It is absolutely true you can change your life. Not just once, but over and over. Change keeps you young, lifts you out of your ruts, challenges your brain and survival skills, and opens up new vistas and opportunities. I know. I have done it more than I ever expected to, and more than some people would think possible. And I have no regrets. Every change has brought more stress and challenge, and more happiness and fulfillment.
There is a story of a family cooking a ham, and one of the children asking, “Why do we cut off the ends of the ham before cooking it?” The mother answers, “I don’t know. My mother did it. I’ll ask her.” She calls and asks. Her mother answers, “I don’t know, your grandmother did it. Call and ask her.” The granddaughter calls and asks. The grandmother answers, “Because my pan was too small.”
So often we do whatever we have learned, or observed, or were taught, without ever questioning why. That’s what keeps us stuck in ruts, internally convinced that one way of doing something is the right way. Change requires asking the questions “why, where, how”. The answers provide the outline for change.
It’s good to change, although it may not be good to make changes simply for change sake. Nobody has been able to improve on the original Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola recipes, in spite of added flavors and actual missteps. (They did remove cocaine from the original Coke, but there are probably some who would argue that was not an improvement. Whether they would win that argument is debatable).
While change is often positive, it is seldom easy. None of the changes I have made have been done with total ease. I add the modifier, because it is possible to accomplish great things and live a great life with “do it with ease” as a mantra. And we can eliminate as many obstacles and stubborn, old ways of doing things as possible. But doing it with ease, and the steps to change being easy are two different things.
Sometimes we are forced into change. After my first divorce, I spent several years in therapy. Every minute was worth it, and much of it was painful. But the internal changes were lasting and real. They took work.
Some change is chosen. I left my first career as a teacher by choice, and spent three months soul searching, reading “What Color Is Your Parachute,” doing all the exercises and following the advice. I made the leap to an entirely different career path, largely on faith and belief in my abilities, but also on the work I had put in to prepare. I also punted. When I was asked if I could write a press release, I said yes, and promptly went out and learned, bringing one that included the President of the University’s favorite phrases he used in speeches back to the next interview.
Years later, when my own advertising and marketing business, The Lennox Group, went under, I was faced with a second change that was forced upon me. It’s a long story for another article, but this change led to my going back to college at 38 years old and getting a degree to become a psychotherapist.
Another change made by choice was much more difficult. I had married a man who had two children and didn’t want more. We discussed this going in, and I worked on it in therapy. I now realize I put wanting a relationship in front of my own needs. Eventually, the desire to have my own child became overwhelming. We tried to work it out, but he wouldn’t relent. We separated, I met someone and got pregnant on purpose at age 40. Everything that followed was both tangibly difficult and wildly fulfilling and joyful. (Read my post featured in Relationships and Parenting entitled “I Am A 21st Century Murphy Brown”.
My most recent change was moving to Austin, Texas after a lifetime in Fort Worth, Texas. A friend who had moved here much earlier recruited me to work in a wellness clinic she was establishing. My son was in college 30 miles from Austin his sophomore year and was playing basketball. This was definitely a change by choice, and possibly the second most difficult one yet. However, I didn’t really even have to think about it. I had been coming home to an empty house from my counseling practice office for two years after my son left for college, and had begun sitting in the driveway not wanting to get out of the car. The house that had been perfect for raising a family was really too much for me alone at that point. I was traveling to see him play most weekends in the fall, and the idea of a 30 minute drive to games as opposed to 3 and a half hours was compelling. Moreover, I had friends in Austin, and Austin is a mecca for liberal Texans. My son and I have both blossomed here.
The change required selling my house, which took longer than expected, and starting work before I had a home in Austin. The physical part of moving was taxing, especially since I had to do it twice within 3 months. The wellness clinic was a start-up, so I plunged into getting clients. After six months the clinic went under financially, and I took the few clients I had gathered and started a second private practice here in Austin. That took time and commitment and money. And, it was a change forced on me after the original choice. But I am happy here, and through these challenges have begun writing again.
The truth is, change is inevitable. We can choose to fight it, bemoan it, try to refuse to accept it, or greet it with open arms. We can choose what changes we want, but also be ready for the ones forced upon us. I believe in “expect nothing and be ready for anything.” I also believe in knowing what you want and taking the not always easy steps to get it.
Explore more about change at newchoicesguide.com