Look before you leap (Traditional Proverb).
Every four years, February gives us a whole 24 hours of bonus footage to add to our year. Many people take this opportunity to “do something special” with their extra day. But why wait for Leap Day? Why not celebrate the “leaps” and risks we take every day when we venture outside of our comfort zone or work to improve our lives?
Of course change, especially life-altering change, is bone-shakingly frightening sometimes. The whole concept is fraught with a veritable minefield of “what ifs” that can be hard for us to see and get past in order to reach the destination point where our dreams lie. So I offer you the following “what ifs” along with some answers to help you take that leap, whatever it may be, and land safely on the other side!
1) What if I suck?
So suck. I’m a big fan of sucking. Being awful at the outset (often referred to in Eastern cultures as the possessing a beginner’s mind) keeps you from getting cocky and is the ideal state from which to achieve perfection; those who think they don’t suck often believe, incorrectly, that they have no more to learn. One of the things that I learned a long time ago is that it is often better to be a blank slate upon which those who are there to teach you can write than to come equipped with prejudices, techniques and ways of doing things that are inappropriate or even destructive to the new situation and that have to be unlearned before any real progress can be made. Learn to love your inner doofus. It’s one of the things that keep you from stagnating at your current level of achievement.
2) What if get there and I hate it?
So hate it. It’s hardly the end of the world. In fact, many cultures and religions believe that we’re put here in this life to experience and enjoy all of the vast range of human experience, including being miserable and other negative emotions. And some people, such as writers, artists, musicians and the like, actually look forward to such times as a way to accumulate top-shelf material for their next project. So feel free to feel bad – revel in it, if you will – and then when you get bored, move on to the next amusement ride of life and give someone else a turn at whatever you were doing.
3) What if I love it so much that I’m torn about stopping to have a family, going to school, running off to join the circus (or whatever your previous long-term plans were)?
As the saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for tomorrow”. Plans have a way of becoming either “traps or scraps” as life has its own way with you. They can be traps by virtue of making you feel obligated to follow them, especially if you have “sunk costs” like a degree, family expectations or a long career invested in them, even when you no longer get any enjoyment out of that way of life. And they often end up scrapped when unforeseen circumstances blow us so far out to sea, as it were, that we no longer have any hope of paddling back to that particular shore in our lifetime. When that sort of event occurs in the absence of any real alternatives, the loss can be as devastating as a death. Learn to arrange your life so that you will enjoy it even if your long-range plans never come true. Then, when and if it’s the right time to head out after your original goals, you’ll have a great foundation to build on.
You should also learn to distinguish between “planning for” and “planning to do”. If you have a goal you’d like to accomplish or reach one day, plan for it (stay healthy and take your vitamins if you want a family, save for tuition if you’d like to go to school, sharpen your tumbling skills if the circus is your raison d’etre, etc.), but don’t worry so much about planning to do it, such as engaging in the process of creating a step-by-step 5-year plan – and then dealing with the attendant stress of not meeting your arbitrarily established milestones should life intervene, as it is wont to do. You’ll know when you get there that it’s time to start actively working toward your goal, assuming life doesn’t take you in an entirely new direction before then, and by that time your life will may changed so much that quite probably none of your previously generated plans will be relevant anyway. Trying to fit your life into an established plan despite its protests to the contrary causes untold sorrow and pain. Live the life that makes you happy today, tomorrow and everyday, and let your long-term plans stretch and bend to accommodate your life rather than the other way around.
4) What if I get depressed, sick, lost, confused, etc. and can’t keep up with the requirements of this new venture?
So don’t keep up – fly, fall, wallow, soar, bounce, flop. It’s just more material and more experience! Again – when you get bored, move on, move up, get medical or other help if necessary, and let someone else get on the ride.
5) What if I’m too lazy, too set in my ways, too undisciplined, eccentric, etc., to be a “player”?
Work with yourself, not against yourself. It’s called working smarter, not harder. They make big ol’ honking posters about it and stick them up on in break rooms everywhere. Learn to work with your strengths and around your weaknesses to get the most done with the least amount of effort and you’ll be a step ahead of the rest of the floundering, struggling, gasping pack expending all their generative energy swimming upstream trying to do it the “right” way!
6) What I decide I want to do this, and then can’t get a high-enough salary, make money at it, get famous, make it a success (or whatever your preferred form of compensation may be)?
Well, you could kick the guys in accounting in the shins and swipe their wallets while they’re down, but that’s really a short-term solution.
Remember, money doesn’t always come in the form of money. Company cars, laptops, benefits, etc., can all be part of a corporate package and they don’t hurt the guys in accounting as bad as being forced to add zeros to a check (or as bad as being kicked in the shins, for that matter). As for non-work-related changes, remember that living a happy life that you control can net you big-time compensation in the form of better health (and we all know how medical bills can add up), less stress, an effervescent sense of freedom that is hard to replicate without illegal drugs and other intangible benefits. It usually “pays” more to live a great life with less money than to live a miserable one with a better paycheck.
7) But really, what if there’s a real cash-flow problem?
Pretend to be a religious holy person on a ‘real world’ sabbatical. Scale back your life, use the money you do make for the bare essentials and spend your free time doing good works. Stuff will come your way through networking, contacts, your good reputation, etc. Opening the doors of your life to other people allows for two-way travel, you know.
8 ) What if there’s not enough money, freedom, compensation, etc., to accommodate plans I’ve already made?
You remember what I said about plans, right? Sometimes, you’ll just have to choose between plans made then and dreams sought now. Another saying that speaks to this issue is as follows: “You can have anything you want in this life. You just can’t have everything.” Go over both your plans and your dreams. Which one gives you the greater feeling of joy? Which one, when you think about abandoning it, gives you the greater feeling of loss? It’s occasionally a close call, but usually a simple process of prioritization and revisiting old, and sometime changed, values and needs shows a clear winner.
9) What if I buckle under the pressure?
Take some yoga classes – it makes buckling easier and more graceful, and you don’t make those embarrassing popping noises in your knees. Plus, the meditation and stretching/breathing will make you less likely to buckle, as well. And learn to take wisdom from those grade-school fire-safety posters – sometimes you have to get really low in order to escape the heat and save yourself. Don’t assume that a lowered posture is a sign of a lowered stature. Sometimes it can serve to take the heat off your back until the fire calms down.
10) What if I FAIL (gasp!) and have to return to (whatever life you left), and everyone will know and it will suck?
So, we have come full circle – back to sucking. Suck, baby, suck! It’s when life sucks that it quits being boring. And if you do have to go back, don’t go back with your tail between your legs (get that thing removed, will you? It’s disturbing when you wag it). Go back with an enhanced resume/life experience including all the new and nifty stuff you’ve learned. Present yourself as returned from a cross-training internship working along side the big guys, and now ready to take on greater (and greater recompensed) challenges! The “real” players do it all the time – why not you?
(c) Soni Pitts
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Soni Pitts is the Chief Visionary Butt-Kicker of SoniPitts.Com. She specializes in helping others reclaim “soul proprietorship” in their lives and to begin living the life their Creator always intended for them.
She is the author of the free e-book “50 Ways To Reach Your Goals” and over 100 self-help and inspirational articles, as well as other products and resources designed to facilitate this process of personal growth and spiritual development.