Life is nothing but a series of changes — both small and big.
You can live a happy life, and it starts with making a choice. If you’re not living the kind of life you want, it’s your responsibility to change it. What would you do in life if success was guaranteed? If you’re not already doing it in some form, you’re likely to feel unfulfilled until you start pursuing it.
Big life-changing decisions can be agonizingly difficult. But the right kind of change is powerful. It opens the door to exciting new opportunities and shows that you can handle challenges.
“Positive change puts you in control of your life,” says K. Anders Ericsson, Ph.D., a co-author of Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise.
Good change can also give you a huge emotional lift. Science shows change stimulates your brain, broadens your perspective, and boosts your performance.
“Making a big change can increase your sense of life’s possibilities, and as you rise to new challenges, this can also increase your resilience,” says Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness. “Bold moves can also lead to rapid personal growth, can build your personal independence and confidence, and can add more excitement to your life.”
The real question is — is it better to make a small consistent change or a big sudden change if small tweaks won’t get you what you want?
Start with something manageable
Ralph Ransom once said, “Life is a series of steps. Things are done gradually. Once in a while, there is a giant step, but most of the time we are taking small, seemingly insignificant steps on the stairway of life.”
A sudden change can be scary. Even when you have facts, funds, and the courage to change, you still need to take a step back and evaluate your options. It pays to reflect on what you’re hoping to change — and how much risk you’re willing to take to get there.
When you start heading in a new direction with a “long game” mindset, you should be thinking, “Am I going to enjoy it for the long-term”.
“Change leads to more change,” says B.J. Fogg, Ph.D., a behaviour scientist and the founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. “When you make a big adjustment, you also tend to switch up your environment, your schedule, and your social circle.”
Your schedule, routines, and social life could completely change once you make a huge leap from your current life to another.
If you are planning on making a big career change, seek a valuable, unbiased opinion. Talk to an expert in the same industry and get a good perspective on what it takes to succeed. Ask people who have what you want exactly how they got it.
Or better still, spend time with them whilst they work, if they will allow it. You could even start a side hustle to satisfy your curiosity or take that weekend photography class you’ve always wanted to try before you become a full-time photographer.
If you’re thinking about moving to a new town or city, spend some time there before making the decision to relocate — an extended weekend can is good, but a week is better if you can.
“The most successful and happiest people are constantly evaluating themselves and their circumstances and looking to make tweaks that will help them grow,” says Laura Vanderkam, a productivity expert and the author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time.
As you adopt or embrace the small tweaks, you can better judge if they are enough to help you gradually make that move — or whether you need to consider other options.
To avoid playing the long game for too long without taking action, give yourself a specific deadline. Make it realistic, otherwise, you will put unnecessary pressure on yourself — if you are chasing a particular end date, setbacks can be discouraging.
For those who prefer to change with a bang, small tweaks could make them stall, procrastinate or even decide not to change at all, so they would rather go full force. They enjoy the fun and motivation that comes with taking a leap.
“Taking action first without overthinking it triggers motivation, especially if there’s fun or celebratory element to what you’re doing,” says Stephen Guise, the author of How to Be an Imperfectionist.
Taking any change — big or small comes with consequences. “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
says Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein
Explore your values, priorities, and the lifestyle you want
Jim Taylor, PhD recommends you ask yourself the following questions — “What do you value most in your life? What aspects of your life do you want as your priorities? What kind of life do you want to lead in the short term and in the future, say, in 10+ years? What do you want your life to be filled with (e.g., marriage, children, travel, health and exercise, culture)?”.
Whatever you are going for in life, — a contract to write a book, a move to another city, a career that gives you more time, ask yourself — is worth it in the long-term. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to make a big life change, and even more time and resources to adjust. And sometimes that life change doesn’t work out — be prepared with other plans if the original one doesn’t work out.
Whether you prefer to make small tweaks or a sudden change, a lot depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. It’s up to you to decide whether a few small changes or a sudden change will make you happy.
“Changes are inevitable. But when you take charge and manage change on your terms, it’s going to work out in the best possible way for you,” Vanderkam says.
Don’t have a good life? Make the change you want today.
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Previously published on medium
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