How Bad Do You Want It?

When it comes to re-booting, a key consideration is to ask how much hard work and discomfort we’re willing to withstand in order to achieve our goal. The dilemma we confront when balancing our need for change versus the disruption it will cause is real. Sacrifices of one variety or another must be made, whether this affects our relationships, our career, our sense of vulnerability, or something else, entirely. More often than not, other people are impacted by our choices, so the fact that what we do directly impacts them counts as part of the hard work we must be willing to assume if we decide to implement change in our lives. In a sad contrast, there are legions of adults who spend every minute of the day wishing their lives were different but who are unwilling to risk shifting the balance, rationalizing that their insistent yearning might be fleeting or telling themselves that swapping “good enough” for some inchoate unknown is insanity.

Are you one of those people who stand by, watching others take risks?

I have a friend who is considering ending their marriage. The marriage is…ok. The couple is cooperative and companionable. They’ve enjoyed good times and they’re good people who value commitment, but significant distances between them exist, with no signs of abatement. Having shared their doubts and concerns with their spouse, my friend received a sensible, civil, and considerate response. Sitting in a café on a sun-drenched afternoon, my friend mused, “Can I accept things as they are knowing they won’t change? I have a good life; I mean things are ok. They could be better. I just feel there’s so much I am missing, but I made a commitment. Who’s to say life would be any better if we called it quits?

Nearly all of us have been caught in a similar purgatory, unsure whether to make a bold move or not—I certainly have. Whether the dilemma is what to do about a difficult relationship or taking steps to share our creative work with the world, we know that a go or no-go decision will have significant repercussions. Jettisoning our old ways involves significant cost, but the path less traveled beckons us forward. Looking at the situation as it is today, we wonder to ourselves, “What if I didn’t have to be with this person/job any longer? What if I had room in my life to do X?” When we think about the possibilities, a feeling of terrifying, exhilarating freedom arises. Is the collateral damage worth it? This is the essence of the re-booting dilemma.

There are no guarantees we’ll make the right choice, no promises of a future filled with golden moments or money pouring down onto our heads. Our decisions to change our life can mean anything from remaining in our marriage or career (but with radically revised expectations) to quitting and moving on. Is it better to opt for stability or to step out on our own? What decision have you made? What examples have you seen?

Now, remember, while I’m using marriage as my primary example, this line of questioning is equally applicable to other parts of our lives. The same approach can be used when reconsidering how we define ourselves, how we choose to interact with our family members, whether or not we are willing to let go of old resentments and put the past behind us once and for all. Whatever your dilemma is, whether you decide to maintain the status quo or implement transformational change, there will be hard work required in order to make things better. Are you willing to do this? What are you prepared to sacrifice to get where you want to go?

What if nothing changes? How will you feel about yourself then? Can you live with that?

When I ask these questions, I ask them sympathetically. Change is hard. Change is terrifying. But it’s also thrilling. Looking back on my own crisis, as desperate as I was to escape, I remained frozen in place for far too long. Despite the panicky sense of drowning in the angry muddle that had become my life, despite feeling myself shut down as my enthusiasm drained away, even then, I resisted change. I hated every single second of my day, yet, still I stayed put. I’m not sure how different my life would be had I taken steps sooner, but I know that for me, the idea of jettisoning everything I had spent the last umpteen years working towards was the last thing in the world I wanted.

Thank God it happened.

In my situation, there was no way things were going to improve, so my dilemma was less wrenching than for those of you who can list clear positives in your situation. But here is what I have to say about that:

1.Your life need not be an unmitigated hell before you are justified in implementing change.

  1. The people in your life can be good and decent while also being unbearable to live with.
  2. Changing your mind does not qualify you as morally bankrupt or unkind.
  3. Beating yourself up does nothing to improve things.
  4. It’s ok to think about this stuff.

You just have to be prepared to handle the fallout, whatever you decide. This is on you, so own it.

Can you do this?

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