6 Ways to Make Change Your Friend
Sometimes you don’t get to vote on change.
I’d had increasingly uncomfortable symptoms for months. But I wasn’t expecting this news. “You have a tumor and it’s definitely cancer.” The doctor’s tone was definitely doctor-ish but seemed optimistic. He laid out his plan for surgery, then a biopsy (to make sure the cancer wasn’t spreading), followed by a course of treatment and regular tests for the next couple years.
We had a plan.
Now, it was clearly my choice how to respond to the spectrum of emotions that surged through me as soon as the dreaded “c” word had come out of his mouth. It took summoning up every ounce of courage I could muster but I knew a positive approach was the only fricking choice. I told my doctor, “One thing’s for sure: I’ll have a story to tell.” His smiling response came quickly: “That’s a good attitude to have.” My reply: “Well, I have two choices: fear for the worst or do everything I can to achieve the best possible outcome. And then live to talk about it.”
Fortunately my choice worked. Now six years cancer free, I am at a level of health and fitness I have not enjoyed in about 30 years. Some changes had to happen in my life to get here.
I’ve been a seeker since I was a teenager, an early adopter of meditation, yoga, vegetarian, even raw foods lifestyle (before it became so mainstream). I was familiar with the process of change. I welcomed it, even relished it. But I had never faced a life-threatening situation before, one that caused me to look at my life so deeply, beyond even the diagnosis that occupied my mind, heart, and body.
1. Keep creating yourself continuously.
The philosopher Henri Bergson once said,
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
I have discovered in my nature a frequent desire to coast, to lie fallow, to soak in the beauty of what is, instead of swimming briskly in the cauldron of creation. Why change when it feels so good just to lie there? Inertia is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. The …. Power…. Of …. Doing …. Nothing.
The truth is that I rarely believe change should be avoided -– in fact most people who know me are aware of the profound career and life changes I’ve undertaken at several points in my life. Nevertheless my programming, passed down from countless generations and reinforced by civilization today, warns me to resist change till it’s absolutely necessary, to not get too caught up in all this “creativity stuff”. After all, be practical! Enjoy life, sure, but kick back often and don’t risk too much.
One small problem. Resisting change doesn’t work.
Here’s the good news: what if the act of creating oneself endlessly is exactly what we’re all designed to do — children of a universe that is constantly creating and spinning off new stars and planets – and we just haven’t accepted our mission yet?
2. Move your body every day
I’m a former dancer who’s dancing my heart out again, thanks to two titanium hips, courtesy of an exceptional doctor who has made me bionic. So yes I’m thrilled every day I get to dance and move my body. But more importantly I’ve learned that since life is a process of continuous change – have a look at Nature in case you’re doubting that last statement – I better learn to move with it.
More importantly, human beings are profoundly emotional by nature. Cover up those emotions, repress them, or deny them, and we’re living a life that stagnates. We are living, breathing, feeling beings and the sooner we recognize and celebrate that, the better! We can also get stuck in those feelings, right?
Every morning I start with a short meditation that leads to a dance. I move! First thing in the morning. Every day. No exceptions and no excuses. The movement is fun sure. That’s a good enough reason to do it. But it also helps me move through things more quickly in my life. Joyful movement helps me process things quickly, reduce stress, and widen my perspective.
3. Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. — Oscar Wilde
Apparently I have a flair for the dramatic as my health “journey” did not end with successful surgery for the cancerous tumor. Treatments to ensure the cancer wouldn’t regrow led to a series of ultimately life-threatening staph infections. Eventually I was cured of staph, but a rapid deterioration in two of my joints meant that I now required double hip replacement. As if that prospect wasn’t daunting enough, my mother’s passing in the middle of my surgeries hit me like a head-on collision. I was reeling. My roots were torn from under me. My heart ached.
The need to change wasn’t finished. I spent many days and nights reflecting, meditating, fighting back fear and worry. Eventually my heart showed me that both my work life and married life needed to change in order to truly be myself, to find a whole, healthy, fulfilled life again. I knew I needed to be myself. Completely.
4. Carpe diem… seriously
Seize the day! Throw caution to the wind! Breathe, enjoy, sing, dance, love!!! That has been my MO for the past five years. (I encourage you not to wait till a scary diagnosis makes it a priority.)
5. Don’t fear change; fear the poison of being stuck.
Yes I realized change was necessary. I stepped down from the position of CEO of a wonderful mission-driven organization I had helped to found. I stepped away from a 25-year marriage.
I realized that my gifts to sing, to dance, to write, to inspire had been in hibernation too long, and now it was time. Yes I knew I had to change myself profoundly in order to find the deep fulfillment and soul nourishment I knew I deserved.
I had changed just about every facet of my life and the process was frightening, lonely, exhilarating, and ultimately, incredibly liberating.
6. Get your creative groove on.
Soon after my second hip surgery, I started a project with a former college roommate, Emmy-award winning composer Gary Malkin, breathing new life into my singing skills. Four years later we’re performing regularly at festivals and conferences around the theme What Makes Your Heart Sing. (Over Memorial Day weekend in the US, we’ll be performing at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival.)
I hired a voice coach to polish up the old instrument so I could really enjoy the gift again. I started going to dance sessions to rebuild my leg and hip strength and get my mojo back. I started traveling to amazing cultures found in Tunisia, South Africa, Italy, Morocco.
I became addicted to using my iphone to capture every imaginable scene from nature and life …purely for the fun and inspiration of enjoying beauty and sharing it with others. I started to embrace what I call being a renaissance human — expressing the artistic, playful, inspirational and business sides of myself in one integrated package called me.
Humanity needs more people recreating themselves every day, living fully, singing their hearts out, just because. Maybe peace will come that way. New solutions for intractable problems too.
Creativity as the elixir for a new world.
Change, create yourself again and again…. and live fully. That’s my mantra now.
About the author
Bruce Cryer is the Founder of Vybrato, an innovative transformation network blending the breathtaking promise of technology with the sacred power of the arts. He is also co-CEO of the new conscious media company WholeLife.com. He has been a business executive, Mentor, writer, speaker, keynote performer, photographer and co-founder of the project “What Makes Your Heart Sing?” designed to awaken inspiration in people and organizations. For 11 years he served as CEO for HeartMath, the acclaimed stress reduction tools and technology company. A former actor/singer/dancer on Broadway, he is the co-author of From Chaos to Coherence: The Power to Change Performance, and the Harvard Business Review article, “Pull the Plug on Stress.”