Building a Bridge as you Walk on It is not a book I would have chosen to read on my own because, in all honesty, I have a tendency to avoid books that feel self-righteous when you read the cover; however, if I hadn’t read this book at this particular moment, I don’t know if I would have been able to handle my current situation as quickly as I have. Don’t misunderstand me. I fully believe that I would have found my own way, it just would have taken longer.
My solution came in the form of the Six Steps of Self Change: (1) Precontemplation, (2) Contemplation, (3) Preparation, (4) Action, (5) Maintenance, (6) Termination. Thus, this first project will focus on self-change. In addition, please note that this paper is meant to act as a supplemental to the actual project which will be described in Section IV.
I suppose you’re wondering what my situation is and why these steps for self-change would be necessary. Well, before I dive into that, I feel that you should come to understand who I am as a person, and I think that the shortest and most succinct way of doing this is to show you my blog post from July of the year 2017: Random Encounter: A Woman After My Own Heart.
So, now you know who I am: I am a pink soul that has always given kindness and warmth whenever and wherever to whomever and whatever. Always. To some, this is a great asset. To others, it is a weakness: one to be used against me. This is why I was unprepared.
As a project manager, one would think I might have considered how my kindness could be received and planned for it – i.e. removing or mitigating such a high risk from the project that is my life. Unfortunately, I have never been in a situation that demanded me to consider not being kind. In a way, I am shocked that such a consideration should ever be necessary. This is where I was wrong, and this is where I needed to change.
This would not be a change to my personality – because like it or not, my personality will always be warm and full of love for people – but a change in my behavior towards the world. I was very quick to learn through this situation that even the most basic of compliments or kindness could be perceived as something unintended.
And so we have reached the reason behind need for self-change: I gave a compliment to a man who had no problem with said compliment; however, a third party overheard the exchange and assumed that we were having an affair to which they immediately confronted the recipient of the compliment who panicked and approached someone with influence in my life who then felt it necessary to tell me to consider my actions or risk sexual misconduct.
Now, at the time, I felt heart broken, terrified, confused, betrayed, and guilty. I never felt angry, but I truly couldn’t understand what I had done wrong. Thus, what this situation showed me was that I had been oblivious to what my behaviors could be perceived as. And now that I knew, I could never un-know. So, I needed to change something in order to function as a human being once more.
I wrote a blog post, Does Intent Matter, discussing what had happened and what others had suggested I could do. My options were to: (1) keep my head down and do nothing, (2) only give compliments to people who deserved my kindness, or (3) fight back and change the system. Ultimately, I knew I could do none of these things. In my heart, I wanted nothing more than to hide from the world and give up; however, also in my heart was an ongoing urge to survive and to be a part of everything – both the good and the bad. I knew that it would take time for me to come to an understanding, but I would never give up.
It was then that I read chapter 16 from Building the Bridge as You Walk on It, Developing Leaders, which contained the Six Stages of Self-Change. Suddenly, I knew what the answer was; I knew what I needed to do in order to return to myself. I needed to change how I behaved in different environments. I would always be me, but to survive, I would need to behave as expected by those around me. To demonstrate this change, I created a tree of wire that shows who I am and what I do to survive. I am this tree, just as every person is their own tree.
Above the surface, my tree has no color, it is neutral: silver trunk, branches, and leaves. You wouldn’t guess at my personality at first glance unless you happened to see my leaves shining and dancing. Beneath the surface, entangled within my roots, is my pink personality. Broken now, and shattered, but still there: still wrapped tightly within the embrace of my being. I will never let go of that pink, that warmth, and I will always protect it. And though my roots are tangled, and seemingly disordered, there is a goal to continue to grow and expand until the day when my roots shatter the glass enclosed around them. Amidst the roots lie crystals that represent my experiences as I change myself over time. I feel like these experiences now have new meaning with the Six Stages of Change, and I’ve connected my experiences to those crystals:
What I have recently endured, was another branch of my life, but it will not be my last branch, nor will it be a defining branch for the future. Instead, it will be a branch that taught me something new: how to recognize when self-change is needed, and what steps I took to address that change. In this way, those six steps will stay with me forever because I will always be in two of those states of change: Precontemplation and Maintenance. Precontemplation because I can never know what I don’t know until I am made aware and can then move on to Contemplation, and Maintenance because I believe that in order to truly change myself, I must never stop changing and improving who I was just days, hours, or minutes ago.
To finish. I’ll leave you with the words of Lewis Carroll’s Alice:
Chapter 10: The Lobster Quadrille“I could tell you my adventures – beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly; “but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Carroll, L., 1865. Alice in Wonderland. Alice-in-Wonderland.net. Accessed 29 March 2019.http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/resources/chapters-script/alices-adventures-in-wonderland/chapter-10/
Matus, K., 2017. Random Encounter: A Woman After My Own Heart. Consult Button. Accessed 29 March 2019. http://www.ConsultButton.com
Matus, K., 2019. Does Intent Matter? Consult Button. Accessed 29 March 2019. http://www.ConsultButton.com
Quinn, R., 2004. Building the Bridge as You Walk on It: A Guide for Leading Change.