Sunday 1 January, 11.30 a.m.
The roads were quiet as Steve, Lynn and Nicky set out to see Ian
and Irene Brown on New Year’s Day – as they had done each
January 1st for the past 10 years.
‘This is the first time in two months I’ll have seen Irene,’ pointed
‘Quite,’ observed Steve. ‘And how has she taken to being pruned
back in our social garden?’
‘Well, she did ask a couple of weeks ago if she’d done anything
to upset me,’ replied Lynn.
‘Funnily enough, Ian stopped asking for United tickets when I
turned him down three times in a row,’ observed Steve.
‘And have you missed his company?’ asked Lynn.
‘Well, no – but, in a funny sort of way, I’m looking forward to
catching up today,’ he replied.
The Mondeo approached an unfamiliar road junction.
‘This is all different since we were here last,’ said Lynn.
‘Yep, look at the road sign,’ added Steve. ‘CHANGED PRIORITIES
AHEAD. Rather apt, given the conversation, don’t you think?’
Lynn’s phone bleeped with a new text message:
How are you coping with change?
‘This is weird,’ suggested Lynn, reading out the text.
‘It’s as if someone is playing games with us,’ said Steve. ‘Watching
our every move.’
‘So, how are we coping with change, Steve?’ asked Lynn.
‘Well, what change?’ asked Steve. ‘Seeing Ian and Irene less often?’
‘As a starter, yes,’ offered Lynn.
‘Well, that’s working out for the better,’ said Steve. ‘And so are
the other changes with our friends. I don’t particularly detect
many noses out of joint.’
‘Well, Mum’s was at first,’ replied Lynn. ‘She thought I just didn’t
want to see her as often. But in fairness, I see her when my time
allows – and she’s keeping Nicky when I’m at yoga.’
‘And on a couple of occasions when I’ve been playing football,’
‘What about the changes at work?’ asked Lynn.
‘Well, that’s just been a nightmare since the Bulldog replaced
Craig,’ said Steve. ‘I don’t know how anybody is meant to cope
‘Perhaps you need to stand up to him,’ suggested Lynn.
‘And lose my job?’ replied Steve. ‘No thanks. Not with a mort-
gage, wife and child to support.’
‘Well, you’ve made positive changes with your staff,’ offered
‘True,’ replied Steve. ‘And in fairness, they’ve responded more
positively since I took a more “fatherly” approach this last fort-
night. Anyway, enough about me. What about you?’
‘What about me?’ came Lynn’s cautious reply.
‘Well, you’ve had to cope with a huge change since going back
to full-time work in September,’ prompted Steve.
‘Yes, and at the same time seeing Nicky start school and after-
school club, which made me feel terribly guilty,’ replied Lynn.
‘You don’t still feel guilty?’ asked Steve.
‘Sometimes I do,’ came her candid reply. ‘Especially when I get a
phone call to say he’s been sick in class, which happened in his
second week. Remember?’
‘I’d forgotten that,’ said Steve.
‘Well, I haven’t,’ replied Lynn. ‘It was terrible timing, as I was run-
ning my first seminar and was unable to go and pick him up.’
‘Oh, I remember,’ recalled Steve. ‘Your mum went to get him.’
‘On two buses,’ added Lynn. ‘Hence the guilt.’
Having been stuck behind a tractor for the previous three miles,
Steve put his foot down to overtake. But the car responded less
quickly than he anticipated and he was forced to abort the
‘Steve, be careful!’ screamed Lynn. ‘We’re not in the BMW
‘And that’s another thing,’ suggested Steve. ‘It’s been very diffi-
cult going from being Regional Sales Director of the Year – driving
a top-of-the-range car – to being an idiot, in Dave’s eyes, driving
a Ford Mondeo.’
‘You’re such a car snob,’ prodded Lynn. ‘I don’t care what car
‘Well I do,’ replied Steve.
‘So not coping too well with that change, Steve?’ teased Lynn.
‘Very funny,’ replied Steve, unamused. ‘Anyway, your job – how
are you dealing with it?’
