You know you’ll be better off. You know you’ll love it once it happens. There’s only one problem… You have to actually do it. Whether it’s a toxic relationship, unrewarding job or bad neighborhood, the pain felt every day seems tolerable compared to the potential pain of change. At least it’s familiar.
Every day, we reinforce patterns. Patterns of movement. Patterns of thought. Patterns of emotions. Just like the momentum of a speeding truck, the more time we spend in our patterns, the more challenging it is to change course. We fear losing control. This control allows us to feel comfortable. To be clear, comfort is different than safety. It is possible to be uncomfortable and still safe. Just imagine a hike in the cold rain. No risk of death, just wet socks.
Not being the sharpest tack in the box, I have always had a tendency to run towards discomfort. This has consistently confused my friends and family. Over the years, what could be interpreted as blind stupidity has been rebranded to courage. Still not sure I understand the difference, but the lesson is the same. The result has been a life that others describe as ‘fearless’.
Now let’s see if we can unpack the reasons why people struggle with change.
Material possessions can bring joy. However, the majority of the material items in a person’s life cause more suffering than joy. Every additional item that you own requires care. If it is something of value to someone else, it needs to be protected from theft. If it is fragile, it needs protection from physical contact. Anyone who has ever moved as an adult understands how overwhelming it can be to get all of these things from one place to another.
While it would be extremist to expect modern adults to become minimalists and live out of a small red bag like the Dalai Lama, there are things to be done. Let’s consider the success of Kondo’s decluttering lessons. At the core of these teaching, we are encouraged to consider how much joy we receive from a given item. This item could be a shirt, a bowling ball or a knife. This joy can come from frequent use, aesthetic enjoyment or memories associated with that item.
Some stuff management systems have a goal of minimizing to a certain number of items. For most, this is a bit extreme. Starting with a donation run to the local thrift store can work. Consider getting rid of anything that has not been touched for the past year. Or create your own time frame you feel comfortable with.
Less things allow for more free thought and the ability to keep momentum down by keeping the weight down. Remember that a truck loaded with bricks will be harder to steer than a truck filled with feathers. Lighten up. Create empty space in your life.
Puppies are so cute! Then they grow up. And they eat, drink, poop and pee. All pets require attention. The attention could be worth it if the pet provides great joy to the owner. More often than not, pets become more a burden for us instead of a source of joy. Every additional living thing that depends on you for life maintenance adds weight to your life.
Before getting that hamster, consider the reality of the hamster. Consider whether you and/or your family have the bandwidth to give that hamster the best possible life. Do you have time to play with the hamster and keep its cage in top shape? Make custom hamster capes? Play fiddle to the hamster in the morning? Think about the life this hamster will have in your house.
Remember that we are referring to change here. If your goal is to homestead, then a menagerie of animals is perfect. Get the ducks and goats. Collect eggs. That’s the journey. It’s a settling into the ground, not a moving over the ground.
This is a big one. Most people are ruled by fear. The largest source of fear is the unknown. Most of the physical world is unknown to us. Our own deeper emotions are mostly unknown to us.
Bravery is not the absence of fear. It is acknowledging the presence of fear and advancing anyway. Be scared. It’s normal. But the thing that you can control is what to do with that fear.
Fear can keep someone in a toxic relationship for too long. Fear of being alone. Fear of never finding someone else who will love you as much as this abusive individual who loves you. Even though abuse if present, it’s less scary than the fear of the unknown.
More than half of the over 100 million working Americans are disengaged at their jobs. This means they will put in the bare minimum of work. They don’t love what they do. But having a job is better than not having a job, right?! Not really. Considering the longer time horizon of life, people rarely lay on their deathbed wishing they worked more. Work feels less like work when you love what you do.
In order to make the leap to a profession of passion, it requires leaping. Leaping is scary. Will I get the job I want? Will I make enough money? Will it be what I think it will be? Trusting in the future is the only way to get past these doubts. Go through the worst case scenario. Will you need to cut back on going out to eat? Would you need to move in with your parents? With your children? Coming to terms with these worst-case scenarios can help to leap. If you can handle the worst case, anything better than that will be a pleasant surprise.
