Well it’s a new year, and it seems only natural that the general topic of conversation is change and resolutions. So I thought it timely to share with you a story about myself. Something on the topic of change from a personal perspective – in the interest of making a fresh start and sharing experience.
A lifestyle change
Those who know me will already be aware my partner and I have been working through a lifestyle change for the past few years now.
It began late 2013. We were living in Brisbane with our two beloved dogs, in a beautiful home we had built a few years earlier, working our Monday to Friday jobs, paying the mortgage and plodding along through life – as we all do. Our weekends were generally spent tending the usual chores of groceries, housework and yard maintenance. YAWN! [Sorry to anyone who doesn’t find these things yawn].
But something felt amiss.
We were restless. Dissatisfied. We were in a rut. Surely there was more to life than circling the hamster wheel of career, mortgage, and playing house?
Many years earlier we had chosen to break away from the ‘2.5 child’ family norm – we made the choice not to have any at all. So in hindsight I guess it was only natural we should end up questioning why we were following the conventional rule of setting up house and playing slave to a mortgage?
At the same time we were experiencing this listlessness with life, a couple of other external motivators came into play. We had, in the not too recent past, chosen different paths in our careers which had negatively impacted our level of income. Our dogs were ageing and becoming unwell. And we were facing a looming redundancy.
We were, for all intents and purposes, approaching the proverbial ‘fork in the road‘.
The picture in a nutshell
- Our “fur” family were getting ready to leave us – we were facing an “empty nest” of sorts (please forgive this pathetic comparison to parenthood – I appreciate it is of course no comparison – but it’s what I have to work with ☺)
- We had chosen different jobs leaving us with sizable pay drops (the reasons for this are a whole other story for another day)
- A redundancy was looking imminent
- We felt dissatisfied with our lifestyle – we had jobs and a house – but what was it all for?
How to crack the nut
So we started talking about how we could transform our situation.
Sit and wait to see which way the dice would roll. But I wasn’t keen to play this from the back foot, with potential of being forced into decisions that may not be our own, or having the situation spiralling away in front of us and merely being swept along with the tide.
Get on the front foot – take action – take responsibility for ourselves and our happiness.
However, both options involved facing a few fundamental issues.
The pain points
- Uncertainty – either option meant facing the unknown.
- Risk – neither of our options offered a sense of security.
- Control – both choices would leave us feeling we had limited control.
Dealing with uncertainty, risk, and loss of control
To help us make a call one way or the other we had to consider these things and weigh up all potential consequences as we could see them. We had to discuss worse case scenarios and our bottom line.
What might failure look like and how would we deal with that?
Having these sorts of discussions and really breaking things downs to the absolute bare bones truly gets you back to basics. What are your priorities in life? What is most important to you?
You soon discover a few truths. Well – the fact is you likely already know these truths, it’s just that they get obscured by the social constructs we are swept up in, also known as ‘everyday life‘.
The facts of life
Essentially, the facts are these:
Life is uncertain. It’s always been uncertain. We never really know what is going to happen. We can have a rough idea, we can make plans and take action for a certain outcome, but there is never a guarantee that’s how things will play out.
Life is full of risk. Every choice carries risk. Some risks may be perceived to be smaller than others – but it’s all a matter of perspective. Every day that you get up and face the world, risk is involved – you only have to watch the daily news to be reminded of this. So you have to find your point of balance when it comes to risk. What might be at stake? What can you afford to lose?
Control is finite. There really is only one thing that we have absolute control over and that is ourselves. Our own beliefs, thoughts, and actions. Beyond that, anything can happen.
Once you accept these facts decision-making gets a little simpler – not necessarily easier – just clearer, more straight-forward. You’re able to find your balance amidst the chaos. Of course there are still emotions involved: fear, worry, anxiety, self-doubt – but also excitement, anticipation, and hope.
So after many long, philosophical discussions that led us to accepting and appreciating these points, we realised it didn’t really matter what we decided. The chips could fall where they may and we would be able to deal with the bottom line – whatever that may be.