‘It’s a bit scary,’ began Lynn. ‘I did feel very vulnerable going back
after almost five years away. Everything had changed: the com-
puters, the methods, some of the people. But I have to say, I have
felt much better about it the last month or so.’
‘More confident?’ asked Steve.
‘Yes, getting there,’ was Lynn’s less-than-confident reply.
‘So are you a north-easterner yet?’ he probed, referring to their
positioning on the Confidence Compass.
‘As I say, getting there,’ said Lynn. ‘I do feel as if I’m running after
people less and doing a bit more of what I want. And what about
you? Have you turned the corner yet?’
‘Well, I have played five-a-side a few times recently,’ Steve sug-
‘Still rather driven though,’ replied Lynn.
‘Come on, you can’t expect change overnight.’
‘No, but this year, Steve,’ pushed Lynn, ‘you should make that
your New Year’s Resolution.’
‘What – to be less driven?’ answered Steve. ‘Not much of a reso-
‘Well, if you’re less driven and more confident, you’ll find yourself
much happier,’ offered Lynn. ‘Surely it’s OK to resolve to be hap-
pier this year?’
‘It just sounds so pathetic. “I just want to be happy”,’ he mocked
in a feeble tone. ‘Sounds like the kind of thing your mum would
‘OK then,’ said Lynn, preparing herself for a challenge, ‘if you
were offered the choice of success at work or happiness, which
would you take?’
‘Success,’ replied Steve in an instant.
‘And if you were successful but unhappy, what would that make
you?’ she continued.
‘Successful!’ replied Steve triumphantly.
‘Successful yet unhappy,’ finished Lynn. ‘Now, if you were less
successful, yet happy, what would that make you?’ asked Lynn,
anticipating the same obtuse answer.
‘Less successful,’ came the predictable response.
‘Yet happy,’ finished Lynn, exasperated. ‘Whichever way you look
at it, Steve, if you’re happy, you’re happy – regardless of what life
throws at you. And that surely is real success.’
To change or not to change?
Being alive is really all about change.
This is because change is a central dynamic force in life itself.
Being at the core of the very process of living, it is therefore un-
avoidable and inescapable.
But how we perceive change, what meaning it holds for us and the
way in which we respond to it, is closely connected with how we
see ourselves and the world around us.
The extent to which change impacts upon us is related to our level
of self-worth and our sense of being able to cope with whatever
changes life brings our way.
Steve and Lynn are currently going through a series of significant
personal changes and they are occurring at a rate they have never
It’s all beginning to become a bit scary for them and out of their
For some years now, on the surface, their life together has just
been ticking along nicely, in the general way that we all tend to
expect and hope it will do. A few small glitches here and there,
interspersed with the odd significant life event such as the arrival
of Nicky, but nothing out of the ordinary run of the mill.
In recent times, the changes that Lynn and Steve have had to deal
with have been predictable if not actually planned.
They could choose if they wanted to make a change in their lives
and even when this would occur.
In other words, the nature and level of change they have experi-
enced to date has largely been under their own personal control.
They decided when to have a child together, if Lynn should return
to full-time work and, more recently, to see less of their friends
Ian and Irene, as well as to set some new clear boundaries in their
relationship with Lynn’s demanding mother.
Undoubtedly, this kind of predictable and planned change requires
some degree of personal adjustment. But most of the time it is rela-
tively straightforward and easy to deal with.
The challenge of unforeseeable change
By its very nature, life is unpredictable – it frequently involves
changes over which we have little or no control.
Unexpected and unforeseeable events occur to all of us, whether
we like them or not, and Steve and Lynn are no exception.
Steve had no influence over whether his old boss left or stayed
with the company and he was devastated when Craig moved on.
Until Craig actually left, he had no real idea of the astonishing con-
fidence-building effect his old boss had been having on him.
The dramatic arrival of Dave the Bulldog has been a great blow to
Steve and Dave is rapidly becoming a significant thorn in Steve’s
This, coupled with the replacement of his treasured BMW by the
Mondeo, has led to Steve’s self-confidence being given a massive
The more our confidence is built on external factors over which we
have little or no control, like they are with Steve, then the more
vulnerable we feel in the face of life’s changes.
