The idea of change can cause us to be mired in confusion and doubt, especially when the stakes are high. Even when you're clear about what you want, how do you avoid the potential negative consequences?
I'm familiar with that space. I spent a decade in the corporate world and was successful by society's standards. Still, fulfillment eluded me.
Whenever I thought of leaving, there was a sense of freedom. That aliveness, however, was quickly overpowered by the feeling of being trapped. As I saw it, my choices were being unemployed for the rest of my life by following my passion or getting paid well to do work that wasn't meaningful.
The corporate world was a safe bet.
The problem with safe, though, is that it keeps you in your comfort zone, where there's little room for growth. As nature teaches us, if something's not growing and changing, it's dying.
I left the corporate world when the discontent became far more painful than the fear of stepping into the unknown.
Easy choice? Not at all. However, that experience has taught me invaluable lessons on how to embrace change—it's the only way to realize your potential.
Here's the truth: your time is limited. You can choose to have a meaningful life by doing the things which matter to you. Or, you can take the safe path by following society's or someone else's rules and end up with a life of regret.
If you're not fulfilled and want change, these lessons from my journey can serve as a guide in getting you where you want to be.
1. Be clear about what you want to change and why that's important to you
Doing this will connect you with your vision in a way that's meaningful to you. With a strong 'why', you'll be inspired to stick with your plan and do those things which move you closer to the reality you want to create. It's easier to take courageous steps when they're aligned with what you value intrinsically.
Creativity, meaningful contribution, and the ability to express myself without restriction were my driving forces. By connecting emotionally with a compelling vision, I could clearly see the choices that moved me toward that or away from it and make better decisions.
2. Do what feels right, even if it doesn't feel good
By doing what feels right, you're aligning with your goals. For example, hitting the gym in the morning might not be the most exciting way to spend your time. However, if your goal is to be fit and alert, an hour of exercise makes perfect sense...and, you'll feel great once you do it.
So, take the test: is what I'm about to do moving me closer to where I want to be?
3. Use fear as a motivator
Admittedly, fear is not a comfortable feeling—far from it. I know what it's like to have knots in my stomach and tightness in my chest when contemplating change. To avoid that unpleasant feeling, the easy choice is to stay where you are—in your comfort zone.
It doesn't have to be that way.
Fear is the bridge between your comfort zone and the infinite unknown, where all the possibilities lie. Instead of signifying danger, the discomfort you feel can be viewed as an indication that you're growing and moving in the right direction.
Celebrate the feeling, and keep going. It becomes easier to face your fears with practice and results.
4. Recognize that change necessitates endings
In order to get where you want to go, you must be willing to let go of your current reality. By changing careers, for example, I needed to give up my corporate identity. Even starting a new relationship might mean losing some of your independence.
Acknowledge what will be ending as a result of the change. Look for ways to bring the things which are meaningful to you into your new life. If you're changing jobs and will miss your colleagues, find ways to stay connected with them or form similar bonds. Take time to grieve for the things that you'll miss and can't take with you.
5. Thoughts are not facts: observe and challenge them
Because your mind craves certainty and wants to have all the information, it makes assumptions to fill in the gaps about people, circumstances, and the future—many of them are baseless. The majority of the thoughts you have today are the same thoughts you had yesterday. With repetition, you believe your thoughts, which can stop you from taking action.
When you see that your thoughts are not facts, you can watch the internal chatter without taking directions from it. With meditation and journaling, I've been able to develop a greater level of self awareness and question the validity of the stories I tell myself.
Being in your head only leads to more thoughts, procrastination, and anxiety. Action, on the other hand, leads to clarity, progress, and results.
While change can appear daunting because of the feared losses and negative consequences, it's through change that you evolve into your potential. In reality, the worst case scenario is not ending up homeless and broke. It's arriving at the end of your life only to realize that you have an unexpressed vision within you. Then, it becomes too late to change.
About the author:
Having transitioned from a decade-long career in the corporate world, Tanuja Ramchal is now a change and transformation coach. She helps individuals who want to make changes in their lives and careers get clear about what they really want, know how to make it happen, and find the courage to do it. She believes everyone can have personal freedom. You can learn more about Tanuja and her work at TheConsciousLifeProject.com.