I heard an interesting adage the other day. You can’t push the river. It was used in reference to having patience for change. I really appreciated the metaphor for a couple of reasons. First, I love the imagery. Take a moment and try to imagine someone trying to actually push a river. Standing there with their hands in the water, pushing as the water just flows around them.
A river is a great analogy for the change process. Imagine the start of the river as where you are now and somewhere down stream is where you want to be. There are so many ways we can resist it. We can start by not even getting in the river. That’s a great way to avoid change. Unless we get pushed in or trip and fall in, we can pretty successfully stay where we are.
Even once we are in the river there are things we can do to resist change. We can try to swim upstream, back to where we were. Or even just swim to the side and stop with partial change. We can grab onto rocks and branches and do our best to stop the flow towards change.
Sometimes we use other people to stop change. We may drag down others that are in the river with us in an effort to not change ourselves. If we have people in our lives who don’t want us to change they may even swoop by in a helicopter and pull us out so their lives aren’t disrupted by change.
But what about when we do want to change? We are largely at the mercy of the river. Sure, we might be able to assist in ways but as the saying goes, you can’t push the river. Just like the river moves at its own speed, so does the process of change. People often ask how long change will take. The frustrating answer is that it takes as long as it takes.
And just like a river may meander in some places and rush through rapids in others, change is going to go at the pace it needs to, when it needs to. Most of the things we want to change about ourselves didn’t just happen overnight. They have been happening for years. And although we want things to change overnight, it can take time to unravel years of habits, training and learning that got us to where we are.
So patience, as frustrating as that can be, is the key. Do what you can to help your change process. And at the same time, know that the river of change moves at its own pace…no matter how hard you try to push.