Confidence is an inner state, rather than a set of circumstances.
The remarkable life of Christopher Reeve (the actor best known
for his role as Superman), who was paralysed from the neck down
following a horse riding accident, is a remarkable example of this
How he coped with this tragedy was a reflection of his inner con-
fidence and positive attitude.
In the same way, how well Lynn and Steve cope with the changes
happening to them will be dependent to a large extent on the level
of their inner state of self-confidence.
If this inner core of confidence is strong then they will feel less
vulnerable to the ‘slings and arrows’ of ordinary life, because it
is less dependent on external factors and events over which they
have minimal influence.
Fear of change
Fear of change is one of the biggest confidence killers.
Given the choice, most people shy away from it; they prefer things
around them to be consistent and to have a feeling of familiarity
and sameness about them, since this offers a sense of security.
But there is actually no real security in sameness, since it goes
against the flow of life, the essential nature of which is built around
the principle of constant change and growth.
The ever-changing, developing and evolving natural world around
us provides ample evidence of this fact. Summer becomes autumn,
becomes winter, becomes spring … becomes summer. Change is
essential for renewal to take place.
The Message of Life is clear:
A real sense of security for Steve and Lynn will develop when their
confidence is based on a healthy inner sense of self-worth and self-
A belief that they will cope with the changes that are coming their
way, whatever they may be.
Our level of confidence is at the heart of how well we deal with the
prospect of change.
After some 20 minutes in the car, the Mondeo pulled into Ian and
Irene Brown’s driveway.
Unexpectedly, Ian was standing at the door, looking rather agi-
‘Good God, look at Ian,’ said Lynn, sensing something wrong.
‘He looks as if he’s dreading this visit. Maybe their noses are out
Ian stepped over to Steve’s car door and started to open it for
‘Hi, Ian, nice to see you,’ began Steve, overcompensating for the
atmosphere he sensed.
‘Steve, I’m afraid I’ve got some, some really bad news for you,
mate,’ Ian began, falteringly.
‘What’s that?’ asked Steve, completely baffled.
‘It’s your mum. I’m afraid she’s passed away.’
Steve’s head flooded with emotions:
Shock at news for which he was completely unprepared.
Bewilderment that his friend was telling him about the death of
his own mother.
Guilt that it had been two years since he had last spoken to her.
‘What happened?’ was all that he could manage to utter.
‘She died of cancer,’ replied Ian. ‘My mum just phoned me an
hour ago to tell me. They still kept in touch, as you know.’
‘Of course,’ said Steve, now numb, ‘which is more than I did.’
Steve and his mother had had a huge row after his father’s fu-
neral seven years earlier, when he had dared to say what he had
thought of him.
His mother had initially put the row aside, but refused point blank
to speak to Steve after Christmas dinner five years later, when
Steve again spoke out loudly against his father, after getting
He’d gone even further by accusing his mother of standing back
and failing to challenge his father’s bullying behaviour.
‘When did she die?’ asked Steve.
‘Just yesterday,’ came the reply.
Instead of feeling relieved at picking up the news quickly, Steve
now knew he would face a dilemma over whether to attend the
Responding to change
The sudden news of his mother’s death raises many issues for
It is a classic example of the way in which the message that life is
unpredictable and ever changing can be brought home so starkly.
And there is no greater example of change than the cycle of birth
and death itself.
These experiences are part of the human condition and touch us
to our core.
Steve is left reeling from the shocking news.
Just how he copes with his grief will be a test of his ability to pro-
cess his feelings of sadness, denial, loss, anger and guilt that are
part of mourning.
Perhaps he will find a way to express his emotions without turning
to alcohol and burying himself in his work, which might hinder
the healing process.
Grieving cannot be dodged if real recovery is to take place.
But perhaps his mother’s death will act as a catalyst for growth and
change if Steve can find the courage to explore the personal mean-
ings and emotional messages for him that are contained within this
Every life experience, positive or negative, provides a hidden
opportunity to grow in self-confidence.