Finding Opportunity in Unexpected Change
It can be hard enough simply surviving the day-to-day challenges that life offers us. For a lot of people - myself included - we didn't have a particular plan as to how we wanted our life to unfold: we found a job, perhaps moved to another place for another, 'better' job, enjoyed what life had to offer and all of a sudden we’re looking back wondering what happened. I know I did.
You find yourself with responsibilities, relationships, commitments and often a job that doesn't reflect who you are now and your current values, which have been shaped by your experiences. This can happen at any point and isn't the reserve of those in their forties or fifties - I've encountered this in many people of all ages. They want something to change and they want to take more control of their life. They would like to do something that has value to them and isn't necessarily about getting more money (although money isn't a dirty word of course). It's often about satisfying their values.
I meet a lot of people and in conversation with them they often express admiration at my decision to let go of working 'full time' for a company with the 'security' that that offers, to set up a therapy practice with no guarantees. For some this was courageous - for others sheer madness. Why would you give up the life you had?
For many years I felt stuck. I was turning up to work, wondering quite how I'd got here and how I was going to change it. But that felt like a huge decision. Do I get another job? I no longer felt a challenge in the area that was allowing me to earn my salary, and I wasn't sure about how to proceed. I also had a lot of fear surrounding change. I was comfortable where I was, I had financial commitments - so how would I deal with them, and what was I going to do instead?
And then life intervened, because standing still is still a decision and a choice.
My job was 'put at risk'. For many people this means being made redundant. I entered a process. And I was suddenly confronted by the reality of not having a job. All of my fears came to the surface. All I could see was that I was going to lose everything. I couldn't see a positive future for myself. Thoughts of not having enough money to survive, not being able to maintain the life I had at the moment and more besides, became my focus. I had started the process of 'catastrophising' - looking at all the things that could go wrong and the impacts of that. Of course it's good to plan, but what I was doing wasn't planning. It was panicking.
It took time for me to realise that what was happening was an opportunity, not a disaster. I then consulted with people I respected and who could provide perspective. Ultimately I decided that I would take a fixed term contract within the organisation and then I left, with my redundancy package, to go full time as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist.
I learned a lot from that experience and it was a chance to deal with a lot of the underlying fears and unhelpful attitudes I had. I was able to do this by working with people who could help me to determine what the underlying issues were and then by doing the work to change my perspectives.
And that is what I help others to do - to look at what it is they want to achieve and work with them to address those issues and attitudes that are stopping them from moving forward. Some of those things are practical and logistical - no less important, but often people have the experience and ability to deal with those aspects of change. Often a lot of these things are either in place, or they know what needs to be done and yet something, something, is stopping them from moving forward. By working together we can identify what this ‘something’ is and then do the work necessary to ensure it is no longer an unhelpful belief or perspective.
Once a shift has happened in one area of their life people report how much it has changed other attitudes and perspectives - and this often has the transforming effect of allowing them to see what they want more clearly. Sometimes the effect is not what they expected - they find that they have a new attitude to what they are currently doing; they find renewed enthusiasm and rediscover why they went into that particular area of work. Or it confirms that they absolutely want to change and now know that they have all the resources they need to do so. The yawning chasm before them can suddenly be crossed. And they find that they were carrying the ladder to do so all the time - they'd just forgotten that they had access to it.
I often work with people beyond why they initially came to see me because they recognise the value in being able to discuss where they are and strategies for dealing with unfolding situations. They don't need me actually to do it - they have all the resources they need - but therapy enables them to unpack their beliefs, thoughts and attitudes allows them to gain ever greater clarity and understanding to move towards the life they want.
And me? I still do the same - I speak to people so that I get the support and clarity that I need to bridge any chasms I encounter. Except now I know that they are merely gaps and are easily crossed with my own ladder. Have you found your ladder yet?
Photo by Jason Wong