Chris McCandless - later known as Alexander Supertramp, subject of the book "Into the Wild"
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” – Lain 10/99 (From a letter by C. McCandless – Printed in “Into the Wild” by J. Krakauer)
A few years ago I found this quote framed in a home. It was when I was working in the real estate industry and I was showing the home to buyers. Immediately the quote resonated for me and made sense to me. It seemed to bring a comfort of its own, even in the midst of challenging comfort. It made me feel that I wasn’t crazy for wanting such an exceptional life and for craving change. Change…the quote gave me a new perspective on change.
A lot has happened and changed in my life since then…but isn’t that how life works? If there is any one thing you can count on, it’s the fact that things will change. There’s always change. And if anything, my connection with that quote seemed to open up my life to truly embracing what it meant.
This quote poses a few questions for me: How do I initiate change and how do I handle accepting change? What kinds of changes make more impact – internal changes or outward/material changes? Which should come first – the internal or outward changes (think the chicken or the egg concept here)? And my personal favorite, how essential is “willingness” in the whole scheme of change? What questions do you ask yourself when you read the quote?
Now this does tie back to the theme of my blog (experiences)…I thought of this recently when I began taking an inventory of the recent experiences I have had. My life has recently had an immense amount of change. Some of it is change that I have initiated and some is change that is affecting me from outside myself. Traveling has brought about quite a few of the external changes – from missing connecting flights and being stuck in Seville for New Year’s Eve (like that sounds horrible), to going back to work for myself and simplifying my life to less than 20 storage bins…change is the theme of what I am experiencing. I like seeing the evidence of these changes as well – less work stress and more creative work, more time with family and friends, and new friendships.
Don’t get me wrong though – I’m not saying that security and stability in and of themselves are bad or wrong things. They’re great and natural to pursue, achieve, and healthy to have in our lives. What I am saying is that I’m discovering it looks different from what most people say it looks like. How’s that you ask…well, I don’t need furniture and an established house to feel settled. I realize that this also has a lot to do with personality – being open to and initiating of change does not mean you have to go without owning a home and furniture. It depends on knowing yourself and your personality and on seasons and phases in life. I’ve certainly had my seasons in life where I lived in a home with my furniture and a yard and the 9-5 job…in getting to know myself and as I came into a new season in my life, I found I didn’t want those things and for that matter that I don’t need those things to feel secure and stable.
So we can see that this quote brings change to my mind, but what does it say to us about security being dangerous? Can security be dangerous? I think it can be dangerous in a subtle way. The quote seems to be telling us that if we do everything simply for our comfort and security, it can squelch a spirit of adventure. To which you may say “Well, I’m not adventurous”. Nothing wrong with that. Despite what securities and comforts we have in our life, we can still nurture an adventurous spirit in the form of a willingness to initiate and accept change in a positive manner.
Here are some check points for myself that I have developed to test when security may become dangerous:
- when I find myself not willing to initiate or accept change in a way that is good for myself
- when I know deep inside that I am settling, and
- when my unwillingness to initiate change within myself, and/or the way I accept change outside of myself, is harming or could harm others.
The same year I found this quote I framed it and gave it as a Christmas gift to someone very special in my life. At the time, that person liked change and recognized it – that is, in everything but within themselves. The more they were unwilling to initiate change within themselves, the more they handled external change poorly. This became dangerous not only to me, but continues to be dangerous for them and those in their life. Maybe that is one of the harder things in life…the willingness to initiate change within ourselves. I’ve come to believe that it is where it is the most important. It has taught me that willingness is essential to initiating and accepting change and most importantly, that it has to start within ourselves. I cannot change others, only myself, and I cannot make others willing, only myself.
Here’s to initiating and embracing change and going without the dangers of security!