Crossing The Swamp Of Change To Growth

By Bill Harley

Not long ago, I tweeted the following: “The change and growth process is like crossing a swamp.  You will get wet, muddy and be awkward.  It won’t be tidy.”  I do have some experience with crossing a swamp.  When I was a teenager, I talked my girlfriend into paddling a canoe into an algae-covered swamp to catch mud turtles with me.  She was paddling in the stern and I was grabbing for turtles in the bow when, reaching a little too far, I capsized the canoe.  When I surfaced seconds later, the canoe, now filled with water, had settled right-side-up and my girlfriend had already scrambled back into it.  Like me, she was covered with mud and green muck.  Trembling in her seat, near tears, and with her arms tightly folded in front of her, she demanded that I return her to shore.

Thinking to myself “This can’t be too tough”, I said out loud, “No problem!”  I could feel the bottom under me, but when I stepped down to get traction to start pushing the canoe toward shore, my foot and leg slipped down further and further in the mud—there was no bottom.  Then I tried swimming behind the canoe and pushing the water-filled boat toward shore.  The boat was so heavy in the weed-filled water that each swimming stroke only moved the boat about a foot.  Needless to say, it took about twenty minutes to push the boat to shore.  Wheezing for air, covered in mud and weeds, I stumbled clumsily out of the water and collapsed next to the boat.  As I lay there trying to collect myself, my earlier words were still ringing in my ears: “No problem!”

The personal and collective change and growth process is like crossing a swamp.  My personal experiences and those of my coaching clients tell me that is so.  However, we live in a culture that expects change and growth to be achieved tidily and gracefully—we should never look disheveled and ungainly.  How much change and growth is avoided because of these expectations?  Where could we be if we embraced the reality of crossing the swamp of change to growth?  Where are you willing to get messy and awkward in order to invite change and growth into your life?

For more inspiration, concepts and tools for personal transformation, see Jean’s and my book, Now That I’m Here, What Should I Be Doing?