Life is ever changing. Starting the minute you are born and not ending until you die, your body and your mind evolve. You learn to crawl, to walk, to study, to love, to work, and to make meaning of the friendships and relationships that define your life. Learning and change are what make life meaningful and monumental.
But change isn’t easy, in fact, some people argue that we are inherently wired against change at a certain point in our lives. Deciding whether to make major life changes in itself can be paralyzing, so Dr. Mac Powell shares four important steps to plan for and make making major life changes.
Determine who is affected by the change, and how:
Obviously, you will be affected, but what about other people in your life? Family and friends should be your first consideration. For example, will you need to move, to change jobs, to reprioritize time? All of these will affect your spouse, or children, and the people who form the center of your universe. How will these changes impact them?
If lives are being drastically, irrevocably changed, change can be not only scary, but ultimately unsuccessful without a supportive network around you.
Have a plan that gets you from here to the finish line:
It is best to have a clear picture of how the change is going to happen, what is going to be required, and what life will look life after. No plan ever anticipates all the obstacles, but it helps to think through the resources and resilience that will be required, and to consider how you know when you can stop, reflect up, and appreciate the journey.
If you are planning a career change, for instance, you might need to plan for retraining or education, new resumes, new experiences, new professional networks, new wardrobe, even new work clothes. And, after all of those changes, you might need to change locations (which would require finding a new home and all of the challenges that that entails). Knowing as many of the steps ahead of time and making a plan can help move along with fewer bumps in the road.
And as the grass may not always be greener, be aware of what you may be losing or leaving behind. Take inventory of what can or will be lost, and make sure to fill those voids with things that truly matter, like family, friends, social activities, and meaningful work.
Telling others about the upcoming change:
There are times when it is prudent not to give certain people too much notice concerning big changes you are planning to make. You may not want to tell your boss that you are looking for a new job, for instance, but you certrainly should tell your spouse. Recent psychological research on change suggests that telling people in advance of your actions around change may actually limit your motivation and ability to actuate change. In other words, you may want to keep the process of evaluating change to yourself (or between you and your spouse), until you have done a thorough assessment of the motivations behind the desire to change and the cost-benefit analysis of making major changes in your life. One example that I saw a lot of in practice was someone wanting to exit a professional job in favor of something more artistic/creative, like becoming a writer or a painter or a professional athlete. For most of the clients, I didn’t advise them to quit their job and strike it out cold-turkey. Instead, the made space in their life to pursue their passion to get a sense of the effort that it would take to make the transition in a way where the outcome would be fulfilling (and worth the ivestment of time, money, and personal relationships). Ultimately, if your plan changes the lives of other people, you need to bring them into the conversation in a way that shows your respect for them. “This practice will not only leave you in a positive light as a professional, but also as a person,” mentioned Dr. Mac Powell.
Even if you are faced with a situation where change is unwanted, or where your plans go awry, find a way to embrace the process. Change always brings opportunities, seen and unseen. New people, new emotions, new decisions to be made. Sometimes, the best that can be said about change is that it taught you how to NOT do something a second time. As hard as it is to accept, sometimes that’s the best and most powerful learning. Think about how painful the end of some romantic relationships were, and how those moments created opportunities to find greater love down the road.
Our lives are about the meaning we ascribe to them, and monumental changes bring the fear, uncertainty, excitement, passion, and joy that makes life interesting. The alternative? A small life that brings the longings and “what ifs” that can’t always be undone later in life. So, while change can be scary, it can also make life worthwhile. Embrace, plan, and learn from the major changes ahead (even if you don’t always choose them for yourself).
About Dr. Mac Powell:
Dr. Powell is a respected educator, therapist, coach, and community leader. His work has been published around the world and has provided proven results for students, executives, and communities. Dr. Mac Powell is driven by his passion for self-improvement, paired with his love for people. Keep up with Dr. Powell, and his latest work on blogspot.com.