Out of all the blog posts I’ve ever written, “50 Signs You Need a Change” post consistently gets the most traffic. Interestingly, the post comes up when people search for “what to do when you need a change”. So, I decided to write an article on what to do when you need a change, since you asked.
Except that I couldn’t do it. I wiggled and danced around the topic for weeks; I procrastinated, I wrote about energy, spent time on Facebook, and even designed a whole new class on responding to people in crisis – all in the spirit of avoiding a topic of what to do when you need a change.
For 7 years, I’ve been saying: “We need to move!” Granted, we live within walking distance of the kids’ sports and dance classes; we walk across the street when we feel like sushi (or authentic Chinese food, or Mexican, pizza, Italian, Thai, or Vietnamese food); we live within two blocks of the best Italian bakery in NYC; we are 10 minute walk from the kids’ school and a park; within 40 minutes we can be at one of the best museums in the world, and go out every weekend for years without having to visit the same museum or theater twice.
Yet, we want to move because in our heart of hearts, we are not city dwellers. And 7 years later, we are still here, in the Big Apple.
Our situation is working well for us on so many levels, even though we keep saying we need a change. So, ultimately, it comes down to this:
If you don’t apply the information below, you may want to admit to yourself that your current situation is working better for you than you give it credit for.
If, however, you can take the following information and apply it, you will most certainly make the change that you want.
So, here it goes:
1. Making a change is about managing energy.
Everything is energy. Money is energy. Time is energy. Parenting is energy. Productivity is energy. Technology is energy. Learn to manage energy, and you become the master of your universe.
Let’s take time as an example. I’m pretty sure that 24 hours a day is less than the time that all of your obligations require. So, forget about managing time, and instead, decide where you are going to invest your energy. Instead of asking yourself “how will I invest my time today?” ask “how will I invest my energy today?” Spend your energy on what you value most.
Parenting is another good example: kids often respond to the way you are with them rather than to what you say. (If you are a parent, I know you are nodding your head right now).
Energy is strength and vitality required for an activity. Making a change, any change, is about managing and applying your energy differently, ensuring that you have strength and vitality for your new life.
Please answer the following 4 questions:
– What gives you energy?
– What drains your energy?
– How can you do more things that give you energy and fewer things that drain your energy?
– Where can you conserve energy in order to use it for creating the change that you want?
Experiment: stop managing your change in terms of action steps, and start managing your energy. It looks like this: sleep when you are tired, eat when you are hungry, do things that bring you strength, and avoid people who are draining. Try it for a week or so.
Then, from that position of strength, allocate physical and mental energy for making the change, focusing on the most energizing aspects that the change will bring you.
2. Your motivation will make or break the deal.
Simon Sinek has an excellent TED talk on the power of “Why?” . If your “why” is strong, it will guide and drive the change that you want to make. Your “why” needs to be something that you are most certain about. Without a powerful “why”, making a change will be an uphill battle.
So, your step 2 (after you’ve taken step 1 of managing your energy) is to write down your “why” for making a change, and let your “why” motivate you if you ever doubt whether or not you are making the right change.
Here’s how it goes:
“You don’t deserve this change.”
“But here’s why I’m making the change nevertheless”
“You don’t know enough. You don’t have enough. You are not enough.”
“This is my reason why I’m making the change, though, and I’m going for it.”
“It will never work.”
“The reason why I’m making this change is worth the risk.”
See? A strong “why” is the answer to all the voices of doubt.
3. Expand your comfort zone rather than go outside of it.
I’m sure you’ve seen a graphic that looks like this:
a small circle labeled “your comfort zone”, and separately, a large circle labeled “where magic happens”.
Does it ring a bell?
I don’t want to re-post that graphic; there is no need to keep imprinting it in your mind because it’s not accurate. Magic can happen anywhere, and you might as well feel comfortable as you are experiencing magic.
A comfort zone is a place or a situation where one feels safe or without stress. I know that there is a great deal of advice out there suggesting that to make something good happen in life, you need to get out of your comfort zone.
There is a difference between making yourself purposely uncomfortable, unsafe and stressed (i.e. “going outside of your comfort zone”) and feeling inspired to do something new or different (i.e. “expanding your comfort zone”).
If the change that you are trying to make is way outside of your comfort zone, making the change will look unsafe and stressful. So you will procrastinate; who wants to be stressed, right?!
So forget that, and instead make a change in a way that feels at least somewhat comfortable.
If you are learning to ice-skate, get a good instructor or go with a few friends who can lend a hand – you don’t have to just put on the skates and go on the ice.
If you are moving to a new city, make connections in the new city before you move and schedule regular Skype dates with your friends and family back home.
If you are breaking up with a live-in partner, don’t picture your life as a completely solitary existence post-break-up. Instead, make a list of ideas that you want to fill your life with: things to do, places to go, people to learn from, and people to see. Mark specific dates on the calendar. Give yourself something to look forward to.
4. Learn to feel good about change rather than dread it.
Going toward something you dread is not for the faint-hearted, and it is not a pleasant experience. Anticipation of pain is often worse than the pain itself.
So, make your anticipation of change and your journey toward change more pleasant. Please see my recent article on ways to feel good about change for specific suggestions.
5. Remember that change can lead to fulfillment.
Fulfillment comes to us from various sources. For example, Dan Pink talks about getting work fulfillment through gaining autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose. Look at the change that you are trying to make through Dan Pink’s lenses:
Does it give you more independence?
Does the change that you are planning give you more mastery of what you are doing?
Does the change that you are making helps you feel like you are on a mission than matters? If your answers are “yes”, then try to remember that making this change will help you feel more fulfilled, and more like yourself. Let this quest for fulfillment become a part of your “why”.
And finally, ask yourself this: “Do I truly, in my heart of hearts, want whatever the change will bring more than whatever it is I have now?”
It sounds like a simple question, but it’s not.
“I want to go on vacation, but the truth is that I want to keep my money more than go on vacation.”
“I want to move, but the truth is that I want to live in my community more than I want to move.”
“I want to start my own business, but the truth is that I want the security and the sizeable paycheck more than a business.”
Finish the following sentence, please: “When it comes to the change that I want to make, the truth is that…”
If, in your heart of hearts, you are ready for whatever the change may bring, start by applying your energy to it: do something.
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