Where to Start When You’re Desperate for Change
Staying in a job or line of work that’s really not a good fit for you can make daily life feel like a performance. It’s exhausting. Working hard to get more of the same ‘success’ (without fulfillment) that you’ve already experienced can be downright demoralizing.
Who wants to commit to more of something that already feels a little like prison?
When we’re desperate for change, it’s very seductive to want a quick way out. If we hate our job, we might find ourselves combing Linkedin for opportunities. Or, we’ll start imagining the answer might be a career overhaul, which would start with getting an advanced degree. Or we might commit to trying harder to fit into where we are, holding on to hope that our next professional development program will make us into someone better.
If this sounds like you, I want you to suspend your impulse to problem solve. In fact, your key to creating long-term success is to drop the habit of resisting your circumstances. Stop thinking of them as a problem to solve. Instead, step back, and shift your focus.
The bigger the urgency we feel, the harder it is to slow down and “dream”. It feels like putting on the breaks. It’s counter-intuitive.
We think: “This problem needs to be SOLVED before I go CRAZY!” (Okay, I may be projecting. But I’m betting you can relate.)
But by shifting your focus to the more expansive process creating your own vision of circumstances, you’ll begin to untangle the knot you’re in. You’ll also be less likely to unconsciously replace one problem with a similar one (this mistake is one of the reasons we find ourselves locked in negative patterns).
Stop and ask yourself big questions, that can’t be immediately answered, like these, for example:
> What do you really want?
> What would it feel like to have/accomplish this?
> How would your life change if you had/accomplished this?
> What would change about your impact on others be if you had/accomplished this?
> What makes this important to you?
> What does this dream say about you?
When we’re in the throws of urgency, our stress-focused animal-brain will think this is a waste of time, but before we write this exercise off as non-urgent matter, let’s take a look at why slowing down and changing your perspective is the most productive thing you can do:
1- Dreaming gives us immediate relief.
So often, what’s clear as day is everything we don’t want. If what we don’t want is our current job, we’re bombarded with inner reactions reminding us how much we don’t like it here. But how much time are we taking to fully understand what we do want?
When we spend too much of our energy fighting the situation we’re in, we’re locked in a battle. We get stuck waiting for the system to change, and hold ourselves hostage there until it does. It’s frustrating and overwhelming, because we’ve unknowingly made things very hard.
Simply spending time discovering and envisioning what we want changes our relationship to the problem. We show up differently to it. Our focus shifts to our truer, plainer intentions. We connect with what our heart desires, regardless of what we currently think is possible or practical. We relax and enter all the feeling states that are associated with our dream: appreciation, expansion, joy, gratitude, trust… We’re guided by hope, innocence and possibility, as opposed to anger and frustration.
It’s a brilliant gift we can give ourselves. If you ever find yourself burning out, take a break and spend some serious time dreaming. Burn-out isn’t the result of working too hard (a common misconception), but of lack of meaning. We reach burnt-out when go too long without a dream.
2- Dreaming gives us a chance to redefine who we are.
When we react to circumstances, we allow them to define our experience.
Over time, if we stay in reaction mode, it’s easy to let our experiences define us. “I never get what I want!” “I always sabotage myself!” “I’m always getting undercut by someone else!” “I always end up with bosses I can’t stand!” Without realizing it, we’ve created (or perpetuated) a story about who we are that’s not true. Old stories like these are based on our hardship, victimhood, and wounds.
New stories, on the other hand, are different. New stories are chosen by us. New stories are based on who we truly are, regardless of how well we’ve proven that to others so far. New stories are based on our essence, and therefor our potential.
Most importantly, new stories tell us where we’re headed. Once we tell a new story to ourselves, we will begin moving in that direction.
4- Dreaming makes lasting change more likely.
When I work with clients around envisioning change- any kind of change- I make sure to help them track their sensory experience in the process. What’s shifting in their shoulders? How’s their heart rate? What’s changing about their voice? Where do they most feel this change?
In terms of changing our brain and what we think we’re capable of, linking new sensory experience with this dream of change is almost as good as having the real experience. Experiencing the sensations and emotions associated with a desired event is like a “mental rehearsal” for the brain, after which the brain may behave as if the event has already happened.
By consciously dreaming, we start to become the kind of person who makes the changes we most desire.
5- Dreaming takes the struggle out of change.
When you’re trying to resolve a tiff with someone, do you ever notice how you can’t fake forgiveness? No matter how many ways you say “I forgive you”, if it’s not coming from your heart, the tension won’t go away.
But if you work through your emotions and perspectives- when you’ve changed something inside yourself- your forgiveness comes through, without saying all the right words.
Dreaming has this effect. When we follow something we want so deeply, and we’ve got a clear vision of what our heart desires, it doesn’t matter if we do everything perfectly in the process of getting there. We’re already enjoying the emotional benefit of clarity and heart-filled purpose.
Struggle fades away, because we’re not placing a problem between us and what we want. We’re already experiencing a taste of what we want, simply because we’re able to imagine it.
When you’re desperate for a change, don’t start with problem solving. It’s worth your time to begin with the work of dreaming. As fluffy as that may sound, it’s what your brain needs to help you create a new reality.
By starting with dreaming, you’ll immerse yourself in a state of positivity, flood yourself with positive emotions that make you feel stronger, grounded and fulfilled, and you’ll also quiet all the voices of panic that make you desperate for a solution.
An important part of dreaming is that it encourages us to see and sense things we hadn’t before. It opens our eyes to possibilities we hadn’t thought of, and it also helps us get clear on our real intentions. When we see possibilities, and we’re clear about what we want, we naturally start to create it.
Equally important, I think, is the fact that dreaming is actually a productive way of taking responsibility for what we want. It’s a way of saying “I’m able to think of a better way than this, and I’m willing to consider possibilities.” That’s a very different state of being than fighting a reality we don’t like.