Is That a Cliff?

Is That a Cliff?

Be daring and just do it! Leap off of that cliff or jump that chasm.

Most of us see change as a scary cliff. It uncomfortable and we shy away from it--especially big change. The most traumatic things you can do in your life are change relationships, move households, and change jobs.  But at times, you really do need to make adjustments. How do you know? You may be the type that embraces change and seeks change out at every opportunity. Or, you may be like most of us and get a feeling that starts as uneasiness in the pit of your stomach, growing into complete dissatisfaction, and sooner or later into desperation. You can either make the changes yourself or, if you try to hold on too tightly, someone will intervene and make you make the change. So how do you move from reacting to coping to enjoying? Here’s my story.

This past weekend, some friends from the old neighborhood came over for a visit and commented that we had really done it. We had described a dream and after a bit of time, turned that dream into a reality. In 2015, we modified our work situation, sold our house, downsized into a condo, and bought land for our dream home. This way, we had our small place in the city (and that was all the space we needed) and we had our property and it was close enough to get to on weekends yet far enough to feel like another world. While our relationship did not change (other than becoming stronger), we did face the other major shifts that drive anxiety and stress. We tried to minimize the stress by knowing as much as we could about what we were doing, planning as well as we could, and by reminding ourselves daily of the worst case and best case, knowing the day would fall somewhere in between.

We started a few years back with a vague dream of owning waterfront property and having our friends and family come visit. From that, we crystalized the vision for the waterfront property and imagined our visitors there, and what we were doing. With that clear idea in mind, we prepared. Skydivers, stunt people, and people that climb mountains or bungee jump prepare so we figured that preparing may be a good thing for us to do as well.

We created a list of what needed to happen and what tradeoffs we were willing to make. We prioritized the major changes that were needed in order to figure out the dependencies between each of the actions we needed to take. We also talked about the worst case, and the best case and made sure we could live with the changes. From there, we started with the first actions we needed to take. Some were immediate changes, like changing our phone or cable plan, spending less on coffee shops and restaurants, and looking online at property. We also took action on things that would need to change, but would be a bit slow in seeing results. Examples of those types of changes were modifying our diet and exercise regimen, strengthening our credit rating, and growing our savings. All we needed then was a critical point, or emergency to drive us to flip the switch.

Every change management book or reference I have ever read suggests that there needs to be a “burning building” or very strong and compelling reason to change. There also needs to be a simple first step that is hard to ignore. We had prepared for our big changes but had not changed because, while we were prepared, we were comfortable with where we were at. Changes started happening around us that drove us to our burning building moment, which was when all the houses around us were being sold, torn down, and replaced with apartment buildings. Nothing against apartment buildings, but the construction dirt and noise became too unbearable. Then, the simple first step came. Investors came to the door as they were reviewing the construction work, they gave us a card and made us an offer. That is when we flipped our switch. By being prepared for the change and having a plan in place, we were able to take advantage of the opportunity for change. Keys to the game?

·       Do spend time daily thinking of your ideal future and crystalize your vision

·       Do listen to yourself and the signals being sent around you

·       Do plan and prepare

·       Do think about what you will need to be able to do to operate an ideal future

Surprise can be fun, but for big changes, maybe not so fun. Stay alert and plan so you can control change rather than having change forced on you. The more you know the less stressful it will be. 

Andy Ruth
SEI Mentor
Apprenticeship Program