Change

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”   –  Robert C. Gallagher

But how you look at change makes a big difference to your willingness to do something different.  This is true of both the changes we choose and those that are imposed on us.  Moving house has brought that home to me.

I moved with my husband from Swindon to Bournemouth 2 months ago.  My husband is a Swindonian and I’ve lived there for 25+ years.  We left a big, beautiful house on the edge of the Ridgeway, business networks, family and friends and now live in a flat in a town we had little more than a passing acquaintance with.  We didn’t see this as a big deal but a fellow coach described what we had done as “massive” and “a really big deal”.  I wondered how we could have such different perspectives and I think it comes down to these factors:

  • Change was a choice
  • Confident that I could handle it
  • Seeing change as a process not an emotion
  • Being comfortable with uncertainty
  • Having realistic expectations

Let’s explore these in more detail. 

Change was a choice

I had a vision for my future which formed in 2017 and which my husband shared.  I wanted to sell the house and downsize.  I wanted freedom and an opportunity to reinvent myself, declutter my head and my possessions, start again.  There was nothing wrong with my life but we had a chance to live differently and fulfil a dream of living by the sea. I had a very clear view of all the opportunities the move presented to us both; for life in general and for work.  These benefits weren’t available in Swindon, it was never going to get closer to the sea!

Contrast this with the move to Swindon 25 years ago. This was very much a product of circumstance.  My choice wasn’t to swap one great life for one closer to my dreams but one of relocate from London Swindon or become unemployed.  The only vision I had was one of keeping a job!  I’d always worked in London, I am a Londoner, and my family were London and Lincolnshire based.  All I knew about Swindon was it was where Access bills got paid and a million miles away from everyone and everything I knew.  The status quo is severely underrated. I realised then that every aspect of my day was going to change; the time I got up to take a very different journey to work, the office building, the people, where I shopped, the journey to family visits, everything.  I made the move and when the removal van left, I hugged my cat and burst into tears.  Then I unpacked and got on with building a life in Swindon.  I didn’t have a choice.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

Steve Maraboli

Knowing I didn’t have to make this move and that it was entirely in my control was probably the biggest single factor behind being able to see the move as no big deal. It made it so much easier to deal with all the twists and turns along the way and to make the move. However, that change is often a product of necessity not choice, but can you take ownership of the change and make it your own? Can you turn the negatives into positives?  Can you focus on what you have to gain rather than dwell on what you think you will lose?

Confident that I could handle it

Making a life for myself in Swindon, building a career, finding my way around the area (and finding a husband on the way) was all fantastic experience for this move. Frequent changes of jobs, contracting and then the development of the coaching business all made it so much easier to deal with idea of meeting new people and building new networks in a new location.  The idea of starting again was exciting, invigorating.  Without these reference points I could have found the prospect of moving so much more daunting.  It might well have put me off altogether. 

If you are struggling to deal with a change in your circumstances, think back to how you got to where you are now. How many changes have you made to get there and how did you deal with those? If you don’t have much experience of your own to draw on, ask others and get a variety of perspectives on how you can make the best of your situation. 

Seeing change as a process not an emotion

It took us 6 months from putting the house on the market to moving into our permanent flat. In that time, we lost one buyer, thought we lost our flat because we had to accept a low offer, got the flat again having done a lot more viewings), sold lots of possessions, and ended up selling the house to move into a holiday let without having the contracts in place on our purchase.  Each setback could have been interpreted as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be.  It could have become too upsetting and frustrating and ultimately too risky.  We just rode it out.  Even when right in the middle of second viewing we got the call to say we had lost our buyer, we just shrugged it off.  After all, it wasn’t personal.  It was all part of the process.  We had made a decision and now we were following through on that.  The move was a big project with lots of moving parts but nothing we couldn’t handle.  Consequently, whilst they say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, it didn’t feel that way to us.  If things did get on top of us, we remembered that we could change our minds at any time.  It was our idea after all. 

Going back to my move to Swindon, when I got the news I was reeling.  I was in shock for a while and really not sure of my options. Talking to others in the team helped me realise that others were also frustrated and upset. I heard their arguments for and against the move and plenty were prepared to make the move despite having many more considerations than I did. that gave me confidence and once I committed to the move it became a process; forms to fill in, viewings to arrange etc.  

“Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan”. – John C. Maxwell

Even when our offer on our flat in Bournemouth was accepted, I held the view that it would be that flat or something better.  If it sold whilst we weren’t proceedable, so be it.  We would find another one (there were plenty on the market and they weren’t shifting!) and that flat would be great.  I wasn’t going to put all my hope into that one property and it wasn’t mine until I had the keys.  Selling our house was a slow process but we had no deadline so there was no pressure.  We kept doing what we were doing whilst treating the move to Bournemouth as an inevitability (forming local business contacts via Linked In and keeping an eye on the property market). 

Some changes, and being made redundant is a good example, can feel really personal.  https://www.thechangeagent.me/redundancy/ It is natural to get emotional.  But living in the emotions, railing against the unfairness of it etc. won’t help you see clearly and get the best out of the situation.  Can you take a step back from it and adopt a more dispassionate view?

Being comfortable with uncertainty

Occasionally we asked ourselves if we were doing the right thing and even if the move was big enough.  The thing is, you never know.  I didn’t want to move to Swindon but I did and it worked out.  In that case, by my reasoning, we could make moving to anywhere we chose work.  If it didn’t work out then it would be a stepping stone to something else which would.  Right?  Ultimately, if we missed Swindon that much that we moved back, would that be a failure?  No.  Better to move and return than not make the move just in case.  If the flat purchase fell through then a caravan would do, right? Well, perhaps not this one!

It is better to risk starving to death then surrender. If you give up on your dreams, what’s left?” – Jim Carrey

How comfortable are you with not knowing how something will turn out?  If you are the sort of person who likes to have answers, guarantees or certainty then any change is going to be a big deal.  You can’t ever know how things will pan out so the question to ask yourself is “what do I need to believe in order to see this change will work out for me?”  I believed that this was the right move at the right time, that we could make it work and that we would be okay, regardless.  What beliefs would work for you?  

Having realistic expectations

I didn’t expect the process to be easy and the move wasn’t without its challenges or sadness.  There are people I miss not being able to visit, network with or run with.  I do miss the ability to just jump in the car and know where I am going locally without having to think about it or set the sat nav. It would be great to go to networking meetings where there are familiar faces but that will all come in time.  One day I will have a favourite coffee shop where I won’t have to ask for my order, they will just know.  So long as I remember that I can’t expect to know Bournemouth as well now, as I knew Swindon when I left, I will be fine.  I wanted the fresh start so I have to live with the consequences. 

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. -Arnold Bennett

Change is the only way we grow and get the results we are looking for in work and life.  In this particular case, it was no big deal. If you are ready to embrace new ways of working and living but it feels like a big deal to you, then have a chat with me.  I’m the Change Agent after all!

2 Comments

  1. Jill

    Great article. Think I need to have that chat. Was made redundant, out of work for a few months so put house on market. Got new job-p/t 6 month contract. Then an offer on house which I accepted. Decided it was all too much and withdrew the house. I want to give it another go at some point-move out of London near the sea. Too much over analysing than doing I think.

    • Shirley

      Thank you for your comment Jill. I will be in touch as we need to cure your paralysis by analysis! Change isn’t easy but if you get clear on your vision for the future it will become easier to find the courage to act and the commitment to follow through on your plans. Coaching can help you with this and provide support along the way.

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