Making radical changes in our lives is a coping strategy that allows us to deal with deep dissatisfaction or a desire to improve.
We’ve talked about how undertaking small or large projects after the holidays is a healthy way of working towards our goals and ideals (what we call living an “authentic life” in psychological terms). However, sometimes what we need isn’t just starting a new project, sometimes what we need is to try new things, such as signing up for dance classes, going to therapy, reaching out to new people, etc.
Sometimes when we reflect on what we truly want in our lives, we realize that a radical change is needed. As the expression goes, it’s time to turn over a new leaf.
Radical changes in our lives could be due to external circumstances or could be voluntary. Plus, not everyone consciously decides to make radical changes in their lives, but if you notice, many people do talk about specific times when their lives took a radical turn. Here are some examples:
–Priests, monks or nuns that decide to give up their practice… or instead, everyday people that decide to take up religious vows.
-People who, for various reasons, move to another country, to a place with different customs, laws, climate, culture, and language.
-Men and women who enter prison after being convicted, or who leave prison after serving a sentence. Freedom and jail shape life intensely.
-People who reinvent themselves in a radical way. For example, someone who leaves their job as a stockbroker in the big city and instead dedicates his life to growing an organic garden in the countryside, or someone who decides to tour India for an entire year.
–Witness protection. People who led a normal life but, after being witness to a crime, have to “disappear” from normal life, change their name, place of residence, work, etc. just to stay safe.
-People who are financially ruined and have to give up an affluent lifestyle to lead a much simpler or even precarious life.
-Having a child (maybe two, or more). You’ve probably heard it more than once: having a child changes your life forever.
-Having a sex change or expressing for the very time the gender you identify with.
These are just some of the many examples of radical changes that a person can undergo in the course of their life. Maybe the changes that you are thinking about right now aren’t as radical as the examples above, but that doesn’t mean they are any less important.
Be that as it may, be careful: if you’re considering a radical change in your life or you’re in the middle of one, here are 3 tips for you to carry out this process with full awareness:
- Remember that changes never come alone. “Radical” is a very intense word, and once the change has been initiated, it can be very difficult to foresee the consequences, let alone have control over them. The writer Truman Capote once famously said, paraphrasing St. Theresa, “be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.” Don’t be scared, but think carefully about your decisions before undertaking them. It’s not about being fortunetellers, but about taking into account the foreseeable risks.
- Design the change realistically. Have you seen Mary Poppins? Imagine you leave the rainy streets of London to find yourself in a the multicoloured world of penguins that serve cocktails. Now that’s a pretty radical change. But don’t panic: sometimes radical changes are full of novelty and uncertainty, which can cause some unease. Don’t let the stress confuse you though. Give yourself time to adapt to your new life and don’t make quick decisions when you’re in the middle of a slump (an excess of anxiety short-circuits our decision-making capacity). Change for change’s sake isn’t good enough: you have to incorporate it little by little in your new life. There’s no need to rush.
- Come back to the present. When we plan to make a radical change in our lives, we are tempted to idealize our future, convincing ourselves that when that change arrives all our problems will be solved. We not only idealize an uncertain and risky future, but we tend to forget about the present. Envision your future but don’t forget about your current well-being.
Whoever doesn’t take risks will never win, but neither will the person who shows up to the race without any training. If you feel like a radical change in your life is consuming you, remember that a little help can come in handy to help with the unwanted effects. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you think you need it.