The ups and downs of the moving change curve

Let me tell you… making the choice to quit my job and move to Spain has not been an easy one.

This decision entails moving from a country with currently one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe (Czech Republic – 2.8%) to the second highest (Spain – 14.55%). And doing this without a job lined up or any meaningful business connections in the country to boot.

It also means living off carefully accumulated savings from the past 3 years with no back up plan – at all. Not to mention, those savings were meant to fund a housing deposit in the near future. One of my larger life goals.

It seems like a crazy move to me sometimes. Especially given my currently secure employment situation at a Fortune 100 company with all the perks and benefits associated.

I’m currently recognised as a top performer in a highly respected leadership development program and have the encouragement of leadership to move up to the next level. Next Level potentially meaning greater responsibility, added bonuses and increased visibility within the company.

Yet the reality is that, given the tumultuous year I’ve just been through, I can’t shake the feeling that I need to rejuvenate myself first.

I’ve recently experienced the harsh realities of two large-scale company reorganisations. I’ve also had an unexpected breakdown in my personal relationship. Add to that an unfortunate dance with deteriorating health that has followed and it’s not surprising I’m feeling depleted.

Lacking my usual motivation and energy, and knowing I do not wish to remain in Prague either, I can’t help but feel that moving to a new place would be good for me.

Perhaps making a new start and re-prioritising could be good for me too. Especially in a place like Spain – renowned for it’s sunny weather, good food and vibrant culture.

Since I started considering a move to Spain as a viable option, it’s not been a smooth journey though. For one, navigating the change curve and moving towards acceptance has been somewhat challenging.

Having said that though, it’s definitely not been boring. And this not being my first move I’ve come to recognise the play of emotions for what they are: Natural reactions to a progression through the change curve.

A change curve which always starts with…

Endings

Ah yes endings. Very much the first stage associated with the change curve and arguably the most turbulent part.

After all, without coming to terms with an end it would be very hard to start anything new. It is endings, and the realisation that something needs to change, that usually leads us to action after all.

Yet before we can realise and accept that a change is necessary, we usually go through a great big bout of denial…

Step 1 – Denial

For a very long time I was in denial of my need for a change. I just waited and waited and waited for my situation to change. In my personal life, in my professional life, in everything. I just waited.

I told myself everything was ok as it was. Though I wasn’t exactly blissfully happy, I wasn’t sad either. I was just ok. That’s fine… right?

At work I had a few discussions, but I wasn’t really looking to make a change. I simply waited thinking:

I know it’s not ideal but it’s not so bad. I’m getting paid, I’ve got a tolerable job  and there are people around me who need me. I’m ok. I’ve got it set. No need to rock the boat.

When my relationship ended, I desperately clung on to the hope that it was all a bad dream. All the time thinking:

He’s dealing with some personal things right now. He’ll come around. Surely, he’ll change his mind and see that this was the wrong decision. I just need to give it time…

Shortly after, I got sick and fell right into…

Step 2 – Realisation, shock and confusion

Everything came tumbling down. I was off for three weeks and my mind went into a frenzy thinking:

Who am I?

What am I doing here?

How could I end up in this situation?

How could I be so weak?

Why am I not standing up for myself?

Why am I not pursuing change?

Something’s wrong

I’m not myself.

What do I need?

I need a change.

But what change?

Step 3 – Resistance, anger, blame and defensiveness

This stage was the hardest for me. Generally speaking, I’m a very optimistic person. It’s a trait I’ve worked hard on to cultivate into a habit, especially given my history with depression.

At this stage, I started becoming hyper-sensitive to every single situation I didn’t like though. I kept thinking…

If only x hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be in this situation!

Why did things have to turn out this way?

What did I do to deserve this?

Why couldn’t things be different?

Why did I have to experience all these negative emotions?

I’m so exhausted

I don’t want to do this anymore

Just let it all end… please

 

These types of thoughts were recycling through my mind again and again. It was like a constant whirlwind speeding at hundreds of miles an hour.

That is until I realised the havoc it was causing and I realised the way forward.

Step 4 – Letting go

I couldn’t change the situation I was in without changing myself. That was a fact.

Of course, I didn’t like what was happening in my life, but it was my internal reactions to external circumstances, which were causing the unbearable pain.

I realised I couldn’t keep holding on to a situation and mindset that was hurting me. I had to let go of what had already happened.