This can be considered intention. Intention always precedes actualization. Imagine that you are going on a road trip. It will take many days to get to your desired destination. You know where you are going, though. Even when you are driving at night, you know where you will end up. It’s only necessary to see the road as far as the headlights go. In many ways, that’s how life is. We don’t always know the details of the events that will transpire between our departure and arrival.
If we do not know where we want to end up, we will wander around. In the wandering, we will encounter interesting opportunities and experiences. While this does not necessarily result in an unpleasant life, you are not likely to arrive at a place you never tried to get to in the first place.
For me, the planning came in the form of a vision board. It was an evening’s craft project at the age of 30 that guided the next decade of my life. The final result of the process is less important than the practice of determining the desired outcome. Here’s how simple it was:
Ok, so not all of the things on this vision board came true. Most of them did, though.
Large plans require time. Small plans are fast. Because people are generally impatient, we have a tendency to create and execute a series of small plans. Each small plan completed gives us a sense of accomplishment. That little dose of dopamine is what we need to keep happy. Delayed gratification is one of the most challenging things for us humans. We don’t care if that banana will taste better tomorrow. We are hungry right now!
Have patience. The big stuff takes time. I try to break up life in decade chunks. They have a theme with some milestones. The longtime frame removes pressure for instant completion while giving direction to life’s wanderings.
Change is hard. We create ruts from our patterns in life. We acquire things and responsibilities that anchor us to our current state. If we start by creating and maintaining a nimble life, change is easier. Knowing where you want to end up ensures that the change is worth it.
About Shaun Oshman
Cultivator. Educator. Learner.
Shaun has spent his career cultivating teams to do amazing things. He cultivated a team at YMCA Camp Ockanickon to develop and deliver the highest quality experiential education programs. While in NZ, he inspired the most fantastic group of 8-year-olds to exceed their own expectations in the classroom. Today, he leads the team at iSupportU to provide the highest quality IT support and consulting.
Through all of these endeavors, learning has been a common theme. In order to truly know ‘how to learn’, he finished a Masters in Education to prepare him to teach. A thirst for understanding brought him to the field of technology. It was clear that the tool of tech can act as a powerful catalyst to learning and growth for people of all ages.
While teaching in NZ, one of the most rewarding experiences was seeing how empowered the teachers had become when they learned to harness the power of technology in their teaching. This experience was the inspiration behind starting iSupportU as a company. Shaun wanted to see that same empowerment in individuals and businesses. Technology should make life better and bring people together. That is the core goal of iSupportU.
The company has grown by an average of 200% per year since opening. This has resulted in being a top five fastest growing company in Boulder and Broomfield Counties in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2014, iSupportU sold off its web department to another firm, purchased a commercial building and discontinued doing repair work for residential customers. The business was sold to a new owner in 2017.
Shaun is currently enjoying a mid-life sabbatical aboard his sailboat, Breeze. Play is key.
It is my great pleasure to share with you an inspiring and moving story submitted by Elliot from www.lossul.com. This narrative is about an intimate experience that propelled Elliot to question whether his relationship was empowering or restricting his destiny. Come along on a journey of personal discovery and self-realization.
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Throughout our lives we experience a number of different relationships. Almost immediately this conjures up images of friends, siblings, children, parents, and the most intimate partners in our lives.
Yet there is one relationship we all have which is often overlooked, it is the relationship we have with ourselves.
This relationship is the one that arguably needs the most nurturing because the depth of your own emotional health will determine not only your own levels of happiness, but it will also spill outwards and will impact upon the lives of those that are closest to you.
We shouldn’t expect people around us to bring us happiness that we crave because all this does is heap unfair expectations and condition-based love upon the people we are supposed to care about the most.
What we should actually aspire to become is a self-reliant being that radiates love and warmth and who is giving in nature, rather than being a negative drain who expects others to fill the gaps that exist within us.
Whether we want to accept it or not, we are the ones that are primarily responsible for our own individual happiness.
But what happens when we find ourselves on the negative end of an emotionally draining relationship? What happens when a person that we love dearly chooses to drag us down and hold us back from the person we believe ourselves to be?
