THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Feeling stuck? Make the change now
The worst thing about big change is not that it's so hard to adjust to. The worst thing is that we usually have to bottom out before we make a big change. Before we give in, we wait until there's no other choice.
I learned this in college. I was chasing a guy who had dumped me. But I kept subjecting myself to study sessions where I pretended we were dating while he copied my history notes.
Then he brought his new girlfriend to our study session. I contemplated poisoning him. But instead I cried for weeks, cut history classes, and failed the midterm. Then I admitted I needed to move on. But not before I spent a few more weeks getting angry at myself for wasting so much time on him.
I vowed to always make change immediately, as soon as I could see it coming. But this has been very hard to execute in real life. In fact, it turned out that my college experience of bottoming out in order to change was practice for my work life.
I bottomed out in the car, during my commute between San Diego and Los Angeles. For about three weeks the commute was interesting. Then I got bored. I tried listening to books on tape. I tried talking on the phone.
But the job was so good that I persisted with the commute. I started leaving my apartment in L.A. at 4am. No traffic meant a shorter commute, but also an abridged social life.
So I went back to my two hours each way. But on rainy days it was three hours each way, and on a day of torrential downpour, I lost it. Pulled to the side of the road and threw small pieces of my car into a ditch. Went to Denny's and ate three pieces of pie. Called each of my friends to tell them I was quitting.
"Finally!" they all said.
That's the thing about big change. By the time we're ready to do it, the need for change has been apparent to everyone else for months. Maybe years. It's easy for everyone else to see the need for change– they don't have to do it.
Later, job hunting at my kitchen table, I was excited to find another job, and I mourned all the hours I wasted in the car. In my apartment, it was clear that the job was not worth the commute. But that's how it always is: I always wish I had made the change sooner.
So look. You can wait until you bottom out. But it's sad: It's failed midterms, it's tears by the side of the road. Force yourself to change before things get ugly. It's impossible to see your own life as clearly as others do, but it's a good goal to aim for. As soon as you hear other people say, "Why don't you [insert change here]?" give the question serious thought.
Still not moving? Close your eyes and imagine what life would be like if you made the big change. Maybe it's giving up some responsibility at work, or quitting, or switching careers. These are the sorts of changes we put off and put off, but once we do them we feel huge relief. These days I try to focus on that relief. I still wait too long to instigate change, but I'm hoping my days of being on the bottom are behind me.