Human beings are notorious for resisting change. We hate it… fear it… we’ll expend more energy fighting it than it would take to accept it and move on. My run this morning reminded me, though, of how awesome change can be. This was my Sunday long run, 9 miles along the Arkansas River trail. For those unfamiliar, the river trail is a 14 mile loop between downtown Little Rock and West Little Rock that parallels the Arkansas River on both sides. Until a few years ago, the two sides we connected downtown, but not on the other end. Building a running/cycling bridge across the river was impractical and expensive. Then the local government leaders came up with the idea of adding a foot bridge across the top of an existing dam. Local lore says that, despite mounting opposition and concerns about cost, the gentleman leading the effort exclaimed in a meeting, “We’re going to build that dam bridge!” He insists he meant the bridge on top of the dam, and not the expletive kind. The name stuck, and so did the idea. Almost 8 years after it was completed, the Big Dam Bridge has spawned a Century cycling event, countless road races, and led to Little Rock being named one of the top 10 outdoor cities in America. What does all that tell us about change?
Change is inevitable. We are changing continually, from the day we’re born until we take our last breath. You can fight it, or work with it. For some undefined amount of time, changes are mostly positive. We’re growing, getting stronger, learning more; then things start to stagnate. At some point, often without us realizing it, the change curve reaches its apex and starts back down. Muscles degrade, energy starts to wane, we stop taking in more information than we dispose of. It’s as true for cities as it is for people. Little Rock expanded west, and the population center moved with it. City fathers could ignore the trend, or work with it. A cycling trail that led people back into downtown became part of an effort to revitalize the Rivermarket area. That effort continues today with new restaurants, loft apartments, and new entertainment venues. For individuals, exercise and healthier eating can slow the aging process and add to quality of life. Remember, you’re going to change one way or another. Make it positive.
Change is disruptive. Despite the positive results for Little Rock, there were some bumps along the way. After the bridge was complete, roads around the area were clogged with joggers and cyclists. Parking became a huge issue. The once quiet boat launch near the trail became a busy parking lot crammed with cars sporting bike racks. Needless to say, local residents and boat owners were not pleased, and everyone had to adjust to the new reality. Personal change is like that, too. If you’re going to change your eating habits, or ramp up your fitness routine, it’s going to be disruptive. It might mean less sleep, or less television, or different food in the fridge (even getting rid of those temptations you just can’t resist). Don’t let change lead to despair. Stick it out, and the results will be well worth it. Eventually the change will lead to more energy and smaller pants sizes. Which leads to…
Change fuels growth. After the trail fueled a surge in walking, running, and cycling, new bike shops opened. New running stores started. New sporting goods stores. Healthier restaurants. Additional trails, new construction, new city-wide events. While it might be a stretch to say that all of these things happened as a direct result of the Big Dam Bridge, they did all feed off of each other. The same is true for people. Positive change fuels more change. Conquering a 10K gives enough confidence to try a half marathon. Cycling a little farther every week helps you believe you can also tackle new challenges at home, at work… you name it. In many ways, we are what we believe. If we believe we can change, we can. Believe you’re stuck where you are, and… well, you get the picture. So, go ahead… embrace the change.