…but something else happened. And I believe this happens to all of us. We are forced to acknowledge that this new information that could change things for the better. It’s information that needs our best attention. And it’s information that requires us to make a considered decision.

What happens when we are presented with new information that we don’t like?

The glimpse of a new horizon is often ambiguous, easily ignored. The second or third glimpse may offer more shape – maybe this time it will make an impression. Then at some point, often in a moment of unusual clarity or transcendence, we see it for what it is. The future. And then we are forced to act. To own what we have seen. And to map out a way to get there.

This is when we are presented with with what I like to call a Change Challenge. It happens all the time. New research, new insights come to light. We stumble across stories and experiences that change our understanding of ourselves or the world around us. And it causes us to pause.

What are we going to do with this new information?

Change sometimes comes for us. It taps on our door. It says ‘look again.’

My latest ‘change challenge’ came about when my husband put on What the Health. It was Sunday afternoon. I was tired and I was planning on a bit of a snooze – hopefully one that lasted all the way until dinner! But this somewhat controversial documentary woke me right up; critiquing both the consumption of meat and dairy products and looking at the  overwhelming presence of chemicals in our food. It also profiled the behaviour of health organisations, many of whom don’t seem to be doing a very good job at all of actually keeping people healthy.

Changing to a plant-based diet wasn’t something I had considered seriously before. But now, I was all go.  And this is how it works sometimes. New knowledge seeps in from the edges. From the periphery. Never from head-on. Always we are unsuspecting and off-guard. New information finds us when we least expect it. 

It my have been there, on the horizon, for some time. But until now, it hadn’t called for us. Previously, we have glimpsed the new horizon once or twice and only seen mountains on uninteresting rock formations. Nothing to write home about. Then one day we are tending the soil in our own back yard and we take a breather, and we realize the sun is setting. The sky is a luminous pale pink and we give ourselves up to the beauty of the moment. We lean on our shovel and take a deep sigh. We breath it in. And in sweeping glance of the horizon we realize that something has suddenly shifted. That pile of rubble has morphed. It has alighted with gold. It glows. It shifts and from its centre comes a great spark of light. It is, in fact, beautiful. We have a moment.

Go ahead and moan. Then get organised. 

Mulling it over that week, the idea stayed with me. It felt right. And yet I inwardly, I groaned at the idea. It was going to take effort. I was going to have to talk to people about it. People would have to accommodate me. And I never really felt like I had the vegan spirit.

But something important had happened. And I believe this happens to all of us. We are forced to acknowledge that this is new information that could change things for the better. It’s information that needs our best attention. And it’s information that requires us to make a considered decision.

I was at an intersection. So I made a ten point plan to work through the feasibility of it all. I wanted to understand what change was going to be required. What kind of commitment it would take from me and how hard it would really be. I figured that approach, whilst not romantic way of looking at things, was at the very least realistic. I always hate the idea of saying I’ll do something and then falling over soon after because I didn’t really know what I was committing to. 

Change does need to work for you on a practical level, Passion and values can inspire and lead you. but practicality is about the every day. And the every day is where change sits. 

10 easy steps to navigating a Change Challenge

  1.  Take it slowly. No need to rush. A slow decision is a good decision. It’s possible that change has been there for a while, just beyond of logical awareness. It’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon. 

  2. Check out the landscape: I looked at a bucket load of vegan websites. I also began following one of the doctors featured in the doco who is fascinating to watch (he talks with his hands, which are elegant and mesmerizing). I love him already. He is different from so many in the medical profession.
  3. Do your research: In this day and age it’s easy to access lots of information about where you’re going  – in my case, I found a gazillion recipes and blogs. I needed to find vegan recipes that would also work with being gluten free. It wasn’t as hard as I thought and I found some great sites that I now use every week.
  4. Talk it over. This can be tricky – so beware. When we talk ideas over we often subconsciously enter into a situation which will allow someone else to argue us out of our newly found conviction. Understand that this may happen, and what role you may be playing if it does.
  5. Consider how you might feel if you decide not to make a change. This was one of those times that I felt a very strong gut reaction, a feeling that this was information directly sent to me by the universe.  I had to give it a go, at the very least.

6. Plot a course to your new destination. What does the journey look like? What do you need to take with you? What can you leave behind? What will help make the journey easier, more likely to be a success?

7. Consider how much energy is going to be required to make the change for good. For me, it was going to be all about the cooking and the food prep. Was I really up for it? On a good day, or a good week, yes. When I’m busy and the shit is hitting the fan in every direction, or when we’re travelling and staying with friends, possibly not so much. But I had recently been experimenting with not being overly busy. Seems to me that’s one of the challenges we all face in this day and age. I had a very pleasant time of it and the world didn’t collapse, so I planned on doing more of that in any case.

8. Assess and innovate with your tools. What do you need to take with you? What can you leave behind? What will help make the journey easier, more likely to be a success?I got a food processor. It helped a lot.

9. Do a test run. My first week of eating a plant-based diet was mixed. And it’s a good lesson in not expecting change to be perfect. We are all crap at implementing change, at least for the most part. It’s disruptive. The first few weeks and months of change can, and should be, experimental. You’re trying things on for size and seeing what fits. At this early stage, I highly recommend, for the sake of your own sanity and everyone else’s around you, to be flexible. Don’t expect too much too soon. Give it time!

10. Be OK with wherever you end up – increments of change are worthy in themselves

In the end, it turns out that I’m not a vegan. I lasted for about two months. But for a few reasons – largely my body not coping that well with the change, I added dairy back in. My stomach just isn’t happy without yoghurt! And then, after about six months, I added seafood back in. That really helped with the low energy levels I had been experiencing. 

So, I’ve been pescatarian for about a year now. And I’m happy with the change I’ve been able to achieve. I’ve cut out eggs and all red meat. I’ve cut out poultry and pork. And my physical health has stablilised again (not an easy feat for me). I feel good about giving the environment some consideration. I’m appreciative that my husband, family and friends have made the journey with me, supporting my need for change. Things have now settled down nicely. It’s no small thing to have this kind of support, and I feel lucky.

Planning, testing the waters and managing expectations are really good tools when you’ve got  change challenge ahead of you. Go easy on yourself, do your best, and then sit back and see where you are. I promise it will be somewhere good!