direction and momentum work for you.  The student’s aim is therefore to enact a shift in their perception of change from ‘possible loss’ to ‘probable gain’.  The change master on the other hand has already realised they have nothing to lose for they know that ‘in reality’ they possess nothing, so they are never ‘threatened’ by any event in the continuously changing world ‘out there’.  Free of the belief in loss, free of the desire to gain, they are free to meet life as it happens wholeheartedly, without prejudice, preference or expectation.

Capacity to Cope

In any enclosed ‘change process’, as happens within organizations, the victim of change can only handle so much.  They quickly reach their limit and shout, “Enough is enough, I can’t take any more”.  Or they start to fight with those who seem to be initiating the changes.  The change student, on the other hand, either a) seeks to understand why things around here need to change or b) endeavors to see their situation as an opportunity to increase their capacity to cope.  But they are still holding themselves in a struggle with life.  The change master has reached a point where they no longer have to cope with anything.  They have realized the very nature of life outside the self is ‘change’ but that the true nature of the self is stillness.  They know that around stillness change must flow like water around a rock.  The change master is like a rock, touched by the changing world, but never shaken, never disturbed.  They allow change to flow around and through their life but they are no longer shaped by it.

Ready, Willing and Able

The change victim is always complaining about their stress.  Any signs if stress means they are either not ready for the world to change, not willing to face change or they are not able to deal effectively with whatever changes are happening.   The change student may have recognized that the pace of change in the world is only going to continue accelerating.  They are therefore continuously ‘working’ on themselves in order to be more ready, more willing and more able to deal with it.  Their learning involves a conscious effort to shift from reacting to responding thereby restoring self control in the face of ‘the uncontrollable’.  To the change master there are no surprises so they are always able to respond appropriately.   They don’t have to ‘get’ ready, for they are always ready.  They don’t have to become willing to face whatever happens, as they have no intention of avoiding anything or anyone.

Alone or Lonely

With the tendency to take things personally the victim of change frequently feels abandoned and alone when faced with change.  The change student is continuously struggling to overcome feelings of separation, isolation and aloneness when they meet the challenges of a changing world.  They even learn to hold out their hand and assist others to cope with the changes knowing, that as they help others, they help themselves.  The change master, on the other hand, never feels isolated in a changing world for they know that everything is unbreakably interconnected at a more invisible level.  They know and are constantly aware that we are all ‘in this’ (game of life) together.  The change master never feels lonely for they know and accept separation as a natural condition of the material world.  They know they are always alone!   Connected yet separated, alone but never lonely, the change masters universe seems to be filled with paradox and apparent contradictions.  But to the change master there are no contradictions, no paradoxes, for all is one, and all is as it should be.

Mastering change is not about using pre-designed or learned techniques, strategies or tools.  Becoming a master of change is the realisation of a completely new perception of the world and of ones role in the world.  From their still and silent centre the change master sees that the world around them is in a constant state of flux, it is simply the energies of life rising and falling, ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning, and as it does it simply is as it is.  From this awareness the master of change acts, which means ‘creates their response’, from inside out, informed and shaped by the wisdom that is found in the unchanging stillness of their being, and not from the exhortations, demands, desires or the pleas of others.

Question: Where on the spectrum – victim, student, master – would you currently position your self?

Reflection: When things happen in some parts of the world they say, “Don’t just sit there, do something!”  But in other parts of the world they say, “Don’t just do something, sit there!”  Why the different responses and what is the difference between the two?

Action: Awareness exercise – take five minutes at the end of each day this week, review the day, and decide in which mode you were in (victim/student/master) at various points during the day.