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Major Life Change: Chaos Could Be a Good Sign

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Have you ever noticed that once you start to make significant changes in your life everything starts to shift and dance and, frankly, crash around you, all at the same time? I’ve seen this happen to many people many times and have lived through it myself more than once.

Almost the minute I made the very frightening decision to jump with both feet into self-employment from my secure, stable, and salaried job of 12 years, my life started to fall apart. A health condition that had been worsening over six years resulted in a surgery that laid me up just when I entered the Land of No Work and No Pay.

Our one-car family became a two-car family due to my transition and one month later, the original vehicle decided to blow it's engine during rush hour while I was driving it on a major Chicago route. My computer crashed and I lost everything (not great for a largely web-based business) and our furnace died. This meant the purchase of a new furnace, air conditioner, and hot water heater.

Had I known any of these things would be happening, I would not have left my job! As it was, self-employment terrified me. I was certain that a life of macaroni and cheese and 10/$1 ramen noodles was before me. Despite the fears, I knew I had no other choice. This was what I sincerely wanted to do, so I leapt…and leapt right into every fear I had, and a few I had forgotten to consider (like having my health crisis).

I hear similar stories from my clients all the time. Making the commitment to pursue major life changes sometimes sends seismic waves through our lives. Understandably, we may be tempted to respond by fighting it, panicking, and taking the instability as a sign that we should retreat. We say things like “I can’t deal with that now, I have to finish this first.” “Why did this have to happen now, just when I was focusing on this other stuff?” “Maybe this is a sign (that this is the wrong direction)!”

Common notions coming out of the world of self-help these days (Laws of Attraction and Power of Intention, for example) can fuel a belief for many that once one makes the commitment to a major life change, the Universe will just clear the path and let us sail safely to our chosen harbor because we want to reach our goals so very badly. Hey, we're good people; we're working hard, we have integrity, commitment, and passion, so things should work out, right? I'm open to abundance, so the channels should be open now, shouldn't they?

Not so fast, Buckaroo. Remember you are part of a whole network of relationships and roles. Instant life balance just doesn't happen. It can’t happen. Sometimes, things have to fall apart first.

Picture your life like a mobile. You blow on one part to shift its position and the whole thing starts to turn. It’s a system in balance, but the balance is dynamic. I hear people talking about wanting more balance in life even as they are in the middle of recreating themselves. “When everything is set, I can move forward. Once I clean my desk, or read that last book, or get just one more certification, or get past the holidays, or finish this last project… I can work on this big transition stuff. Then, once that transition stuff is over, I’ll just relax and enjoy this wonderful feeling of serenity.”

When it doesn’t happen that way, we can start to feel like we aren't doing it right or aren't really ready yet. We start working harder to get that balance established. Ultimately we may get burned out and say, “You know, I’m basically happy,” and give up the whole concept that life can get any better for us or that we will ever really be ready to do what we would love to do.

Try looking at balance from another point of view. When you are making significant changes in your life, everything else has to respond to that change because our lives are integrated parts of a whole. The changes may not always be what you expected, and, yes, some of them may not be changes you thought you wanted, but they will occur. In fact, the more significant your shift, the more subsequent changes you can expect. The trick is to not fear change but flow with it. Recognize change as an affirmation that you are, indeed, doing significant work on your life.

Also recognize that you might need to get a support system around you to help you keep a sense of balance in what might be a very disorienting time in your life. You may find you need to set stronger, wider boundaries and maintain a strong commitment to self-care to keep yourself well during major transitions. You may have to ask for help that you didn’t need before (and get your Ego out of the way to let yourself do this). You may find yourself challenging a lot of beliefs and judgments you hold about many things — yourself included!

Keep clear about where you are heading and why. Major change can be tough, but consider this if you are tempted to sit back and let The Fates choose your path:

If you don't watch where you are going, you'll end up where you are headed.

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About Laura Young

  • Howard Dratch

    Laura. Good advice and fair warning to people on the cusp of change. Still, the gain of change is worth the pain.

    I left my secure job of 11 years for the vagaries of freelance writing and photography in 1981. Perhaps it was the raw clams at a wedding I shot (I hate weddings!) but I spent nearly 6 months with hepatitus. Accompanied by the need to learn how to photograph and to find clients. In the end I did and the pleasure of 18 years doing what I wanted was worth all the pain.

    I, luckily or wisely, have a supportive wife who, along with her parents, never thought much of my being a social worker nor working for the State of New York. She starved with me and worked with me and together we carved out the life we wanted. It took work. It took support.

    Good advice, Laura.

  • Ron Reisman

    I wish that I could take the leap to become self employed, although I do not see myself doing it full time until I am retired, I love to take photos and sell them on websites but I do not even clear $100 a month doing that so I still have a long ways to go..:)

  • Laura Young

    So think through the mode by which you are selling your wares. The internet is SOOOO image rich that I think selling photos this way (if that is the only way people can find you) is going to be a very uphill battle. You may be Ansel Adams but if you only showcase your work at flea markets (the web is a flea market of images, available for a song if not outright pirated), then no one will ever know you. Give your work the attention and venue that shows you respect it, then others will be more apt to take you seriously instead of thinking you are just one more guy with a digital camera trying to make a buck.
    With me?