On Making Changes

 

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“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.”

I read this quote amid my uncertainty on whether to leave North Carolina and move to New York City. There are countless other quotes that echo the idea. Another one I like is, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” It’s a topic belabored by bloggers and authors and self-help gurus so I was hesitant to contribute to the cliché. But this is my take on the subject.

We are all looking to make some change in life. Changing jobs, cities, relationships. It’s a product of the human condition, what we have is not enough. This both encourages positive growth, as the first quote suggests, and prevents us from appreciating what we do have. Being grateful is important and worth a post of it’s own, but I’ll focus on the changes we know will improve our quality of life.

Most posts on change offer a call to action. Imperatives such as “Just do it” and “What are you waiting for?” can provide short-term motivation, but rarely inspires lasting change or following through on quitting a job or moving to another city. In my short-tenured experience, change happens when your desire outweighs the cost. Costs such as fear, money, damaged relationships, and leaving your comfort zone.

If you or someone you know hates their job, and you ask, “Why don’t you just quit?” common responses are “I’m too lazy to look” or “There are some positives”. Laziness does not prevent change, in fact you are far from lazy if you begrudgingly show up every day to a job you’d prefer to be without. A truly lazy person would skip work instead.

Everyone is capable of making change. Perhaps some are able to change more readily. For them the costs are lower, likely less fear and a greater willingness to leave their comfort zone. However even those most stubborn make changes when they are truly ready.

My friend, with whom I discuss all of life’s intricacies, showed me an article on getting the most out of life. And the question becomes “What are you willing to struggle for?” Because when real desire exists, we make it work at any cost. Hours at the gym, hours working late, hours socializing with friends.

The ways in which we spend our time reflect our values. In a day with finite hours, we allocate our time based on what we find important. If a new job is a high priority, time is spent tailoring resumes and sending applications. If moving is a priority, time is spent researching new cities and developing a plan.

There is inherent risk in change, leaving the known uncomfortable for the potential of a better life. In my case it was leaving friends and a known city for one of the biggest in the world. Yet the desire for a new adventure outweighed the cost of uprooting. Excitement and the search for personal growth allows for a leap such as mine.

So if you have not made the change you want to make, I argue you are not ready. Change requires resilience and open-mindedness, as the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. When you are ready, the fear goes quiet. It is replaced by the fire inside getting louder until there is no choice but to act. This is where lasting change happens. Because growth is the enemy of fear, and fear will lose every time.

 

On Ocean Waves

cropped-33483953785_2437f66096_o.jpgFew things can match the serenity of waves crashing on a beach. Both in sight and sound we are enamored by the rise, crash, and retreat of waves. Why, as oxygen breathing land mammals, do we have such an affinity for the ocean and the beach? Maybe it’s proof that mankind can conquer uninhabitable places like the ocean and outer space and nothing can hold us back as a species.

We built ships to see the world before we had maps or the ability to properly navigate the planets vast oceans. Fear has never kept mankind from exploring and the ocean is a testament to that. I feel most alive gazing out over an ocean that extends to the horizon. So strangely that which can drown us and kill us is also what gives us life and fills us with wonder.

But the waves themselves are especially calming. The sound has found it’s way to nearly every sleep noise machine. Standing on a beach has an immediate calming effect as though each ebb of a wave takes a bit of stress with it back out to sea. In part it must be the repetition. The crash is predictable but not so much so as to bore, the timing isn’t perfect.

The sound is a time machine that brings us back to vacations and time spent with loved ones. Each break contains an array of memories and feelings of tranquility.

Like an eraser for the mind it wipes away stress and conflicts, problems and doubts. To find clarity, find a beach. Because we are small, and our problems are less than insignificant to nature and the expanse of the ocean.

JFK kept a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office with the quote “O, God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” The metaphor only works because the sea actually is so vast, and even our largest ships are so small in comparison. But the feeling of warm sun, an ocean breeze, and the sound of crashing waves is a strong medicine to combat our day to day troubles.

So we listen to the sound: the slight rise from nowhere, the foamy white curl, and the collision with the sand. And when we leave the sound continues, ready and waiting for our return to marvel at this awe-inspiring thing we call nature.