There was a time on this site when I wrote about more motivational topics from time to time, but recently that has dropped off. Part of it is because I said what I needed to say, but I also haven’t felt very motivated myself lately, so writing something to help others was a struggle. Then something extraordinary happened recently. I had a very random and brief encounter with someone who sparked in me those creative juices, whose innocent remarks sparked a creative whirlwind of thought and introspection. It inspired me to think about the nature of change in our lives, whether it be something minor or a defining life moment. I know that this isn’t strictly a travel related post, but in the past the responses to my more mainstream topics have been so overwhelmingly positive, that I feel it’s ok to write this today. Plus it’s my site and I can do whatever I want, so there’s that too. (Insert wry smile with a wink here)
Change is scary
Immediately after I left my traditional 9-5 job, I thought a lot about what to do next and how to make this weird new career of travel blogging work from a purely financial point of view. It was frightening and it would’ve been far easier for me to find another traditional job and to keep plodding along. But a series of life events, mainly untimely deaths of close friends and relatives, reminded me in a very stark way just how impermanent life is. Who knows how many days any of us has on this planet, so why not do everything in our power to make what we want to happen actually happen? I think I was able to do that in some ways, but certainly not to the degree I should have. I know what needs to be done, I understand that change and evolution will lead to better things, but it’s hard. And scary; really scary actually.
What are we scared of? Usually, it’s failure in some form or the other. We’re afraid of not being able to make things work out, to make others happy and that ultimately whatever it is we want to achieve isn’t possible. This can mean asking your boss for a raise, or confronting your loved one about something more personal. If the boss says no, we’ve failed. If we can’t make a relationship work, we’ve failed. Failures come in all sizes and shapes; they can be silly things or massive life altering events. But no matter what, these failures ultimately help us. We learn from them, with each failure a little bit of the overall puzzle is revealed giving us a clearer path to success. No great person has ever, ever had a life without failure. What makes them different from others is that they had the bravery, the fortitude to take the chance at failure. It’s no small thing, to put oneself out there and trying to do something different is scary but those who do will, ultimately, succeed. To fail, therefore, is a clear sign of bravery and an indication that you’re doing something right. Failure can also be hard though in a very real sense. If you and your spouse divorce, what happens? While it’s easier to remain together and be miserable, that continuance of daily life comes at a very dear price. You lose part of yourself in the process and, more importantly, lose the opportunity to be happy. There are only so many ways in which we can affect our own happiness, so why not take advantage of those few that you can?
To fail is to live
Zig Ziglar once said, “Failure is an event, not a person.” It’s a simple but powerful statement, and one that bears some dissection. While it may have been originally about accepting faults in others not as personality traits, but as moments in time, I think we also need to turn the quote inward. To be successful in life, whether work or personal, you have to fail. You just do, it’s an unchangeable aspect of life that ultimately makes us better people for it. It is scary and hard though as I’ve already mentioned, but it is essential to who we are as individuals. That also means taking risks of any kind and then standing back to see what happens. Innovate or die is another good way to put it and while that phrase may have been originally intended for the business world, I think it’s perfect for our interpersonal relationships as well. If you and your spouse or partner do the same thing every day and things are ok, but not changing then something is wrong. Personal relationships are about evolution, or at least they should be. And if things aren’t static but are actually getting worse, then this is where innovation is key.
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.” Dhirubhai Ambani
While also originally written in a business sense, this really can be applied to almost any facet of our lives. It comes down to whether or not you want to be a leader or a follower. If you’re an entrepreneur like I am, it’s an important thing to constantly remind oneself. It’s easy to fall into comfortable professional traps of working for others, but ultimately real change comes from within. It can also naturally be applied to our personal relationships. Letting someone else take “the lead” in a relationship really isn’t healthy. You’re giving them the power, whether you mean to or not, to shape and form what that relationship looks like. Whether it’s your best friend or spouse, we all need to figure out what it is we want from these powerful and important relationships and then be partners in making them happen.
Change depends on passion but also hard work
So many people think that having a passion to do something will necessarily lead to success. It does not, otherwise we’d have a planet full of astronauts, marine biologists and professional champagne testers. No, while passion is a crucial element in affecting real change in your life, it must necessarily exist with equal parts hard work. The big problem with hard work is that, well, it’s hard. Sometimes we perceive it to be so difficult and cumbersome that we decide it’s easier to just go with the status quo and hope for the best. While that’s no doubt the easier way to go, absolutely nothing good will come of it. I’ve fallen into this same trap more times than I care to admit, whether it’s the belief that some great business opportunity will just fall into my lap because I’m a nice guy or something more personal, that a friend or loved one will change in a way I know they can’t by themselves. It’s hard to confront these truths, but from hard work comes happiness I believe (Wow, the Puritans would be happy with that statement) but it can take a while for that to happen.
I don’t think people are adverse to hard work and I think that many of us intellectually know what needs to be in order to make important changes in our lives. The problem comes from the emotional component of all this, we start to believe that some things in life are immutable, when in reality nothing is. When you first ask yourself what you don’t like about your life do not tell yourself, “Well there are just some things I can’t change.” That is absolutely not true and is just another way we get sucked into marking time even longer than we should. We say that there’s no way I could change my job, or have a hard discussion with my spouse or make any changes that will improve our lives. But there is nothing in our personal lives that cannot be changed. Sometimes it requires drastic change and that’s frightening, but it is possible. I’ve been guilty of this many times in my life and it has held me back for longer than I’d like to admit. I faced that challenge four years ago when my traditional job and I parted ways and I believe I’m facing a similar challenge again today as my life continues to evolve. Rather than be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes needed, coming up with a clear plan of action is crucial.
Set fair goals
We tend to be our own harshest critics and almost always the reason why we stand still in life is self-inflicted. If you want to lose weight, don’t set a goal of twenty pounds in one month. It’s not realistic or sustainable and when it doesn’t happen, it will ruin any attempts you’ve made to get out of that rut. You’ll be back marching in place once again and the next attempt to move forward will be even harder. No matter what you’re trying to change be it your job, relationship, or whatever you must be fair to yourself about setting goals. But goals are important; they’re actually a critical part of moving forward. Humans think better in segments, or at least I do. It’s easier for me to make incremental goals that I can realistically achieve instead of setting my sights on one massive, crazy objective that while it may be possible one day, won’t happen without a lot of intermediate steps. Let’s take the example of this blog. Sure, when I first started I wanted people to read it and like it and one day be successful at running it. But if in that first month I had said, “If this isn’t a worldwide success in six months I’m quitting” then I would have been a failure. Instead I set small goals like creating an editorial calendar, reaching X number of people on Twitter, writing guest posts for other sites, and so on. Each time I achieved one of the baby goals I didn’t just feel good about myself, but I also inched myself closer to that larger goal of being successful. This holds true for anything we want to change in our lives. If you don’t like your current job or career set small goals to get out of it; if you aren’t happy in your relationship think of baby steps to help you work harder at making it a success or leaving it altogether. Anything is possible as long as you don’t lose the forest through the trees.
Thank you for indulging me in one of these slightly saccharine, motivational-speaker type posts. Over the years, I’ve heard from many of you saying that posts like this one have helped them get through issues in their own lives, and that’s great. But to be honest, I write these posts more for myself than for anyone else. I need to remind myself of these core lessons, I need to break out of the status quo sometimes and reengage the creative side of my spirit. Most importantly, I need to remember the importance of change and passion in my life. I think over the last year or so those were qualities I allowed to lay dormant, but that chance encounter I mentioned at the top of this piece unleashed those sparks and I for one can’t wait to see what happens as a result.