This past week I had the honor of facilitating a men’s retreat. Those of us who gathered for this event were all in the second half of our lives and so the theme for the retreat was especially relevant: “Maintaining Wellness in the Midst of Change and Transition.” Author Richard Rohr writes about how the second half of life is inevitably full of change and transition. Often these changes involve some kind of loss, and the challenge then is to make choices that keep us well and growing, even when we experience difficult changes that are beyond our control.

During the course of the retreat, we reflected on these words from leadership author John Maxwell, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”  What comes to mind as you reflect on this quote? In the context of our men’s retreat, we talked about this quote  after we had each spent time sharing some of the changes that had occurred in our lives over the last several years. Given the many changes that were shared (related to health, relationships, finances, and work/retirement) it was easy for us to see the truth of the first part of Maxwell’s quote. Change is clearly inevitable and is ever present in all of our lives.

The discussion was rich and deep when we talked about the second part of the quote, “…growth is optional.” The consensus of our group of men was that growth is optional because it requires a choice by each of us to be intentional about turning change into growth. We agreed growth involves being humble, taking risks, being vulnerable , and acknowledging our need for help. It was concluded that without being intentional about choosing these actions that will move us towards growth, change is simply change. It can leave us disoriented and sometimes unhappy or angry.

Richard Rohr wrote a powerful book entitled “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” in which he describes the process of choosing growth in the midst of change. When we make that choice, we fall upward, learning and growing because of the change, instead of falling downward.  It is all as simple as that, and as hard as that.

If I asked each of us if there has been change in our lives over the last five years, I think I am safe in answering for us all, “Of course.” The more important questions, and ones that each of us can only answer for ourselves, is, in the midst of that change, “Has there been growth?  And what can we do to help the changes in our lives be opportunities for continued growth?”

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