Is your life stuck on pause? Are you too paralyzed to move out of a miserable relationship or soul-sucking job? It may be time to jump and try something new. But it’s important to first figure out what’s holding you back. 

Photo by Tara West

Many times, we stay where we are because we simply can’t ever see a way out of it. We stay in that unhappy relationship or nowhere job because we’re just too scared to look for something better. Or, we think, at least it’s the devil we know. If you want to make a big change in your life – or even a small one that you just can’t press ‘go’ on – try to figure out how to get past your major roadblocks.

Do you have an actual plan or is it more of a wish? Many people ask me for advice about their lifelong dream of becoming a fashion editor. First, do your research and make sure that you know what is involved from training, time and salary expectations. Compare that to your current career path and write down the pros and cons of both. The physical act of writing your goals will help focus you on the reality of your idea. Imagine a number of different results and how you will respond to success and failure with each one. Don’t be blind to the possibility that your plan may not work. This is where a mentor’s advice can be invaluable. 

Can you afford to make a big change? How much money do you need to make to survive? When I moved to Vancouver last year, I saved enough to pay expenses for a year based on potential minimal earnings. 

Are you worried what others will think? In the age of social media, harsh judgement spreads like wildfire. But guess what? In the worst case, 99% of those who see an embarrassing Tweet or negative Facebook post will have forgotten about it a few days later. And truthfully, most people really don’t care. They’re far more concerned with what’s going on in their own backyard.

Are you worried that once you take that big step, there will be no turning back, ever? If you don’t succeed on one path, be prepared to pivot. Remember that nothing has to last forever. When I moved to Vancouver last winter, I had supreme confidence in my freelance consulting plan. But what I didn’t count on was my lack of appetite to work at home – and that was the core of my business. Plus, there’s no guarantee that things will unroll precisely as you’ve planned when other people and market conditions come in to play. Make sure you have a Plan B and even a Plan C and Plan D in place in case you need to move in a new direction. There’s no shame in that. At least you tried and were smart enough to change course.

Authors Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write about the three Ps (personalization, pervasiveness and permanence) to help recover from a life-altering change in their fantastic new book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. A passage from it really struck a chord with me to help explain why so many of us are frightened of change. As Helen Keller put it: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” 

Are you staring at a door that had been slammed shut and praying that it will re-open? Been there, done that. Don’t look at an unsuccessful experience as a failure, but actually as an opportunity in disguise. From the plans I made and cast in stone last year, I’ve now detoured down a new path that’s so much better suited to me. And I wouldn’t be in this fantastic space today if I hadn’t jumped into that change in the first place. I feel so much more confident and happier about what’s to come than anything I’ve done in the past five years. And isn’t that what change is all about?