Often when this happens we find ourselves trying to rationalize their behavior, and by doing so we slowly come to believe that the things they say and do both are acceptable and true. Yet if we are not careful we can be completely oblivious to the damage this does over time, and we can find ourselves ‘becoming a shell of our former selves’.
Many years ago I found myself in such a position. I was young, inexperienced, and I wanted to believe that the special lady in my life spoke from a position of love and sincerity and that she had my best interests at heart. And so when I told her of my dream to go backpacking for the very first time, she responded by telling me that I ‘could never do that’ and that I was ‘just a dreamer’.
The more I heard these words, the more I started to believe them. My dream began to slip away.
One Saturday afternoon when I was out on the town, I wandered into a bookshop and instinctively found myself walking towards the travel section. I picked up a Thailand travel guide and began to finger my way through the pages. I saw words written in Thai script, I read about different types of guesthouses, and I looked at photographs of white beaches, turquoise waters, and dramatic limestone cliffs.
The dream that I’d buried deep inside came rising back to the surface and I imagined myself wandering with a backpack through Thailand. My heart seemed to swell in my chest, glowing intensely in a bright and beautiful orange.
But no, I couldn’t do that could I. I’m just a dreamer. These were the words of a person who knew me well and who I loved dearly.
She had to be right. Didn’t she?
My heart stopped pounding and the glowing sensation disappeared, and after returning the book to the shelf I turned around and walked out of the shop.
For the whole of the following week, I felt numb and there was an empty feeling inside that I just couldn’t quite put my finger on. I sat eating dinner with my girlfriend one evening and told her once again about my desire to travel to Thailand, discovering temples in the north and hopping from island to island in the south. Once again she just laughed and told me that it wasn’t who I was.
But I was beginning to believe differently.
As a passionate music fan, I’ve always had a means of escape. Whenever I play key songs I can close my eyes and disappear to another time and another place, and no matter what my present reality is, I can always create another for myself. And so this is exactly what I began to do, and it so happened that I found one song in particular that when being played I was able to close my eyes and instantly conjure up a specific place in Thailand that I’d read about. It was a waterfall which was in the center of an island that was located in the Gulf of Thailand.
I began to listen to this song every evening and I would close my eyes and instantly be transported to those waterfalls.
For three minutes and fifty seconds of each and every day, I became a traveler. But the song would always end, drawing me back to my dreaded reality.
Several weeks later I walked past the very same bookshop and once again I felt the calling. This time I walked inside, I picked up the book, and I walked over to the counter and paid for it with a massive smile on my face.
Something was happening. Something was changing.
I was beginning to listen to myself and to my inner calling.
Still, I got called a dreamer. Still, I got told I couldn’t do it. But I kept reading that book and I kept listening to my song, every damn day.
Soon after this, my girlfriend had suddenly become an ex-girlfriend. How and why this came to an end is irrelevant, but what is relevant is that within a few months of the breakup I found myself on a plane heading east.
I touched down in Bangkok, walked out of the airport, and stood at the side of the road with my backpack leaning against my legs. My return flight was two months away and I had no plans, no destination, and no idea what I was doing.
But I was there.
I ventured north to discovered those temples; I journeyed south and hopped from island to island. One day during the fifth week of my trip I found myself on the island located in the Gulf of Thailand that had occupied my dreams for so long. I gave some money to one of the locals and he drove me out towards the center of the island on the back of his motorbike.
Half an hour later he was accompanying me up into the hills. He cleared a path using a machete, helping me avoid snakes along the way. Some time later we reached the top of the hill. I smiled at my new friend and asked him to wait for me. He smiled back and asked how much time I needed.
“About three minutes and fifty seconds,” I said.
I stepped into the running water and felt the cool and refreshing liquid wash over my feet. As I edged closer towards where the water fell gracefully from the cliff face and cascaded down onto the waiting rocks below, I sat down and pulled out a CD walkman from my bag. Adjusting my headphones into place, I looked out into the bright and beautiful late afternoon sun, and then I pressed the play button.
It was my song.
And here I was.
Only I wasn’t dreaming. And I did do it after all.