Slow down and don’t be a jerk – just two of the many lessons I’ve learned lately on my path of “change”. It’s been a big topic on my blog and change continues to be a huge force in my life. I’ve just started a new job back home in Toronto, and then move into my new apartment (finally!) in another month. This new path of personal growth that has turned my life upside down and inside out has taught me so much about my strengths and weakness. Strong – my flexibility to pivot in new directions. Weak – impatience in making decisions without considering all angles. What are your pain points? Read on if you’re thinking of switching gears, or have already embarked on that path. 

Photo by Tara West.

Don’t do it all at once. This is SO obvious but I can’t say it enough. I finally learned that lesson – map out your goals and give yourself realistic timelines – when I moved back to Toronto this spring. The old me would have bought a new home immediately. Instead, I’m renting to give myself time to settle back in. I have way too much on the go to make another expensive decision. If you leave a full-time job, take a break and just breathe (if you can afford it). I’ve never not worked, ever. After twenty years sprinting on the downtown Toronto corporate treadmill, I should have given myself time last fall to calm down and relax. One of my closest friends is a perfect example. She recently left a long term job and is now taking vacations and spending time with her family, while carefully considering her next step. To me, she looks like a vision of serenity. Now, I’ve realized how important hitting pause is in my decision making. I really do need to “sleep on it”, or better yet, take way more time before making my usual snap decision. “Play the tape through to the end” is smart advice for a Type A like me. I’ll never be that person who agonizes over every little step, but I need to get better at slowing down and weighing my options.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Don’t expect to have all of the answers right away. And then don’t beat yourself up if you made a poor decision based on a lack of knowledge. For example, I’m giving myself time to learn my new job. I started to be hard on myself for not picking up certain things in the first week. The clue there is “first week“. Imagine your situation in another week, then four weeks, then four months. Things will be completely different with a little bit of time so back off and relax.

Everyone changes. We all change in both our personal and professional lives, but not at the same time or speed. Again, SO obvious but not always considered. Friends and loved ones may not want to come along for your ride when it veers far from their goals and desires. A swift change in life direction can be viewed like rejection. Both sides need to be patient – try not to judge and write someone off. Wait on the sidelines to see where the path goes. Surprisingly, I’ve become much closer to the friends who didn’t agree with a lot of my decisions. They may have rolled their eyes a few times – and I’ve heard a few “I told you so” – but their support never wavered. I feel that my personal growth has made ME a better friend. I’ve also discovered that I’m a lot more empathetic now to others. I can see where, unwittingly, I’ve been selfish in the past and not reached out when a friend needed me most. Divorce, illness, career crashes … when life goes to shit temporarily (and we all get a turn at that) what you need most is a shoulder to lean on. Just being there to listen – not fix or judge – is one of the most important gifts.

NO is a full sentence. When you’re juggling so many new balls that they start to fall and hit you on the head, just say NO. You don’t have to take on another task or responsibility. I’ve set new boundaries and while I often feel guilty about not going to an event or having a coffee chat, I’m putting myself first right now. I don’t want to be that over-stretched elastic band that suddenly snaps. My wish for the rest of 2017 is a drama-free boring year … somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. But I do plan to approach it with an open mind and chill pace.