This post is just a reminder of what we all know but tend to forget. It’s a reminder to myself as well. It does not matter what relationship you’re in, where you’re living, where you’re working, or what other people expect of you. If you don’t like something about your current life, you have the power to change it. Most likely, it won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
There are little changes you can make, and then there are the major life-overhaul changes. We often get stuck in a certain town, living with certain people, working a certain job, doing the same habits day in and day out. So many times, if we hate our job or our relationship or our location, we will still stay, even though it kind of sucks. Why is that?
Depending on what you believe, we only get one life, and it passes by pretty fast. The only person who has control over how and where you spend that time and whether or not you enjoy it (for the most part) is you. And at any moment, you can make different choices and change direction. You are the pilot, the director, the person in charge.
Why Do We Stay Stuck With What We Don’t Like?
There are so many examples of people choosing to stick with something they don’t like. How many people are in abusive relationships but yet they don’t leave? How many people wish they’d quit smoking or drinking or overeating, but yet they “can’t”? So many people get up day after day and force themselves go to a job they despise, but they still do it day after day. It’s been part of the story of my life, for sure. So why do people not take hold of their power and create the life they dream of?
I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I do know.
- Sometimes, we doubt ourselves and just don’t believe that we have the strength required to make the necessary changes.
- We are more comfortable with “what we know” (past experiences) then stepping into the unknown and out of our comfort zone, even when “what we know” is bad. Fear is a great stopper for a lot of people.
- We don’t want to feel the pain and uncomfortable feelings that come with a lot of changes. Quitting smoking is just plain miserable for the first week for sure, and for me, I was completely miserable every day for the first 2 months. People said, “It gets better after a week or two”. It did NOT get better at all until about the third month. That’s a long time to suffer, especially when you know picking up a cigarette will make the misery go away (temporarily).A lot of positive changes involve some kind of pain. We all have some experience with dieting – you feel like you’re depriving yourself, you get hungry and irritable, etc. If you decide to take up an exercise routine, you get frustrated, you get body aches, you get sweaty and out of breath, and so on. If you decide to move to a new city, you’re lonely at first, you don’t know where anything is, you feel discombobulated. People generally don’t like pain and would rather suffer on with what they’re currently doing than face the growing pains of change, even when the current situation is not so good. Even though the pain of change is usually temporary, we still shy away from it.
- We’ve given our power away. Sometimes, we’ve given our power away to other people. What “they think” becomes more important than what “we think”. We place more importance on others’ happiness than our own, or we mistakenly believe we are responsible for another person’s happiness (you never are).
How To Change Your Life
This is such a broad topic, because there are literally millions of changes you can take in your life and they’re all so different. But all major changes begin with these steps:
Strengthen Your Self Esteem
You are stronger and more powerful than you think you are. Sit down and make a list of all the times you overcame something difficult in your life. Remember times when you were full of confidence and succeeded. If you can’t think of anything, imagine what it will feel like when you suceed at making the change(s) you’re thinking about. Imagine yourself after it’s done. Know that you are strong and that you can do this. Read stories of others who have done it. If they can, you can, too.
Let Go of the Past
Just because you were a certain way yesterday or last month or last year does NOT mean you have to be that same person today or tomorrow. Just because something’s “always been that way” doesn’t mean you have to carry it into the future with you. What was doesn’t have to be what is. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace newness – even if it means being uncomfortable for a while. It probably won’t kill you.
Learn to Embrace Delayed Gratification and Don’t Fear Pain
Know that change is uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s downright painful (e.g., quitting smoking!!) Maybe you’ll lose friends. You might struggle financially for a while. Learn to see it for what it is – a temporary pain that will lead to a much greater gain. Be willing to suffer for a bit so you can get somewhere better down the road. Don’t let a bit of uncomfortable feelings prevent you from improving your life.
Realize That Everyone Decides How Happy They Choose To Be
People will guilt-trip you into doing things that they want you to do. They make you think you’re responsible for their lives or their level of happiness. It just isn’t true. Everyone has to decide for themselves if they choose to be happy or not – regardless of what’s going on around them. You are not responsible for making other people happy. If you’re a parent, of course your children come first. But know that it’s okay to make decisions that are the best ones for you – even if other people disagree, attack you for it, guilt you into doing what they want you to do, threaten to leave, etc. You are the master of your life. Not them. Reclaim your power. Know that it’s okay to do what’s best for you.
If you can’t change your physical circumstances (say you were paralyzed in a tragic accident and you’re confined to living in a nursing home), you still have control over what you think of things. You still have the choice of whether to be happy and grateful or bitter and miserable. Even if you’re incarcerated on death row and your freedoms have all been taken away, no one can control your mind but you. You always have choices.
A Couple of Examples
If you do some research, you’ll find all kinds of stories of people who were trapped in poverty, or in bad situations, but who rose above their circumstances, embraced fear, made changes, and created the life they desired. The more stories you seek out and read, the more you will know that nothing is impossible and you can do it, too.
Here’s a couple stories I read lately of people who embraced fear and made major life changes:
- Ken Jeong
I like his story because he spent so much time and money becoming a physician, but then he decided to let go of the certainty and financial stability to take a chance on acting. He didn’t know if he’d get any roles. He didn’t know if he’d make money at it. But he did it anyway, and it worked out well for him.
- Another M.D. who decided to give up practicing medicine to pursue other dreams like writing is one of my favorite authors, Lissa Rankin, M.D. She talks about how scary it was, especially since she had enormous debt from medical school and malpractice insurance along with a family to support.
- Jennifer Musselman tells how scary it was when she switched careers when she was nearly 40 in this article.
Of course, there are a million other changes you can make besides making a career change. But there are just as many stories out there of people who have done what you want to do and succeeded. Don’t ever fall into the false thinking of “I’m trapped” or “There’s nothing I can do”. There is always something you can do. Take a tiny step. Then another. And another. Before you know it, you’ve succeeded.
Have you made some major changes in your life? What was it like? What changes do you want to make? Share in the comments below.