Do you wish you could just shift gears and live a more satisfying life? Perhaps you want less stress, more security, or more meaning in life? If so, you’re not alone. Every day Americans reassess their lives. Some have suffered great personal loss and look for ways to move on. Others have been shaken financially and seek new means of support. Health crises, birthdays, accidents, and tragedies all provide wake-up calls. We hear a voice warning, “Make the time; take the risk, take a different path…before it’s too late.”
But a different path might take longer, be riddled with potholes, or take us to an unfamiliar place. The road to change seems dangerous. We want something better, but get stuck in a rut of old habits. I remember several years ago setting a goal to rein in my work schedule. But I continued an old habit of saying “yes” to every request made of me. Until I dealt with the discomfort of saying “no” I couldn’t achieve my goal. Many of us want something different, but continue to do the same. Here are three common obstacles that will stop you from shifting gears…and how to blast through them.
1. A blind curve. If you can’t see where you’re headed, you can’t negotiate the turn. To break out of old behaviors, form a mental picture of what you want next. It’s not enough to focus on what you don’t want. What kind of life do you dream of? What sort of job do you want? Where would you like to live? Imagine your situation as you’d like it to be. Be specific; see every detail. The clearer you are about what you desire, the easier it is to move forward.
2. Bad shock absorbers. Every change you attempt, whether finding joy after a loss or changing jobs after years in one place, requires traveling over a bumpy road. You may have to learn a new skill, risk looking foolish, or even face one of your greatest fears. If you anticipate probable discomfort, you won’t turn back the first time your stomach does a flip. Prepare your nerves so you can take the bumps. You can even cushion the ride by remembering the changes you’ve survived in the past and reminding yourself that any temporary pain will be worth the gain.
3.Not enough fuel. Doing things differently takes energy. Some days you’ll hit the floor running and other days you won’t feel like getting out of bed. A critical stage in change is maintaining enough energy to keep you moving forward. Stay away from energy drainers like negative people who are quick to point out why things won’t work out. Instead, spend time with friends who listen to your dreams and affirm your strength. Also, beware of biting off more change than you can chew-take one step at a time. Don’t squander your precious fuel by saying “yes” if the action isn’t in the direction of where you want to go. Put a moratorium on any new commitments until you’re through the rough spots of the shift you’re trying to make. Learn to refuel regularly with ten-minute retreats. Sit in silence, meditate, listen to music, or take a walk.
Through my change management work, I have witnessed all kinds of life changes…some profound and others just tweaking. Those who succeed continue to dream, develop resilience, and find a team of supporters. Perhaps psychologist Virgina Satir said it best: “Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
Suzanne Zoglio,PhD is a life-balance expert, author, and motivational speaker. [http://zoglio.com/]