What does it take to make a profound change in one’s life? Good intention? Standing back and objectively seeing what you’re doing wrong and announcing, “Oh, I get it…I’ll do X instead.” Unfortunately, for most of us the mother-of-all wake-up call comes in the form of something traumatic happening to a loved one or a threat to our own mortality.
I remember one particular movie, “The End” in which Burt Reynolds plays a terminally ill man trying to commit suicide but something botches every attempt. Since he’s determined to end it all, he hires a schizophrenic hit man to do him in, played by Dom DeLuise. Not trusting that DeLuise’s character can pull it off, he decides to drown himself by swimming out far enough where he can just relax and drown. But as he’s floating there waiting to drown, he starts thinking about all the reasons he wants to live, even if for only a few more days. So he begins to swim to the shore, a seemingly impossible distance away, and as he swims begs God to help him make the distance. The funny part is he promises anything at first to God if he’ll only let him make it back, pledging huge donations and promising to attend church every week, etc. But as he gets closer and closer to shore he keeps modifying what he’ll do if God will help him make it back. And by the time he drags himself up on the beach, his promises are down to a singular “maybe I’ll go to church once in a while.” I won’t spoil the end, so rent this wacky, black comedy if you want to know.
That’s how a lot of people act when they get a true wake-up call: either make promises they’ll never keep, or roll over and figuratively hit the snooze button. It’s not always easy to understand why a wake up call happens, but easy to recognize one when it happens. The body has a way of finally getting your attention when the mind has missed the hints through the years.
So what does it take to see a wake-up call as a harbinger of change? In my case, I’d already been in the process of mulling over some significant changes and beginning to understand how important they were when my wake-up call resounded what my body was trying to communicate: do it now or pay dearly. After the ringing in my ears stops from the wake-up call (my euphemism for what I’m going through now), I know pretty well what and where I need to change, although it’s not a simple process. But unlike Sonny, Burt Reynold’s character in “The End,” I won’t be altering my commitment as I get nearer to the shore. This time I know I need to just do it.