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Would You Enter the Cocoon? Would You Change?

By Sequetta F. Sweet © 2007

Change can be disturbing. It is often seen as an invasion, attack, or inconvenience;
something that we like to put off for as long as we can. Let’s face it! We love our
comfort zones; like the pillow and mattress that have just the right creases in them
for the perfect position while we sleep; we love our comfort zones.

I’m sure most women are familiar with the following analogy. Change is like becoming
comfortable with or breaking in a pair of new shoes; getting them to feel just how you
want them to feel. These are the shoes that you wear from the house to the car and from
the car to an event before you change at the car into the beautifully designed
wear-only-twice-a-year shoes. These comfortable shoes are the shoes that you wear to
the grocery store or for a long day of errands. These shoes feel just right on your
pinky toe! One day you notice that somehow, they’ve begun to look a little worn and
scraped and weathered. You’ve cooked and served dinners at the church in them and
barbequed in the back yard in them. You’ve taken long walks with the dog in them and
played in the park with your children in them. You’ve even, in the early years, wore
them to work. Now they no longer look good even with a nice casual outfit. But they
feel so good on your pinky toe. You wish you had bought two pair of them when you bought
them. Now you can’t find anything quite like them. You don’t want to get rid of them
because they feel so good.

There are times when change can be daunting, uncomfortable, oh…the uncertainty of it all;
way more trouble than we feel it is worth. But without change there is no growth. There
is no progress without change. There is no increase without change. No renewal and
repositioning without change.

Consider the caterpillar. Not an especially beautiful or even useful creature; in fact,
kind of creepy looking. From birth, all she does is crawl and eat. She doesn’t think
she really serves any particular purpose other than to satisfy self; to creep and crawl
from branch to branch, from tree to tree and eat. In fact, she eats so much and
grows so profusely that she grows out of her skin several times during her existence;
each time not really learning from her mistake of overeating, not really coming to
a full understanding of her true purpose in life. So she once again starts eating,
plunging deeper into a self-serving existence.

Finally one day, not really comprehending why, into a cocoon, into a dark period,
a state of wonder, a state of struggle, of confusion, perplexity, uncertainty,
and bewilderment she goes. In other words, life happens – the death of a close loved
one, a serious illness, the loss of a job, or even the quest for the meaning of life.
How many of us have found ourselves in these situations – these are the times that
try our souls?

When forced into the cocoon of life you either go with the flow of change or you kick
against it. The caterpillar has the courage to go with the flow. While in the
cocoon her total molecular structure is broken down, reformed, and then rebuilt.
She must undergo a metamorphosis, an alteration, a transmutation, a transformation,
a transmogrification. The cocoon is where the caterpillar risks it all,
enters total chaos, undergoes a total rebuilding and restructuring, and is reborn
to a new way of living. Only by taking the risk of entering the cocoon can the
caterpillar go from that ugly, fuzzy, yucky-colored, creepy, greedy,
ground-and-tree-dwelling creature to a beautifully colored, free being that can
soar to heights unknown.

Would you do it? If you knew that you were no longer going to be what you are today,
would you choose to enter the cocoon? Would you take the chance? If you knew you
were going to have to be more patient, have more empathy, have more understanding,
be more caring, be more loving, be less angry, be more giving, receive less and give
more, improve your people skills and relationships, think first before you speak or
act, not have the last word, hold your tongue and not have anything to say at
all...if you knew that you would have to think differently, behave differently,
have a different attitude, be more persistent, endure more, withstand more, push
harder, run faster, run when you’re tired, run when you’re sick, run when you think
you can’t any longer…if you knew you’d have to face a challenge today, and another
one tomorrow, and another one next week, and start it all over again next month…would
you have the courage to change?

The caterpillar does this by nature. By predestination she enters her cocoon, her
season of change. While enveloped in her change catacomb the caterpillar ceases to be.
She ceases to be that that she knows. Although the cocoon looks lifeless, hanging
from a single thread, there's a lot going on inside as the caterpillar is literally
liquefied and then reassembled. The caterpillar’s structures are broken down chemically
and the butterfly’s new structures are formed. The solids of the caterpillar completely
dissolve and then form the new solid structures of the butterfly.

It hurts, it’s tough, it’s the hardest thing she’s ever had to do, but she will emerge
a beautiful being with many colors and an alluring wing design; most of all with the
ability to fly, to soar to great heights.

Would you do it?

Would you find the courage to change?

So this is the process that I began just a few years ago after over 20 years of abiding
in the comfort of nice jobs and nice companies and very nice paycheck. I actually started
the process several years before, but fought against it only to sink further into an abyss.
I finally began to realize that there was more meaning to life than developing websites. I
chose to leave it all behind and start from scratch. I chose the uncertainty of
entrepreneurship; not knowing when my next paycheck would come; but knowing for sure that
another problem would need to be solved today, another crisis would arise tomorrow. I
chose to change; change careers, change attitudes, change behaviors. As an entrepreneur,
I am my company; Atteuq Potential Unlimited, Inc. – a training and development company dedicated
to helping businesses and individuals achieve and sustain high performance; helping people get
to where they desire to be. If I don’t sell I don’t get paid. That’s a major change.
And speaking of change; how about selling, influencing to buy, cold calling, networking,
filling the sales funnel, following up, calling again, hearing the “no”, hanging up the
phone and calling the next person without the bat of an eye; motivating self, renewing self,
reinventing self, loving self, lifting up self, changing self.

Over twenty-five years ago, I graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. My degree
from Rensselaer has opened so many doors for me over the years. My education has been
important to my success. So it was a very easy decision for me to make to reenter school
when I changed careers. Like my time at Rensselaer, my time at St. John Fisher College has
prepared me for greatness. It has caused me to understand what I will need to do to master
my craft of facilitating learning. The Human Resource Development program at St. John Fisher
College has helped me understand the competencies and skills I needed to develop to be awesome
at what I do. While everyone else is being ordinary and mediocre, why not strive to be
extraordinary, excellent? Why not strive to be phenomenal? Why not soar?

And then I decided to do it again. I’m back a St. John Fisher College for pursuing my doctorate
in Executive Leadership. Education allows the questioning of old assumptions, beliefs, and
paradigms; formulation of new thoughts and ideas; and the development of new behaviors and
attitudes. Education is the basis of change.

While I know there’s comfort in staying where you are, in continuing to do things the way
you’ve always done them, consider the story of a young girl sitting in the kitchen one
Wednesday night watching her mom make Thanksgiving dinner. Her mother cut both ends of
the 20 pound ham, placed it in the roaster, and began to dress it. The little girl asked
why the two ends of the ham were cut off. Mom replied, “That was the way grandma always did
it.” Grandma was in the living room enjoying a rest after baking all day. So the little girl
ran to ask grandma why the two ends of the ham were cut off. Grandma laughingly replied,
“I’ve always done it because the pan was too small.”

Do you have the courage, the stamina, but most of all, the audacity to change into what you
need to be to find purpose? If not, consider what you lose when you don’t change. Consider
the caterpillar, constantly shedding skin and seemingly becoming new, but not really ‘cause
some of that old stuff is left buried. Then consider the alternative of the cocoon and the
emergence of the butterfly and finally find the courage to change!