We have our health. Amazing family and friends. We have skills and abilities. Our intentions are good. We will do the best we can, with what we have, wherever we land.
Things can always be worse – they really could be – at any time, so you have to learn to embrace the ‘right now’. There are many people in this world who have far less. Circumstances and outcomes can change at any time regardless of the plans and choices we make.
The only thing you can be certain of, is that nothing is certain. So your best bet – BE ADAPTABLE!
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou
We took a leap of faith, we embraced uncertainty, and in the first half of 2014 – we jumped. We sold our house and a car. Quit our jobs. Soon after our poor old dogs bid us farewell . We started house-sitting. Then we travelled around the world for six months. For now, we’re house-sitting again. Earning a small living along the way where we can and we’re getting by. We don’t know exactly what is around the corner for us yet, but we have learnt to embrace the uncertainty. And we are the happiest I think we’ve ever been. Why? I believe it’s because we’ve stripped our life back to basics and are practicing adaptability.
There are absolutely challenging and stressful times, but we talk it out, we weigh it up, and we always get back to the fundamentals. This grounds us again and we keep moving forward.
Lessons from change
Our lessons were these:
- Let go. Stop trying to control all the external factors in our lives. We can only control ourselves.
- Gather courage. Feel fear and push on anyway. There is risk in everything – don’t let that stop you.
- Own it. Take responsibility for ourselves. Stop believing external circumstances dictate our happiness. You make your own happiness.
Challenge your need for control
Along this line of letting go of control, I just read an article at Mindful.org about our innate desire for control, security, and certainty. It highlights some interesting points and research about our need for control, and it complements some of my experience and what I’m talking about here.
Here are a couple of key points from the article that I found relevant to my story:
- Learn to embrace uncertainty – this is incredibly liberating. Challenge your need for control. The more you can get comfortable with discomfort, with not knowing, and trusting that you can deal with whatever rolls your way – the less bothered you will feel. Embracing uncertainty helps to minimise expectations, and in turn, disappointment. This can only be a good thing for your well-being.
- Reduce the importance of money – for us it was by downsizing, particularly debt. Sell stuff you no longer use or don’t need – and I mean, really don’t need. Get back to basics. Pay off credit cards and loans. For us, after we did this it wasn’t as important how much we earned, we only needed to cover our costs of living. A massive load off – hugely invigorating!
- Seek out more moments of ‘awe’; experience more life – this helps you to feel like time is slowed and plentiful. We have been incredibly fortunate since downsizing as it freed us up for new opportunities, enabling us to see and experience so much. Some days we have truly lost all sense of time. It is such an amazing feeling – I think it is a true sense of relaxation and being in the moment.
- Own responsibility for yourself – the best way to get better at embracing uncertainty and reducing your need to try and control external factors, is to focus on the one thing you can control – yourself. Take responsibility for yourself, for achieving your own well-being and finding your own happiness. In the grand scheme of things – nothing else matters.
There is a lot more in this article beyond these few points which I have interpreted and applied to my particular situation. Check it out – it’s an interesting read.
Take the leap
Our particular path and the methods that helped us along, have worked for us. They will obviously not be the right fit for everyone.
But what I can say is this – regardless of the choices ahead of you now or into the future, if you work on embracing uncertainty, accepting risk, and letting go of control beyond yourself, it can only serve to make your journey through change and finding your happy place that bit easier.
Oh, and lots of talking! … I did lots of talking to help me get through all this change, and I still do (I’m so incredibly grateful to my wonderful network of family, friends, and my fabulous mentors and coaches – you know who you are – THANK YOU!). Never underestimate the power of getting your thoughts outside of your own head to help you find clarity. So if you need to talk ‘change’ – get in touch ☺
Do you need a friendly ear to help you process your thoughts?
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I am a qualified Social Worker with over a decade of experience helping individuals to successfully transition through life changes, overcome obstacles, and increase self-determination. Get your FREE eBook: 5 Steps to Bring Your Confidence out of Hibernation, by clicking the button below.