Change is hard or so they say.
No it’s not. Not as hard staying the same when the same isn’t working anymore.
Change is just unfamiliar.
The experts, whoever they are, say the hardest part about change is the fear of the unknown. There is a supposed comfort in believing the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Personally, I’d rather not know any devils but I wouldn’t stay with one to avoid another.
They also say people fail to make changes because the patterns they are accustomed to are easy and automatic. Whereas as change requires effort.
What do they know?
Personally, I think the biggest barrier between the life you know and the life you want comes down to a simple human habit: unrealistic estimations.
Fear is another barrier to change. But if fear (or anxiety) could be broken down to a simple formula, it would look like this:
Fear = an overestimation of the likelihood of a perceived bad thing happening + an underestimation of one’s ability to cope
If we applied this logic to change, the fear of changing your life, or really going for your goals, would look like this:
Inability to make a change = an overestimation of how hard something is (or likelihood of failing) + an underestimation of one’s capability to do it or to cope with the consequences of not succeeding
I’m not a maths lover but I do like formulas for the simple reason that they break complicated things down and make them clearer. I like real life examples because they give those complicated things some context. I hope sharing mine with you helps.
I’ve lived across the world. In 1999, I left a cushy government job that paid handsomely for a youngster in my profession to backpack Australia for a year. I’d sacrificed prestige and my rung on the ladder for menial jobs and adventure. Then I moved back home with Peg and Al (as my parents are affectionately known), only long enough to recompense my bank account and set off for England.
After seven years and a lot of living, my partner and I decided it was time to move to back Canada (it’s a place north of the US), with our baby. But the nomads in us weren’t yet settled. We took a detour through the American West, 10 month old baby in tow, living out of suitcases and a rented vehicle. We ate out at supermarkets and chain restaurants. We even survived a mugging and a protracted case of unexpected morning sickness. Two months of fun, adventure, sickness, irritation and quite a few moments of “What the heck are we doing!?”
Did we doubt the decision we’d made to travel? Of course. Especially when that pink pee-stick surprised us one morning in a Super 8 room, somewhere in the Coachella Valley.
Would we change it if we could? Never.
At the end of the two months, we’d had enough. We took a quick trip to Hawaii to collect our thoughts (lay on a each and do noting) and flew home to Edmonton where we stayed. It wasn’t the original plan, but that was how it ended up.
None of it was easy, but all of it was much easier than anyone could have predicted.
The thing people most often say when I share my story is this:
“Wow that sounds like fun, I wish I could do it (apart from the mugging and morning sickness)”
And I say:
“Why couldn’t you?”
Of course you could. If I could do it, with all my executive dysfunctions, any sensible person could do it. It depends on how much you want it and how much you believe in possibility. It also depends on how much you are willing to fail.
The only thing that really stands in the way of living a life you really want is whether or not you really want it. And what you are willing to do to get it. Travelling across Western USA with “two babies” really wasn’t as hard as filing income taxes every year or working at a dead end 9-5 for an entire mortal life. We do hard things all the time.
When it comes to the possibility of living your dreams, the proof is in the pudding. You only need to do it once to realize that it was your own head holding you back all those years. Of course you need to plan and prepare but being adaptable and open to changing your plans will serve you equally as well.
Our intention had been to travel Western Canada after America to find a place we’d really like to live. But because we’d overstayed our time in America, we decided to go straight home. And because of that, we settled somewhere that (as it turns out) we really didn’t care for all that much.
Still, none of this was hard.
It’s not that we couldn’t have carried on traveling to find the “perfect” place in Canada. We changed our plans to do what seemed like the right thing at the time. Many times I have asked myself if we should’ve forfeited the American trip to spend more time looking for a great place to settle down.
The answer I have always come up with is “no”.
Although we haven’t been incredibly fond of place we are living, it was exactly where we needed to be at that time our lives. We’ve learned a lot of things and made a lot of priceless connections with people we’d otherwise never have met.
And had we not traveled, we’d have rued the fact that we never got in “one more adventure” when the opportunity presented. Regret is much worse than uncertainty or even failure.
When it comes to changing your life you need to have a plan – just don’t get too attached to it. Be ready to change course mid-journey, because sometimes it’s the road you never planned on that leads to the best destinations. When it comes to reaching for your dreams, strike a balance between determination and adaptability. If you are too attached to certain outcomes, you’ll miss what is already there or what could be.
Realize that your estimation of whether or not your dream is possible is the one thing that will determine the success or demise of it. If you think it’s too hard you won’t bother trying. If you want it bad enough to make it happen no matter how hard it is – you’ll do it.
And no matter what, be prepared to fail.
Go back that equation at the start of the post and look at it. Can you see that you won’t be able to quantify any of those variables of change-making until you try it?
Change isn’t hard. Staying the same when the same isn’t working – is.
And four years later, it’s time for another change. We have finally found that place where can see ourselves putting some roots down and are moving there next week.
Will it work out? I don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out!
Pass this post on to someone you care about whose fear or failing is stooping them from making an important change in their life. Remind them that there can be no failure when learning is present.