I read somewhere that the only people who like change are wet babies. Most of us want to lead extraordinary lives without ever having to do anything out of the ordinary.
As 2011 beckons, I’ve been thinking about what I want from life; and what would make me truly happy. It’s really not as tedious as it sounds. In fact, unless you are dead, life will inevitably prompt you to ask yourself the same question from time to time; and to take stock of the extent to which you’re fulfilling your genuine aspirations.
For most of us, this can seem quite scary. We prefer to remain in a semi-comatose state where we’re mildly satisfied with life, rather than risk losing the little we have by going after bigger goals. If you don’t mind living that kind of life, where you never get to find out how far you could go or fulfill your true potential, then well and good.
You may have even found a way of numbing the pain that works for you – alcohol, over-eating, or nursing a grudge against people who’re too busy being outstanding to care what you think. And you’ll be able to get away with it, at least for a while.
Then there are those of us who don’t even realise that we’re unhappy. Our feelings of dissatisfaction have been a part of our lives for so long that burying them has started to feel like ‘normal life.’ We don’t even believe that people are supposed to be happy or satisfied in every area of their lives because it’s been a long time since we’ve experienced that; probably not since we were children.
But if you have ever entertained the idea of doing or becoming more than you are now, the chances are huge that your mind will keep coming back to those same ideas. You see, once your mind has stretched in a certain direction, it can never go back; and your quickest route to true satisfaction is to follow it.
That needn’t be as threatening as many of us make it out to be. In fact, the biggest threat you will probably face as you try to follow your heart is well-meaning people trying to talk you out of doing what you know you really want to do. Most of us are averse to change, so don’t be surprised if people who care about you try to protect you from making changes they may find to be overwhelming.
Personally, I used to think it took tremendous courage to follow one’s dreams. I marveled at people who weren’t afraid to take their lives in completely new directions, prompted only by their faith that they would be happier as a result.
I thought it took a lot to succeed; and that only the lucky few made it. I viewed struggle as a prerequisite to success; and was determined never to be branded a failure. I questioned whether I had what it took to arrive where I wanted to go; and inevitably, the answer was ‘no.’ I even used the people closest to me; and not wanting to disappoint them, as a justification for my inaction. I looked for any excuse not to allow my ship to leave the harbor, including preparation, for ‘some day,’ when I would eventually set sail.
Well, some day is now.
Now, I realise that it actually takes more effort and strain not to follow our dreams; that we have big dreams precisely because we have the resources to fulfill them. The biggest failures don’t even try to honour their aspirations because they’re too afraid.
In fact, ‘failure’ is nothing more than an opportunity to identify and eliminate what doesn’t work. From that point of view, success is inevitable.
Don’t wait until the New Year to start thinking about what changes you’d like to make to your life. Begin thinking about what it takes to make you happy. It never depends on anyone else ÔÇô not your spouse or even your children. It’s entirely within your own control.
In which area of your life do you instinctively know that you must move on? Has your job become stale, or is your current relationship failing to honour you?
Realise that moving on doesn’t have to be abrupt, or scary. First, be honest with yourself about what would make you happier; and don’t dismiss it as pie in the sky. Keep thinking about it until you become comfortable enough with the thought of change, to actually pursue it.
If there are people in your life who’ve made similar changes, talk to them and find out what prompted them to act. Ascertain how you could benefit from taking the same action.
Also, realise that change doesn’t mean coming up with something that will satisfy you forever more. Change is constant, because we are always growing. Despite what our outside circumstances may reflect, we are becoming more every day, including through our mere thoughts. We never arrive at the ‘ultimate destination’ until we die, so we might as well start enjoying the process.
When you move towards change in your life, you may face opposition. For me, I found that as I started taking my professional life in a new direction, many options were offered to me that would help sustain the status quo. They represented more of the same, yet in my moments of weakness, I try to dress them up as change.
But don’t sell yourself short. Identify your dream; then pursue it. Not something like it, but that which you know would make your heart sing.
As IT giant, Steve Jobs reminds us, “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”