So I changed everything

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You are changing every moment of your life, whether you like it or not. But purposeful change is different. You can choose to change something – or everything – in your life.

A wise gentleman once said to me that you always have a choice. You just have to decide whether you can live with the consequences of that choice.

Whether you embrace, reject, pursue or ignore change in your life is a choice.

An instance of beautiful serendipity occurred yesterday. Within the space of one hour, I happened across two remarkable stories of people reaching moments of crisis in their lives. In each case, the individual made the decision to change everything about their life, so that they could go on.

They don’t love you back

A random act of senseless violence was the catalyst for change in the first case.

You really do not expect a podcast interview with a writer of Batman cartoons to take a left turn into a profound meditation on life’s fragility, audibly moving said writer to tears.* Paul Dini’s Nerdist podcast appearance does just that. Dini describes how 23 years ago, his “perfect geek life” (single, yes, but successful, enabling him to amass an immaculate, nostalgic collection of toys from his childhood and animation cells from his beloved cartoons) was brutally shattered.

On his way back to his car after an unsuccessful date, Dini was attacked and violently beaten by two strangers with no apparent motive, other than to hurt him. Severely. During the horrific ordeal, he believed he was at the end of his life. He wasn’t. But it came to mark the end of his old life.

Staggering home afterwards, he told himself that the pain he felt now wasn’t as bad as the emptiness he would feel when he got home to find nobody there for him but his immaculate collection of toys and animation cells. “They can’t love you back,” he says.

Dini felt – as frankly, one might – that the universe had singled him out for punishment. It cruelly withheld til later the punchline that the facial reconstruction he now needed wasn’t covered by his medical insurance.

Life was presenting a choice. He could – as frankly, one might – withdraw fully, hide himself away from the world, cocoon himself in safety with his immaculate collection and while away the remainder of his days. Dini says:

“There’s a bad part of yourself that wants you to fail, that knows that the outcome of the easy way is just destruction in some form or another. It’s not the route to happiness. […] Nobody laughs harder at you than yourself.”

He sees this option as giving in to the temptation of the easy life, the path of least resistance:

“By going for the short-term things, the immediate pleasures, by going for the treats, we short-change ourselves from growing beyond ourselves and our immediate wants.”

Dini decided to change his life from the ground up. To force himself to re-engage with the world. To move on from what had happened to him:

“Moving forward is always hard. […] You have to just let yourself get out there, in whatever form that takes.”

The pieces just didn’t fit

Hitting a metaphorical wall, hard, was the catalyst for change in the second case.

My friend Donna Hewitson has written an extraordinary blog post on resilience, and her realisation that how she was forcing herself through life could not continue. A lifelong “grafter,” burning the candle at both ends resulted in some kind of burnout, an  inability to cope.  “The pieces just didn’t fit. […] This shizzle had to change,” she says, “So I changed everything.”

Donna’s post is so well written – so warm, witty and rich in insight – that I urge you to take a few minutes to read it in full. Here are three pearls from Donna’s words:

  • Friends are more willing to help than you could ever realise. “I wish I turned to them all far sooner.”
  • Making time for yourself is essential to feeling purpose in life. “
    I make time for my garden every day. That’s code for ‘I make time for me every day.’“
  • I particularly love that Donna’s take on exercise is exactly the same as mine: “Running wasn’t and isn’t fun. Watching me is.” But that’s no reason not to do it.

Something I haven’t done yet

Change is always possible. If there is an aspect of your life that you want to change, you can choose to make a start on it today.

In his fascinating chat on the Tim Ferriss podcast, genius music
producer Rick Rubin** advises changing your view of
something you just cannot do to “something I haven’t done yet.”

I love these words on a similar change of mindset from Donna’s post: “Can’t is won’t.”

Knowing that you can change is the first step.

Footnotes

* And perhaps bringing a small tear to the eye of your humble correspondent, too.

** The full interview with Rubin really is amazing. Have you ever heard Zen wisdom shared in a 200-degree sauna before? Here is your opportunity:

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