Do you really want to make those changes?
Are you scared you’ll fail or that people will laugh at you?
My good friend Susan laughs at me when I quote the great Yoda from the Star Wars films, who said “Do or do not, there is no try.” Yet this is one of my mottos in life. There are always caveats – and we need to be prepared for the curve-balls that life throws at us but ultimately, life comes down to this. . . we really need to just get on with it.
Whether it is starting your novel, writing your thesis, studying for your finals or proposing to your girlfriend, the great drain in our lives is often procrastinating around something that needs to be done. I suppose the question could be whether we actually need to do something or not. That is a different article, but when we know we need to take action, we should take it decisively. We need to make things happen, because they won’t just happen for us.
Our lives depend on the decisions we make and the risks we take
If we find we are having to try to write, or propose, or clean the kitchen then we should be questioning our motivation to take action in this area in the first place. What I mean is, do you really want to write a novel? For what purpose? How will this improve your life? Do you really want to propose to your girlfriend? Or have you been together for two years and think it should be the next move? Have all of your friends married recently and you feel left behind? Do you really want to clean the kitchen? Well, this example doesn’t work here because if it was me, the answer would probably be “no, I don’t want to!” However, I know I would have to do it, so finding the motivation for it would be key, for example “I like the way it looks when it is clean”, “I don’t want my children to become unwell due to a dirty kitchen” etc. Then I would really need to get on with it to free up the wasted head-space it would take to keep thinking that it needed to be done and putting it off.
Consider Stephanie. Stephanie wants to leave her office job to train to be a nurse. She asked me how she could or should make this happen. It appeared that Stephanie had been thinking about changing her career for a few years, but she had become comfortable with her salary and job security and so had never taken action. Yet she knew something was missing in her life and she knew this was something she considered to be a meaningful career, helping others. She knew she would never be truly happy working in her current role, inputting data and establishing accounts systems. She was becoming more and more depressed and this was affecting her life in many ways, including the recent break-up of her relationship.
In therapy, she told me she had tried to look for different jobs in a related caring field but none had paid as much as she needed (wanted?) She told me she had tried to find out her nearest college to take her nursing qualification but “something put me off.” She told me she had tried to have a conversation with her parents about her desire to be a nurse but had put this off because she was scared of their reaction.
Her particular difficulties were complex and tied to her self-identity and family difficulties, but the gist of her sessions related to what she really wanted to do to improve her life and mental health. Then she needed to make that happen, with support from me, her friends and family. She was brave enough to take action, reduce her expenses, arrange to leave her job, gain voluntary experience, research finance opportunities and start her studies whilst still working part-time. In just one more year I know she’ll make a wonderful nurse. By the end of her sessions, she was glowing with enthusiasm and plans for the future, aiming eventually to move to a different area that had a busy hospital and greater opportunities for making new friends (and eventually hoping to meet a special someone). She told me that “I wake up every day in such a good mood. The studying is hard and I’ve had to sacrifice some luxuries but I know it won’t be forever. I love learning new things and I’m pretty good at it. I go to bed at night exhausted but content.”
Stephanie needed to be supported to be brave, to take the risk of leaving a steady job with a regular income. Yes, this was risky, but if we truly want to achieve something better for us, as Stephanie did, there are ways to work this out. Sometimes, it is hard to see the ways to make changes in your life, and if this is the case for you, you might need to talk this over with somebody who can offer an objective view. The changes might not be immediate, but each small step towards our goals is empowering, and things then seem easier.
This is something that Stephanie learnt when she made the first small steps towards her dreams, and with each step she became braver, stronger and felt more optimistic about her future. She said “I started with baby-steps and now I’m taking big strides.” So let’s take action and “do” what we need to do, and be decisive about our wants, hopes and dreams. Otherwise, “do not”; just forget what keeps popping into mind and stop focusing on the things you’re not doing, because that is draining and demoralising. Frustrated hopes and dreams will slowly chip away at you and I don’t need to tell you where this could lead.
You might feel that your dreams and plans are too big and it is too late to get there, so instead you do nothing, but still harbour the same dreams. It’s fine to adapt your plans to make them achievable to you, whilst still being enough to satisfy. Stephanie might have decided that she did not want to sacrifice her existing lifestyle to retrain, but instead she could have decided that a part-time role as a nursing assistant would have been enough to satisfy her. But it is never too late to chase your goals – did I mention that Stephanie is 44?
So, how can you be like Stephanie and channel your own inner Yoda?
1) Be honest with yourself about what you want to do. Is it actually something you want, as opposed to what somebody else wants you to do, or what you think would be best?
2) Be honest with yourself about the changes you might need to make in life to achieve your main goal, and how these will be managed. If you know the obstacles in advance, you can plan how to deal with them
3) Keep in mind the reasons you want to do something, as this will keep you motivated. How will your life improve when you make these changes?
4) When you have decided that you do want to do something, create small, achievable deadlines to keep you focused on achieving your main goal
5) Tell certain people about your plans – it helps to have their encouragement and also their push when it gets hard
6) Take time to really notice each achievement along the way and reward yourself for each small success on the path to your main goal
Make those changes and take those chances – it’s worth it in the end.
All names and identifying details of clients have been changed to protect confidentiality