gate.gifEach of us guards our personal gate of change, which only we can open. No one can open the gate of another. Oh, external behaviors can be temporarily forced but “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Walking through that gate takes but a moment. Deciding to pass through, getting ready to pass through, well, that can take as long as you like. Change is optional but then so is survival, prosperity, and happiness.

I often visualize that gate of change–both my own and others’–wondering what it will take for me to walk through mine, pondering what it would take to motivate someone else to willingly walk through their own. People often guard their gates of change because of fear of what is on the other side or because of the difficulty of change. But also because they see it as protecting their self-concept, as forming the boundary of self-identify. This is me, that over there is not me, never was, never will be.

And if that boundary truly serves them and protects them, well and good. However, we often limit ourselves far short of our true potential.

Conceptually, motivating change is simple: more pleasure or less fear/pain on the far side than on the near side. The challenge is translating the general theory of motivating change into the specifics of each situation. Also, this side of the gate is known and familiar, the other side has its unknowns. Plus the reality is that you cannot always walk back through your gate of change once you go through.

I find that visualizing a physical gate of change helps me tremendously in dealing with change and in motivating myself to successfully do so. Sometimes I envision steps leading to the gate, with the steps representing the various types of preparation I must do to be able to create the change I seek. And if I find myself lingering too long outside the gate, I visualize myself as having set up camp, pitched a tent, built a fire. And the absurdity of me starting to set up a semi-permanent settlement, getting excessively comfortable in what is obviously a way station, is usually enough to get me to strike my mental or emotional encampment, cease procrastinating, and simply walk through.

I also sometimes visualize others striding confidently and quickly through the same gate or wall that I am hesitating to pass through. That usually kicks in my competitive spirit and helps me find energy. If others can do it, I can model their efforts and actions and use them as leverage to leap forward.

Visualizing and listing the various gates of change that I face in the different roles I play in life helps me get organized. Some are mere openings in a rickety and aging fence, others initially come to mind as massive fortifications. I always look for the feelings, impressions, and paradigms within me that cause me to visualize a gate of change as intimidating, and from that understanding often comes interesting ideas on how to make the gate more approachable.

Thinking about how others may perceive their gates of change and why they choose to guard them helps me be a more effective facilitator of change, a more creative change agent.

“No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be unlocked from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal…”

– Marilyn Ferguson

While I do not fully agree with this entire quotation, it was the source for my concept of gates of change. While the final choice must always come from within, people can be swayed by persuasion, and I often have been moved by cogent logic or eloquent emotional appeal. Too, outside events and experiences set in motion by others have had impacts on me that have spurred change within me (though, obviously, how I chose to interpret and respond powerfully impacted the change).