My sole target needed to be to focus on what would happen next. Even if I wasn’t ready to change – change was necessary to move forward.

The situation was what it was… and it would be what it would be.

The options were either to move forward into change or give up and continue wallowing in pain.

And giving up is never the answer. My mother taught me that.

 

Transitions

Once I had accepted that a change needed to happen in both my work and personal lives, a different type of madness took over. Classical signs of transitioning into, instead of shying away from, change.

Step 5 – Uncertainty, fear and frustration

When I hit this step, I started frantically searching for a course and apartment in Spain. Even though I was not sure that I was actually going to Spain, I needed to do something. Have something to believe in.

If I was really going to take such a big leap, I simply needed to have some security to fall back on. Even if the security was just an illusion. Even if the security was simply knowing I would have a place to live and something to do.

I started searching for options in Valencia, Madrid, Alicante and Barcelona. Nothing fit. Nothing was perfect. Not one thing was quite like I expected.

I booked a flat and then cancelled my booking 24 hours later. I emailed a dozen Spanish language schools, but couldn’t make up my mind which one was right. All the while I kept thinking:

Am I doing the right thing?

Will I be ok?

Of course, I’m doing the right thing.

But am I really?

Or am I at the verge of ruining my life?

Such scary thoughts…

Step 6 – Understanding change and a sprinkle of optimism

Once I imagined all the things that could possibly go wrong, things slowly started to change. Believe me – I imagined myself homeless, jobless, slowly turning crazy and bumming out on a friend’s couch many times over.

I imagined myself with nowhere else to go, nothing else to do. Lost, confused and regretting everything that led me up to this point. I saw myself sleeping under a bridge having been kicked off my friends’ couches. The whole shebang.

The mind is a scary place, especially when you’re feeling lost. It’s also designed to protect you from harm, which is why it resists the unknown and tries to lead you down the path of least change. The path it thinks will keep you safe. The path that will keep you in your comfort zone.

It was at the point I felt the most scared though, that I realised something else too. I realised I had a choice.

I didn’t have to go down this road if I didn’t want to. Nobody was forcing me to make a change except myself. There were no right or wrong choices to be made here.

My life would change either way – because the one thing I knew must change, was the way that I felt about myself and my circumstances.

If I decided to stay in my job and pine for my ex, I would need to become comfortable with that choice. I would need to find a way to make that reality ok.

Potentially I would need to re-frame my thoughts on my current work situation and re-think my thoughts and interactions regarding my ex. But if I chose to keep things the same, I would need to put in the work to make sure that I was not only going to be ok, but grow and eventually thrive in that situation too.

I would need the vision in my head to re-align with reality again. That’s one way to combat depression and it’s one of the only ways to get out of a funk.

Equally if I left, I would need to become ok with the fact that this could be the start to a whole chain of new events.

I would need to accept that my life would no longer be what I imagined it to be. Straightforward, in one company, focusing only on what would make me most successful in that environment. Not needing to dedicate focus on other options… and there are so many other options.

It was when I realised that I actually had a choice, that I found security in the fact that either choice would turn out ok. I didn’t have to rush to a decision. I could take my time.

What I did have to do was make sure that whatever the decision was though, was the decision I felt was right for me.

That is when I began trusting myself again. To start exploring my wants, needs and desires again. And ultimately when I started listening to myself instead of all the external voices again.

For I realised one thing during this experience and it’s this: everybody else will always have an opinion. It’s up to you to decide whether to follow others’ guidance though and if you won’t then it’s up to you to find a new path on your own.

 

New Beginnings

 

Step 7 –  Accepting, committing to and trusting change

It is at this point of the story that I will need to stop telling it. For the reality is that I’ve come a long way, but I’m not quite at the point of acceptance, commitment and full trust yet.

The bargaining with work is still ongoing. I’m still only half committing to school in Barcelona and I’m still looking for more ‘ideal’ options.

The one thing I can say though, is that at this point I have accepted that there will be change and it will likely be big. I am also accepting of the fact that I don’t exactly know what that change will look like right now.

The one thing that I am very proud of though is that, through this entire change exercise, I have managed to build a sense of trust in my situation and circumstances again.

I now trust that whatever happens will turn out for the best. It may take a while for all the pieces to come together and make sense, but I trust that in the end life will works its magic on me again.

It always does… eventually 😉

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