Breaking out of holding pattern and taking steps towards change

Change can happen

Time and time again, I hear tales of friends getting stuck in their lives because there are too many factors outside of their control. There are student loans to pay off, financial responsibilities to meet, expectation from parents to placate. It is a lot to take on. And in the midst of all these, it’s all too easy to feel like a hamster on a wheel, spinning constantly without getting ahead. Right?

Bullshit.

If you are in your twenties and early thirties, and yet to be saddled with the responsibilities of children, then what are you whining about? If there is something you don’t like about your life, this is the time to say screw-it, move on, and try something else.

Figure out what you’re unhappy about

Nobody is perfectly happy with their current situation, whatever it may be. But if you feel there is something fundamentally wrong, or missing, then work on it. Many people that I speak with suffer from this form of anxiety that gives off these jittery and fidgety vibes. They all tell me that they are anxious for change, but most can’t not pin down exactly what it is that they want changed in their lives.

I usually rattle off a list of potentially irksome areas:

  • Change in city/country
  • Change of job
  • Change of career
  • Change of friends
  • Change of scenery altogether (all of the above)

The last option is easy to fix. Usually the person packs their bags and the next thing you know, there are pictures of Romania on their Facebook. But travelling does not automatically lead to a gotcha moment, nor does it raise you to a higher level of awareness. For the most part, backpacking trips do not offer many moments to meditate on the meaning of life. It’s always action-packed and thoroughly exhausting for both the physical body and mental faculties.

So then the question begs, what do you need to fix in your life to be happy? It is notoriously difficult to figure out what truly makes us happy, but investing some time to figure out whether your are happy with the 3 Ps: People, Place, and Profession, might be a step in the right direction.

Changes is always difficult and never difficult

Anything that seems challenging now, will only become even more insurmountable as we age. Our cognitive processes witness a steady decline around our thirties, our physical body bump against a similarly plateau. Many also formally cross into adulthood by getting married and starting families. All these added responsibilities and limitations will unfortunately constrain our choices in life further. If change seems an impossible feat now, then it might never come for you.

Yet some financial burdens, especially in this economic time, do cripple immediate and definitive changes. They could be the repayment of student debts, or simply to keep up with the considerable cost of living as a young adult. I’m not here to preach the virtue of living as simply and cheaply as possible – although I’ve found it absolutely essential in my journey of exiting the corporate world and exploring other possibilities. Money offers flexibility, and along with flexibility comes freedom.

The timing is never right

Stepstoning (is that a word?) your way around jobs is usually the way to go, if the upward route of one job is exhausted, and it makes sense to side-step into something lateral or different altogether. The unfortunate thing is that, I know very few friends that have been successful in navigating through the muddy business of timing their job changes.

This is almost as futile as trying to time the stock market. Buy low, sell high? This almost never happens for the average investor. In good times, you get greedy and hold out for more. More bonuses, fast-tracked promotion opportunities. Instead of “selling high” and using the fluidity of the market to leverage themselves into a better job, most people are sucked in by comfort, stability, and short-sightedness. In bad times, hiring becomes scarce, the pay stagnates, and moving jobs becomes even more unthinkable.

Instead of trying to find the best time for change, why not forget the noises, forget the rules, and go for changes when they are right for you? Following the crowd and making your decisions based on the crowd-o-meter, more often than not, narrows your choices and pushes you in the direction that everyone’s moving towards. It’s hot, crowded, and not all that exciting when you exit on the other end. Don’t do it.

pic source: *desmo100

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