Saturday, October 29, 2005

Commitment and Change

Ten years ago, I was living an entirely different life. I owned a large chiropractic, holistic health clinic. I was the president of my state chiropractic association, and I was seeing many hundreds of people for their health concerns each month. I was, by all outward measures, successful.

Yet, I was discontent. Everything on the outside seemed alright, but I couldn’t get excited about my life. I felt bored, anxious, frustrated, and unhappy. I started to notice that I had developed the habit of looking at my watch more and more often. In the final days of my practice, I would have looked at my watch about ten times by 9 a.m., and I’d only arrived an hour earlier!

Finally, I realized that this couldn’t go on. It wasn’t fair to my patients who deserved an enthusiastic, committed doctor, and it wasn’t fair to me who deserved a rewarding, fulfilling life. I’d already attempted to light a fire under myself on several occasions by attending motivational and educational seminars, but the results hadn’t lasted more than a few weeks each time. It was time to make a change.

I knew that there were going to be a lot of unhappy people, who had come to count on me for a variety of reasons and that my parents weren’t going to be excited to learn that the investment I’d made of my time and, to some extent, their money, was now going to be wasted. Nonetheless, I had to be true to myself and trust that in doing so I’d ultimately be doing what was best for everyone.

I decided to embark on an adventure with no firm plans of what was next. I went to Guatemala, intent on spending a few months traveling around Central America, with no established structure. I thought I could use the time to reflect on what was important to me, to work on my language skills, and to drink in a new culture. It was an exciting proposition. Still, it was a bit scary. I didn’t know what I’d find there, and I didn’t know how well I’d fit into the fabric of Latin American society.

It was during my fourth day in Antigua that I discovered a small chiropractic office on a side street and off the beaten path. I sat in the waiting room until the doctor came out and found me sitting there. I introduced myself as Steve, a chiropractor from the USA, and he introduced himself as Todd, an American ex-patriot, living and working in Guatemala for the last couple of years. Upon learning that I was a chiropractor, he asked what most chiropractors ask of their colleagues. “Would you mind giving me an adjustment? I haven’t seen another chiropractor around these parts for the last six months!” I obliged him, and after trading adjustments, we walked out to the waiting room.

There, sitting in the waiting room by himself, was an American man about my age. He stood as we entered the room. He looked from me to Todd. He extended his hand to me, thinking I was the doctor, and said…

“Hello, I’m Steve. I’m a chiropractor from the USA.”

Todd and I looked at each other in disbelief. After a moment of silence, Todd introduced himself as the proprietor of the practice, and I introduced myself as Steve, a chiropractor from the USA. He asked me where I practiced, and I told him of my recent departure from the field. He responded that he, too, had just sold his practice of fourteen years (the same length of time I’d been in practice.) “What brings you to Guatemala?” I asked.

“I just wanted to have a place to reflect on my life and goals and to work on my language skills. And you?”

“The same.”

After his adjustment, Steve and I decided to get lunch together and discuss our common experiences. We walked out the door into the afternoon sun and simultaneously reached into our backpacks to get a cap. The caps we pulled out were identical, except for one thing. While mine said “100 Years of Chiropractic” on it, his said “Vermont,” which happened to be the state in which I lived. Turns out he had friends in my city and had been there several times in the past.

Over the next several days, Steve and I became friends, as we are to this day. We learned of many more coincidences, including the facts that we had both been married and were currently good friends with our ex-wives and that we both enjoyed adventure sports.

Weeks later, I was traveling through Honduras with my girlfriend. We were taking a boat ride around the island of Roatan, and I was telling her the now famous “Steve Story.”
As the boat came to the dock on the remote side of the island, we disembarked and climbed the steep wooden staircase to the restaurant above. My story was winding to a conclusion, but I couldn’t have anticipated that the last words of the story would be… “And that’s him, right there!” Ten feet in front of us sat Steve and his lunch guest, blissfully unaware of our arrival. We spent the next couple days catching up and telling more stories.

On arrival back in the USA, I made plans to meet up with Steve in his home state of Montana, as part of a plane trip I’d planned across the country. When I shared my travel plans with John, the doctor who’d purchased my practice, his questions led to the most startling revelation of all: John had lived in Montana, Steve had been John’s chiropractor, and John’s best friend had purchased Steve’s practice.

When I got back to Vermont, I shared this story with a very wise, spiritual man I know. I said, “What do you make of this bizarre set of events?” He said, “I think it proves that you were in the right place, because when you got there…there you were!” He then went on to remind me of all the fear and uncertainty I felt embarking on the journey, and how none of that existed any more. The magical quality of the meeting with Steve had reassured and supported me as I went along my path.

The universe has a way of supporting courageous action. Many people have had the experience of delaying a decision out of fear and then finally taking the leap, only to have a series of unforeseen events unfold to support their decision and help them along the way. In 1951, the Scottish explorer, W.N. Murray said:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Your commitment to a path of change is likely to yield far greater benefits than you might imagine. Embark on your journey, confident that there will be surprises which will help remind you why you’re taking the action you’re taking. Trust the universe to support your growth, and invite it to present you with delightful gifts that will prove to you that you’re on the right track. Never doubt that once you’ve established a firm foothold on your commitment to change, you’ll get support in ways unimagined.

3 Comments:

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Blogger V said...

Dear Steve
This is truly inspiring and very true. Reading your story has given me inspiration as I am on this journey of taking that leap of faith and following my heart. Thank you and keep them coming.
Regards

7:50 AM  

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