Think for moment about the reasons that you aren’t currently living your dream? Are you stuck in a rut? Are you trapped in a dead end job? Are you putting in your time until retirement? Is your relationship stale? Did you have a dream when you were young but it seems like only a memory now?
At the end of the movie Pretty Woman, there’s a man walking down the street shouting, “Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream?” You don’t have to be in Hollywood to realize that everyone has a dream. So why is it only rare people are actually living their dreams while most people are feeling trapped? If everyone wants to live their dreams what’s holding so many people back? What about you? Are you unable to escape the rut you’re in or are you unwilling to escape the rut? What’s your dream?
If you’ve got the feeling that something in your life needs to change, but you aren’t sure where to start, it might be time to consider getting a professional life coach to help. Certified professional life coaches who are specialists in change management can be invaluable if you’re tired of punching a time clock and ready to move on to something more meaningful. They can also help you identify your deeper passion, even if your friends laugh about your dreams and your spouse chocks it up to “just a mid-life crisis.” Deep down, you’re ready for the fulfilled kind of life where you feel like you’re accomplishing something with your uniqueness, talents, skills, education or time.
When you aren’t satisfied, it’s a frustrating and often depressing feeling. Your life is stalled. You’re in a rut and no matter how hard you look at the rut, you can’t find the way out. It’s entirely possible that you’re too close to the situation. An objective, third-party observer can ask the right questions and listen to help you identify whether your past failures or your future fears are holding you back.
Whether you use a life coach to chart a new course - free of icebergs and filled with Hollywood-level dreams - or you just want to start making some real changes in your life, here are four steps to help you get moving:
Step 1: ASSESS
The assessment really begins when you become aware that something in your life needs to change. “NEEDS to change,” not “wants to change.” You may want to do something different but life change is really about feeling that you’ve got to do something different. That knowledge that you’re destined for something more or at least something different, is generally the thing that pushes people to leap - to “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Step 2: PLAN
So, you’ve determined that something in your life needs to change. You’ve done an assessment and you’ve identified the area that needs change. You’ve identified all the barriers and risks and you’re ready to make the change in spite of those things. In your mind, the feeling of not making a change is more crushing than the feeling of continuing to do the same thing in predictable security. The next step is to come up with your plan.
At this point, you need to identify whether you’re making a passive change or an active change. It helps define the roadmap if you can clearly recognize the things that are in your control and the things that are outside of your control.
You’re making a passive change if you were laid off by your company and want to switch careers or if you’re on the receiving end of a divorce you didn’t want and you’ve got to figure out what to do next. Passive changes are the ones that are required. They have less risk in the long run because they expose us to an already existing worst-case scenario in many cases. You don’t have to worry about the risk of loss of income when you’ve already lost the job. The loss of income is real and impending so the risks you take to get your new career path launched may seem less severe than a person who is making an active choice to walk away from a $250,000 a year salary to start their own company. Active choices are about making the decision before someone makes it for you. The risk analysis is harder but the feeling of freedom may be bigger.
Whether making an active choice to jump off that cliff or trying to figure out what to do when you were just pushed, begin your planning process by picking your destination. Where do you want to end up? What does it look like and feel like when you get there?
Step 3: EXECUTE
Remember that change is hard… but that doesn’t make it impossible. It doesn’t matter if you’ve tried before and failed. Countless times. If you feel that something needs to change, there is a likelihood that it is possible to change. The body and the mind seek homeostasis. If you’re cold, you shiver to raise your temperature. If you’re hot, you sweat to lower your temperature. When you try to change a habit or behavior, your body and mind may be resistant. Even if you have assessed your need and planned it out in amazing detail, taking that first big step can be daunting.
There are points in the plan where you have to actually start something. There will be times for courage. Are you ready to tell your boss? Your spouse? Things are going to be in motion now but it shouldn’t scare you because you’ve got a good plan in place, right? If not, go back to that planning part or get some more help.
If you’ve still got fear, it’s because you haven’t planned sufficiently OR there are things that are unknown. The unknown is okay, if you recognize that it is going to be unknown. There are plenty of things we can’t fully know when start out on a path but it makes it a lot easier to know that the unknown is there so we can avoid the fear of it. You should have talked through the unknowns with someone on your team. That way, when you walk in to tell your boss that you’re quitting, you’ll already have the debate settled and the fear points of the unknown won’t rattle you. Whether it’s your boss, your partner, or your best friend, somebody is going to bring up the unknown and the risks. If you’ve talked through all of those with an objective person, you’re going to be more successful in not getting pushed off your path by people who raise concerns that are surprising to you.
As your plan is becoming reality, remember to keep visualizing the end result. You’ll need to keep your eyes and mind on the process and the steps but continue to give yourself time to envision and feel the destination. You’re headed somewhere “big” and “different,” but by now it should be feeling a bit smaller and more familiar for you. At this stage in the process, if you done the other steps properly, you should be feeling like the journey can be achieved.
Yes, unexpected things are about to happen. Keep executing the plan. Be thoughtful. Be intelligent about it. Does an unexpected event need to adjust your timeline or is it just a distraction? How much time and energy can and should you devote to addressing the new issue or opportunity? Does it change your end result? Does it change your goal or just change some of the small steps? Is it a completely different end result but one you are actually satisfied with? This is where that help along the way is really important again. Keep checking in with your team. Are you coming up with honesty or fear?
Step 4: LIVE
You are making this change for yourself. Don’t let the process of change ruin who you are or destroy who you want to become? Have you ever known someone who had a dream of becoming a writer, an actor, or a professional athlete and something inside of them changed along the way? By the time they reached their destination they had become so jaded, so arrogant, or so untrusting of others, that they weren’t much fun to be around? Don’t let your journey redefine you in unacceptable ways. You’ve got to keep your focus on being that person that is part of the visualization. Don’t lose the person who had the dream in the first place, otherwise you will become the person who everyone says is living the dream but who isn’t satisfied… and that sounds a lot like the earlier example of people who come into the office saying they aren’t fulfilled with what appears to others to be a good life. If you lose your dream on your way to the dream, you’ve made a bad journey.
Find the time for exercise, friends, laughter, exploration, prayer, experience, recreation, fun, movement, creativity, and joy while you’re on the journey.
When we left our six-figure jobs to purchase a business in Hawaii and spend time together on the beach, we knew why we wanted to make that move. During the process and even at the present time, we are careful to constantly remember why we made that life change. It’s easy to get caught up in the new reality if you lose sight of why you took the journey to your present.
And that leads us to the most important part of changing your life - it’s a process that never ends. If you’ve succeeded and achieved your goal of change, congratulations. Enjoy the rewards of that. You’ve done something that many people didn’t believe was possible. Maybe along the way you even wondered if it was crazy.
You’ve achieved and you should enjoy that. But don’t be satisfied. You need to keep setting goals and you need to keep reaching for whatever is next. If you’ve become a writer, a musician, a business owner, single, strong, happily married again, a retiree… remember that you started out on that journey as a dreamer. You dreamed about change. And you will always dream about more things and bigger things. You will dream about your next step, your next book, or expanding the happiness you’ve found so you can share it with others. After you’ve felt your success, get your team together - it’s time to find out what’s next.