The Canary in the Coal MIne

Is your canary dead?

Copy of canaryinthecoalmine

In the earliest days of coal mining, canaries were used in the mines to detect the need for change. Canaries have a very responsive metabolism, and when exposed to dangerous gases like methane and carbon monoxide, they react quickly and obviously. The canary will become quiet, and begin swaying on its perch before falling off. If the miners saw that the canary was dead, or showing these telltale signs, they knew there was gas in the area and that they needed to leave immediately.

So, how do you know you need to change? Like the miners, you constantly watch for the signs you need to change. Simple enough, but change is one of the most challenging issues in almost everyone’s life.

There’s something inside you and me that clings to the status quo, hoping it will work one more time, even if it hasn’t worked in a long time. Sometimes the need for change is obvious. If nothing has changed since 1992, the case for change presents itself.

But often it’s more subtle than that. We spend a surprising amount of time trying to convince ourselves that change “really isn’t necessary.”

We insist that we have seen others who have been devastated by change; or that the perceived risks outweigh any gain. We’ve watched others, who tried to change, suffer as they met all kinds of opposition. We sense the conflict pending in our own environment and in our hearts.

Change needs to happen in our lives in big ways, and it also needs to happen in small ways. Because the need for change almost inevitably means some level of conflict, it’s easier for us to move into denial—to pretend the status quo is not really that bad.

So we ignore the signs that would tell us change is needed.

But, successful people don’t run when they see a need for change. They watch for the telltale signs, embrace it and summon up the courage needed to navigate it. So, what are those signs?

Here are 10 signs to help you discover if you need to change:

1. Your stories are about what used to happen, not what’s going to happen. You need to change because your memories exceed your dreams.

2. You’re no longer experiencing real breakthroughs in your life. Every season has a shelf life. Prepare for the next season before this one expires.

3. You think about the obstacles associated with the future more than you think about the opportunities, which breeds a culture of fear.

4. You haven’t done anything exciting in the last six months. Stagnation starts subtly.

5. You are continually talking about the same problems. You’re stuck, and progress will become increasingly difficult until you start solving problems.

6. Your growth curve has slowed or stopped. The change probably should have started a year or two ago. Analyze and act now.

7. No one would notice if you disappeared. People, who do not serve others, and only serve themselves, miss their mission in life.

8. Your passion level is average-to-low. Declining lives always lack passion.

9. Your talk does not translate to action. Check your progress more than you check your intentions.

10. You have stopped breathing. The day we stop changing is the day we stop breathing, and the day we begin to die.

If your canary is dead or has fallen off of its perch, it is time to change.

For help on your journey to change, go to


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