At the beginning of a new year, many of us think about what we would like to change in our life. It’s common to feel that – like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – we would like to simply click our heels and be elsewhere. Unfortunately, embracing change and living the life we want is not something that comes naturally to most people.
Here, Nicola Bunting, leading personal coach and author of Who Do You Want to Be?, examines why our attitude to change is so important.
Change is part of our everyday experience, whether it’s having to move home, change jobs or end a relationship. But the way in which you handle change can influence whether it’s fantastic or terrible and, ultimately, how happy you are in life.
I like to break change down into two categories: external and internal. External change is when something happens to which you must respond. This is often a situational development that necessitates action: you are made redundant and need to find a new job, even explore a new career; your marriage suddenly disintegrates; your youngest child leaves home for university; or you suffer a bereavement or significant physical illness. Whatever the external trigger, you are faced with change.
Internal change is prompted by a feeling that you want to live differently. This could be the result of a feeling of constriction, claustrophobia, limitation, even flatness or unhappiness – an ‘Is this all there is?’ sensation. Surely life could be fuller, happier, more inspiring. Until this point, life has had its own momentum: school, university, work, setting up home, creating relationships, getting promoted. Then suddenly, one Monday morning, you wake up feeling bored at the prospect of the week ahead. Or you reach whatever personal or professional goal you’d set yourself, only to feel a bit ‘so-what’-ish when you get there.
Both types of change are a call to adventure. The adventure (because it is an adventure!) forces you, like Dorothy leaving Kansas, to leave a familiar place and venture into the unknown. The secret to navigating such changes successfully lies in how you respond to them. Instead of resisting change, allowing yourself to be threatened, even defeated by it, you can use the energy of change to propel yourself forward on an exhilarating adventure. Imagine change and challenge as a big, powerful wave moving towards you. Rather than feeling scared, overwhelmed or powerless, how would it feel if you were a surfer, anticipating the wave as part of an exciting adventure?
So, when you woke up this morning did you feel clear, confident, happy and focused about your day and about where your life is going? Or did you feel tired or apprehensive? Did you have butterflies about the day ahead or was your stomach in knots? Did you ask yourself: how did I get here? Or, more importantly: how do I get there?
If you are not where you want to be in your life, where should you start the process of change? The first thing you’re not going to do about your problems is to run away from them. The danger in running away is that you could well end up somewhere that’s just as unsatisfactory as where you are right now. If you race as fast as possible to whatever alternative seems to present itself, you’ll be missing a precious opportunity to understand and proactively create something that’s spectacular and wonderful and right for you.
It follow then that the place to start is by taking some time out to understand where and who you are right now, and where and who you want to be. By developing a really clear understanding of what’s right for the unique individual you are at this particular point and place in your life you’ll more fully understand what you need in order to be truly fulfilled. To gain this clarity, you need to stop running away, stay still and reflect. Out of that place of reflection you will be able to create an inspiring, focused map of your dream destination and a plan for how you’re going to get there in the easiest and most enjoyable way possible. My book outlines how to uncover your destination and the road map to it, but here is one of my favourite – and fun – tools for getting clearer about your vision for the future.
- Create a vision board This is a pictorial representation of what you want to invite into your life and work. Consider the qualities, experiences, feelings you want to be part of your life. What pictures and specific images represent those qualities, experiences and feelings? Try to be as precise as possible. For example, if you want to be more prosperous, consider what prosperity means to you. What is the essence, the feeling that you want to experience? It’s probably not money per se, but an experience. For example, it could be a picture of a holiday experience that you would really like to have or a picture of your ideal house by the sea. Choose pictures from magazines and other sources that inspire you and represent the feelings and experiences you want to invite into your life. Then cut the pictures out and stick them on your vision board, creating whatever pattern or shape you feel like.
Once you have your own personal vision board, covered in pictures and images that inspire you and propel you forward, make sure it’s somewhere very visible where you can see it and be energised by it every day.