“I was supposed to get married today.” said Sash staring at the sunset over the mangroves. “We picked the venue, flowers, food … everything was arranged. It sounds utterly crazy and unthinkable now.” I met Sasha six months ago when she arrived to Siargao Island. She left her fiancé, her job and her life in London and decided to take some time off. Sasha hasn’t returned to her previous life since. When she first told me her story it sounded like she got burned out from meeting other people’s expectations. That probably happened to some extent. But when I asked her how she ended up living such life she said that she’d actually wanted all those things before. They just stopped making sense to her after some time.
How is it possible that the things we used to dream of and we put so much energy into don’t interest us anymore? We used to change our interests when we were kids while we were discovering the world, but as grown ups aren’t we supposed to have things figured? Most importantly, what shall we do when life does indeed shift?
Change is Natural
Depending on who you ask, the idea of change causes different levels of discomfort to different people. From removal of a chai latte from coffee shop menu, to introduction of new tax laws, to becoming single or changing jobs – the universal truth is, humans don’t like change. The other universal truth is, change is the only constant in life.
Things will never be the way they were before and that’s neither good nor bad. The sooner we embrace this the sooner we can learn to benefit from it. Take our bodies for example. How can we expect from ourselves to stay the same when anatomically speaking, we’re not the same people we were years, days, even hours ago? Different organs renew at different pace, hours for gut lining to decades for heart cells. Our bodies are an important factor shaping who we are. Chemical reactions otherwise known as feelings or thoughts don’t only result from culture or education but they first and foremost originate in our bodies and we can pro-actively shape them.
Reluctance to Change
We love order and habits. Most of the time, we’d rather put up with a few flaws than shake things up even at the cost of missing out on an improvement opportunity. Order puts us in control. Knowing how the system works helps us predict the outcome. It also gives us sense of security. We believe that we risk less by sticking to the status quo. There’s also a perception of goodness and quality associated with longevity and tradition. We think that because we’ve been doing something for a good amount of time it cannot be wrong.
Novelty is associated with innovating, questioning the already existing system and perhaps even creating things that don’t exist yet. We risk failing. This is not only hard work but it also puts us on the spot. People love watching others try things they don’t have the courage to try themselves. Private matters turn into public and everyone has a thing or two to say. That opens up a whole another Pandora’s box.
The stigma on the journey to change, whether our own or the one of the society, is often so difficult to overcome that people give up on chasing their dreams or searching for their purpose.
The Permission to U-Turn
Giving ourselves the permission to feel and think differently is the first step of being true to who we really are right now. If the environment we operate in doesn’t allow us to break from our roles to try something new we might need to get away. Going away is not a weakness, it’s not escapism. It’s sometimes necessary in the process of freeing ourselves from who we were before. It’s a physical metaphor of this process. Going to other places also exposes us to new stimuli, new knowledge, which can become handy is fully challenging ourselves and discovering things we didn’t know about ourselves. But I wouldn’t overrate the role of travel in the process where introspection is far more important. The answers are within us, we just need the right mix of stimuli, environment and time to find them.
Winning at Change in Life
When’s the right time for change? It’s always and never. Change happens whether we want it or not. We have a choice to agonise over it or welcome it with open arms and turn it into something awesome. The Eureka moment of finding something that hasn’t been found before and experiencing this transformation deep within us offers way more gains than the perceived control or security of sticking with the status quo. Reluctance to change can lead to inertia and over-dependence on external factors, which is in fact far more riskier than trying something new and failing at it. Some of my absolutely favourite benefits of change is the connection with our true selves, honest image of who we are right now, unprecedented freedom from externalities and speaking our minds and souls. These result in an authentic innercertainty around our decisions and they fuel our determination in pursuing our goals.
As stressful as some changes might appear to us, they are important parts of our lives. Same as the organ renewal process in our bodies, we need to keep growing and progressing in all aspects of our lives. So why not as well make it into an adventure? I salute my friend Sasha and everyone else who was able to look deep inside, acknowledged that they needed to move on and acted upon it. Happy changing all!