Stop suffering and start getting what you want.
You have that sinking feeling in your stomach that you made the wrong decision. It all felt so well thought out when you were scheming but now that you are on the other side of change you are suffering in ways you hadn´t anticipated. Despite finally arriving where you aimed to go, there is surprisingly a huge part of you that is unhappy. These are some of the questions that keep you up at night: Where did I go wrong? How could I have avoided this? Could I have done this differently? If this is what I wanted, why am I so unhappy?
Today I am sharing with you a bit of change management with 3 things you should stop telling yourself after a major life-change. Why? Because they are torturing you! And personally after 28 hours of unmedicated back labor, I can say that torture is no fun. I want to help you see how you might be enhancing your own stress as well as offer you a few alternatives to lighten your load. You never know, you might actually start to enjoy the new challenges in your life.
Here are 3 things you should stop telling yourself to stop suffering and start getting more of what you want after a major life-change.
1) I want my old life back!
No you don´t – at least not 100%. Let´s be honest. If you had really wanted your old life, you wouldn´t have agreed to a change. Something inside you hungered for a change. To reduce your unease, it is important in times of uncertainty to focus on your successes.
- Experiment – Name three negative or unpleasant things you have successfully left behind as a result of your recent big change.
What is on your list? An hour-long commute, weekends apart from your kids, gossip at the office, unrewarding work? All of the above? These are behind you now. Celebrate this!
2) This isn´t what I wanted!
This isn´t completely true. Let me prove it to you. When you are coming from this place of angst, focusing on what is working is important right now.
- Experiment – Name at least three “life upgrades” you were aiming for as you took the big decision.
These can be positive changes (big and small) you have experienced or achieved as a result of the change. It could look something like this:
- I did it! I moved across the world!
- Fantastic. I have taken on my first leadership role!
- I finally got a tattoo of a dolphin on my ankle!
Spend the rest of the day keeping these “upgrades” at the forefront of your mind. If it helps, tape these ideas to your bathroom mirror where you can see them while you floss. Or – depending on the quality of your dental hygiene – floss just so you can ponder them. Voilà! This is solid evidence of you well on your way to getting what you want. Congratulations!
Let´s look at what happens when “This isn´t what I wanted” jumps into bed with “I want my old life back.” This dangerous coupling causes you to drown in regret and want to buy the next ticket back to your old life.
When your expectations are not being immediately met and you crave your old life back this could be a sign that you are pining for what was meaningful in your “old” life to show up in your new life. Next time you catch yourself feeling a sense of regret – pause. This is an opportunity to start creating that life you so desire.
- Experiment – Turn your attention to one thing in your “old” life that you would like to see show up in your new context. Throughout the day look for inspiration (and note) ways you could bring cherished aspects from your past into your life now. Pursue only the steps that seem small or fun!
Be open to what was most meaningful to resurface in a different form. By taking small steps, you can make change and get more of what you want. For more specific ways to do read more about change and growing pains.
3) This is much harder than I thought!
Of course it is. And doing hard things is, well, hard. Some of you might feel frozen by the shock of how hard what-was-supposed-to-be-a-good-thing really is. Your difficulties might even bring you into cycles of “I want my old life back.” Before you cancel your change of address at the post office, consider this: When looking back at your old life you are likely focusing on the fruit of all of your labor instead of recognizing all of the labor that went into building that life in the first place. Ice skaters repeatedly fall painfully and get bruised hundreds of times before they learn to soar through the air and land gracefully. Failure is hard but success is built upon it.
When you catch yourself paying attention to what is hard, acknowledge that this is normal. We are biologically wired to avoid pain.
- Experiment – List all of the things that are hard right now. Go ahead – vent! Not only will you feel fantastic afterwards, you will have a record of the challenges you are in the middle of overcoming. This is powerful now – and will be a great reminder later.
Then spend a few minutes focused on what you are gaining from your struggles. I call this “unwrapping” the gifts that are hidden in your challenges. To switch from focusing on what is hard to what rewards are awaiting you, you can start by wallowing in your misery.
When you focus on how hard something is you lose sight of the fact that good things (like babies, chocolate cake or shots of tequila) are often accompanied with drawbacks. Challenges come with even the most desired territory.
So when it is tough, you are learning. You are growing. You are progressing. As a side bonus – you are likely collecting excellent interview examples for your dream job.
If you catch yourself thinking any of these 3 things – you are not alone. It is a natural reaction to big changes yet these thoughts are likely to keep you rooted in a place of suffering. If you are looking for less tension and more lightness in your life right now, focus your attention in this direction:
- I have successfully left behind things that weighed me down.
- I can bring many of the best parts of my “old” life into this new situation in creative ways.
- I am in the process of gaining new skills and insight.
Try it. I promise – you won´t regret it.