Are you impatient for change?
I’m not surprised. We live in a society that first tells us we are not enough and then teaches us that change is easy, quick and available right now.
We’re bombarded by quick-fixes, and we reach for them: medicine that’ll get us back on our feet again; the shiny car that’ll solve all our problems; the must-read book that will reveal a new us and the higher paying job that’ll turn the world from black to gold.
Society tells us it knows how to fix us. And we want to believe it – it’s easier to absolve responsibility for ourselves and our lives, than have to deal with the fact that we hurt, we long and that’s messy and might take time and trouble to sort out.
And who’d blame us? If my pain can be taken away and the person who I want to be, the experience I want to have, be given to me on a plate, I’ll take it!
But we all know, deep-down, that quick-fix change is short-lived. Like putting a sticking plaster over a gaping wound, it doesn’t heal us, it doesn’t make us whole and it doesn’t bring us what we want.
Authentic change takes time. And it’s messy. It takes looking at where we are with honesty, without the usual distractions – reconnecting with our true selves and facing the often uncomfortable things that are in there.
I’ve made a lot of changes in my own life – losing half my body weight, ending a comfortable marriage, quitting the corporate world, moving to another country and starting my own business.
The road to those changes has been paved with lots of looking for quick-fixes. Touching upon my pain and my longing was suffocating and I reached out to grab whatever was going, whatever seemed like the best idea at the time.
Years of taking the quick-fix led me to a realisation that patching things up wasn’t satisfactory and I needed to go deeper – there was something more.
Take my weight loss. My teenage self, desperately embarrassed by the 280 pounds she was carrying, looked everywhere for a fix. Sweets that would supress her appetite, ‘crash’ diets that half-starved her, fad food plans that saw her regimenting her eating and mighty depressed, along with ‘low-calorie’ this and that.
But they made no difference, and if seemed like they were going to, it’d be short-lived and I’d end up putting the weight back on.
It wasn’t until, at the end of my adolescence, seeing my 20s stretching ahead of me, I took stock of how lonely and sad I actually was and realised that instead, what I really wanted, was to have fun, go out, flirt, dress up and enjoy myself. This stark, honest look at the disparity of my reality was quickly followed by the knowledge that it was up to me, that no-one else could save me and that I had to look deep inside of myself and really connect with my longing in order to give me the motivation to take the small, sensible steps that I needed to, one after the other, to lose weight.
And years of frustrating grabbing for help transformed into a year and a half of sustained weight loss, and a whole new me, physically and psychologically.
Next came my frustrations with my work. Deep down I wanted – as we all do – to have a job that meant something to me; something I loved and was valued for. But delving into and acing that meant considering what I needed to do to bring it about. It was way too much, so I turned to the ‘best option’, the one that normal society would have me do. My career quick-fixes led me from bank, to oil company, to engineering firm, to IT company, to Microsoft – each step providing me with more prestige and more money – one of the gentle suffocations of the quick-fix in the job world; being pacified by new challenge, status and money and the temporary self-esteem and satisfaction they brings.
It was the process of trawling the depths of myself to find the confidence to end my comfortable and secure marriage, and the perspective of a 3-month sabbatical, that helped me realise that these quick fixes, designed to patch over my longing, give my self-esteem a boost and quell my boredom just weren’t doing it for me.
Taking responsibility and making real change took time; time to figure out what I was about, time to try things out and learn from them, time to engage in each step of the process that would lead me to what I wanted.
After much reading, learning and visioning, I decided to step out of my job with Microsoft and take a job for a music charity in central London where I would earn less than half of the salary I had been used to.
A year into this job, I realised that working in an office was never going to cut it for me, and that my next step was stepping into my curiosity and my passion at a deeper level. This took me, ultimately, on a journey to creating and developing my own business – a process that took time, and although has been and is deeply rewarding, was also spattered with frustrations and painful realisations along the way.
And knotted together with this career change has been my move from the UK to Italy. I’d always had a sense of adventure and a thought that I wanted to go live somewhere else: I love being warm, adore the sensuality of Mediterranean life, and am totally awe-struck by the nonchalant beauty of Italy. I didn’t, however, think I was strong enough to move countries – telling myself other people did that kind of thing, not me. So, instead, I went for the quick-fix: Using my healthy Microsoft pay packet to take as many vacations as possible; living for travel and culture shows on television, medicating myself by coming up with reasons why other people could ive adventures but I couldn’t.
The real change was a slow process.
And this time it came from a low.
I found myself with a neck injury, and spent months wearing a soft-collar, unable to leave bed for longer than 2/3 hours without the whole of the side of my neck erupting in painful spasm.
In that environment, from that low, I had the bravery to look at where I really was and what I really wanted for my life. I connected in with my dream and with the fear of never being able to live a normal life again hanging over me, I vowed that I would get better, and when I did, I would get out to Italy. I knew there were no more quick-fixes, this was it and it had to be done.
And I did get better, and slowly, I took the steps that I needed to in order to move myself to this glorious country.
Quick-fixes can fool you for a while but real change takes time. It involves looking honestly at where you are and connecting with what you really want to bring into your life – even if that’s painful as it makes clear the gaping hole between where you are and where you dream of being.
When you are aware of that chasm, when you’ve connected with the gap, you’re able to start taking the steps you need to walk across it – you know you’re heading some place you really want to be, with your eyes wide open, rather than hiding yourself away from it and applying a quick-fix.