“You start by starting.”
I read that somewhere, and though it made perfect sense, we often think of all the reasons NOT to start, not to take that chance, not to pursue that big bold dream. I want to share my story, but think of all the reasons not to…
- Fear that nobody will care.
- Not being 100% sure this is the right direction for me.
- My website isn’t finished.
- And the list goes on…
That’s just the surface stuff. When I dig deeper, I ask myself: Who the hell do I think I am claiming I’m some expert on life with all the world’s answers? There are so many other people who already do what I want to do, and who are seemingly more qualified and better at it. Is it too late to make a change, is it too risky? What if I fail? Isn’t it much easier, SAFER to keep the status quo?
Two years ago, I was the proverbial unhappy, unfulfilled corporate professional (I had been a lawyer for a number of years before leaving to become a law firm business leader). I had a great job by most standards, well paid, with lots of autonomy, responsibility and respect, yet I felt utterly unfulfilled and trapped. I kept thinking there must be more to life and dreamt of quitting my job and traveling the world.
Some way, somehow, ignoring the worry and warnings of friends and family, and my own self-sabotaging talk, I did it. I bought a one-way ticket to Mumbai, took a few months to plan the trip, saved enough to cover my travels and a few months of post trip expenses, donated all my belongings, and took off for parts unknown.
The trip was like nothing I expected and everything I dreamt of. From the unlikely new friends I made, the gorgeous mountaintops I stood on, the stunning hidden beaches I stumbled upon, the exotic new foods I discovered, the exhilaration of waking up every day and not knowing what adventures awaited me, the magic of the freedom I felt — it was an incredible, enriching, life changing journey for which I will always be grateful.
By no means am I suggesting that such drastic change is necessary. In fact, it’s often the small, consistent steps that yield the greatest results. It’s probably a non-starter for you to go to India to meditate for a month or even take a 5-day retreat close to home, but what micro-changes can you start making today to get you closer to achieving your goals and dreams?
It’s that all or nothing mentality that kept me stuck. Better to start with five minutes of mediation (or journaling, exercising, or playing piano) a day. The thought of the end goal may feel overwhelming, but eventually you run out of excuses to take one first small step.
I was hoping that after my trip, I had found the perfect equilibrium by trading New York for Austin, and the intensity and overriding negativity of big Law for the creative and hip world of a Tech company.
But I’m not so sure.
I still have pangs of guilt for not contributing enough. I still feel restrained by the idea of working for a big corporation and long to travel the world. I still wonder what my purpose is.
What I can say with certainty is that quitting my corporate job and leaving NYC to travel the world started in my mind and then required action. One small step at a time.
Maybe you are nervous, uncertain and afraid. Perhaps you’re weighing the risks and rewards. Maybe you’re not, but you know you want a change, a different outcome. Something inside you persists until you can’t ignore it any more. And so, you need to leap. You instinctively know that the comfort of the nest isn’t enough. When the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving, you leap.
What’s holding you back? Your weight? An addiction? An unhealthy relationship? Depression? Uncertainty and fear? Golden handcuffs? All of these challenges have real solutions, if you’re ready to take a chance, a leap towards a better life.
Sometimes the flight is bumpy, sometimes it’s the wrong leap and we fall. Some falls take longer to recover from than others. But playing it safe and never leaping is its own kind of hell.
What change do you know you want/need in your life? What one small step can you take tomorrow, next week, next month?
If you feel stuck right now, don’t give up. Meaningful change may require research, planning and patience. Be smart about it, but don’t settle for your unhappiness.