Five Lessons I Learned From a Major Life Change
At the end of last year I was at a fork in the road. One path was safe and predictable, a continuation of my successful career in marketing in London, UK. The other was uncertain – it represented change and risk. I quit my job, moved to the other side of the world (Canada) to be with my boyfriend and start up my own business in coaching and speaking. I’m good at taking risks, but not so many at once. I had to fight off that voice in my head that said ‘Are you crazy!? You are about to get a promotion, why would you give it all up now?’
That’s what happens when we face a major life change.
Old beliefs and values that we’ve inherited from our parents, school and society all take the microphone and start screaming in our heads.
- But you have a good job, why do you want to change?
- What if it doesn’t work out?
- I thought you liked it here, this was your dream
And then, as if the challenge we are facing isn’t difficult enough, friends, relatives and colleagues start to echo the voices in our heads.
But here’s the thing to remember.
NO ONE HAS A CRYSTAL BALL.
EVERYONE IS AFRAID, ESPECIALLY THE VOICE IN OUR HEAD.
It’s natural for us to resist change, it also seems counter intuitive to move away from pleasure / something that’s working just fine. You see ‘having a job’ and ‘liking it here’ may be to some people the criteria for happiness and as such become the yardstick by which we are measured. In less fortunate countries and times through history, this is exactly what people strive(ed) for: safety & security. But many of us are lucky enough to be living in a time and place that allows us to move further up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We are in a position of growth.
What I’ve learned in the process of change is this: don’t get distracted and sucked into the debate and justifications about the measurement e.g. but you have a job/security, and instead challenge the yardstick since when was having a job all I was aiming for?
Safety and security may not be the criteria by which we plan to measure our life. I measure my life by personal growth, challenge and experience.
I’m lucky enough to have amongst my friends and family some of the most open minded and adventurous souls out there. For every one doubter I had 10 supporters.
Those people encouraged and supported my move. It was a combination of these people and realizing that the yardstick should be challenged which helped me cultivate the bravery to move forward along the unknown.
Sometimes we aren’t lucky enough to have such people in our life, so here are a few things to be aware of when it comes to the doubters.
- They have their hearts in the right place, they are worried for us. If they’re being truly honest about why they don’t think we should do something it will usually be because that ’thing’ (whatever it is) is taking us away from them (either physically or taking up more of our time)
- What we are doing may be something they’ve wanted to do but never had the courage. When they come up with a battery of reasons for why it’s a bad idea this is often to self-validate why they’ve never taken the leap. We inadvertenly cause them to be uneasy with their own path. It’s best to remember that the issue, at this point, is more with them than with us.
- What the doubters have in common is fear. They are afraid of the unknown on your behalf, which demonstrates they care. But what people often don’t recognize is that fear is just an emotional response to one possible imagined outcome. To live your life and base decisions on a negative/worrisome prediction of the future is, for me, a life wasted.
So is it all about being Brave?
No, weirdly it’s not. I thought it was. But the biggest lesson I learned was that we are not truly being brave unless we are also being vulnerable.
I always thought vulnerability was a characteristic of the weak, the uniform of the afraid and fragile. It took this major life change to make me see things differently. You see, just like everyone else, we also don’t have a crystal ball. We can’t guarantee that things will work out the way we hope. That’s why, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be open to the fact that things might go wrong, that mistakes might happen, that the plans might fall apart at the seams. This is where the difference between the doubters and the supporters can be seen. The doubters only take their thinking to as far as failure, supporters take their thinking, and subsequently the discussion, beyond ‘failure’. They’ll say things like:
- well, hey, if it doesn’t work out at least you’ll have a hell of a story!
- you’ll never regret trying
- on your death bed you’re not going to say to yourself, I wish I played it more safe
To truly grow in life, to push our limits, to experience things we never have, we need to do things we’ve never done. This takes an almost alchemic mix of bravery and vulnerability. Get the balance right between opening ourselves up to things not going our way, but not letting that be a reason not to try. What always helps me with this tension point is knowing that nothing amazing ever happens in our comfort zone. That fear is not a reason to stand still, but that it is often a signal that something awesome is at the other side. That if we push through the fear, we will be rewarded with an experience that can never exist in our comfort zone. If I’m honest, it took a lot more strength for me to allow myself to be vulnerable than it did to be brave.
So, what happened?
It’s been an AMAZING year! I’ve got more coaching clients than I could have imagined. I’ve spoken in 4 different countries around the world including Ted X Berklee Valenica, I spent a week at TED Global in Rio, I began to blog for the Huffington Post, I got featured in Zurda, MantraMagazine and Escape The City, Buzzfeed and the Financial times.
I learned how to snowboard, I kick-started ‘The Wise Projects’ and I got my 4th belt in Capoeira.
Would I do it all over again?
Sure I would! Actually we are! We are moving to Barcelona via South America.
Right now I’m typing this from Rio, the carnival is about to begin. Afterwards we’re spending 4 weeks in Ecuador volunteering in an eco village the Andes, finishing off with 2 weeks in the depths of the Amazon jungle to live with the Shuar tribe (for more info. Check out http://www.pachamama.org) we are literally getting helicopter dropped in, that’s how remote it is! It’s going to be a life changing experience!! Absolutely can’t wait!
What are the key lessons I’ve learned from facing a major life change?
- Always challenge the yardstick – check how we are being measured (by ourselves or by others) and make sure we’ve got the right metrics!
- Surround ourselves by people who encourage our growth, who support us to be vulnerable and allow us to not have all the answers
- Unless what we are doing has a significant risk of death or injury, pay less attention to the doubters. Recognise that they care for us, let them be heard, but remember they don’t get to decide. These are the people, that whilst they care, will inadvertently keep us standing still
- Get the balance right between bravery and vulnerability. Remember that vulnerability takes strength, it is not a weakness but a necessary part of the journey, we must give ourselves permission to be vulnerable.
- When you get the chance, choose to be the supporter in someone’s life, not the doubter. Remember, that saying, ‘I support you BUT…’ is not true support
Ultimately, when you’re making changes in your life people will have opinions. But don’t seek approval for what you set out to do. Go forward, be bold, be brave – life your life and make it happen!