How to cope with change: 8 lessons from disrupting my life
‘Are there any shops nearby?’ I asked Gupta, the friendly receptionist at the Ayurveda retreat where I was staying, in the heart of Kerala, in the South West corner of India.
‘About 20 minutes away. Let me ask Sanjay to take you.’
A few minutes later, a young chap appeared and beckoned to me to follow him. We made our way through the rugged hills at the back of the hotel, winding our way to a rough, flat patch of land where I expected to see my mode of travel, a car. What I saw when I got there, though, wasn’t a car, a minibus, or even a rickshaw. What actually greeted me was a less than shiny motorcyle, and Sanjay jumped on, helmet-less, and invited me to do the same.
In that situation, what would you do have done?’
I’ve grown up in Britain, a country where the health and safety rules, well, Rule!
We have been taught to be cautious, to be risk aware and to think through the implications of our actions. And on top of that, I’d never actually been on a motorbike before and hate feeling out of control!
Sanjay, of course, sensed my fear and then said the magic words that actually moved me forward:
“You fear?’ ‘Indians don’t fear.”
For some reason, those words connected with me at a really deep level and even though the more cautious side of me was screaming at me, holding up the newspaper headlines that would be written:
‘Brit killed in India whilst riding a motorbike without a helmet,’
The more adventurous side of me thought, ‘when in India’ and I climbed on, gripped hard and before I could change my mind, we sped off down the bumpy hill into the unknown!
Fortunately, those headlines were never written. In fact, that 30 minute motorcycle ride through the busy and chaotic roads of Kerala made me feel freer, younger and, ironically, more in control than perhaps ever before! Once I began to relax into the ride and let go of my fear, I started to enjoy the journey, witnessing Indian life in all of its colourful glory. It was such a different place, both physically and spiritually, to what I was used to and I was completely in the ‘Now’, and loving it!
When I left India five days later, I was a bigger person.
I’d grown on so many levels through the experience. And that experience became the catalyst to a decision process that ultimately took my family on a life adventure which saw us swap our very comfortable life in the UK for a much less certain future in Sydney.
Why Sydney? After travelling a great deal to Australia over the years, we fell in love with the lifestyle and opportunities, so had applied for and were granted residents’ visas which were expiring imminently. It was a now or never situation, and a hard decision to make. However, after much discussion, we decided to take the opportunity and make the shift!
10 months later, here we are in Sydney. We now have the benefit of experiencing life on the other side and are definitely richer for the experience. Life here is different in many ways, though there are aspects that are similar. We have found replacements for the things that had worked well in the UK, and tried to upgrade them where we could. The one thing you can’t replace are the people, but thanks to ‘Face-Time’, ‘virtual coffees’ have become a regular part of my week.
In many ways, we have moved to a perfect spot as it combines wonderful scenery (beach & warm weather) with like-minded communities (especially the Expats & Wellness enthusiasts). For me, the wellness aspect is key as the environment supports our big focus on wellbeing, with juice bars, vegan restaurants, massage therapists, yoga studios, gyms, sea pools, world class beaches and coastal running paths all within a few minutes walk from our front door. It’s really quite amazing.
Our son, Samson, has settled into his school well, Heather, my wife, has built a great network for herself, and I’ve also managed to take on a great role for SumoSalad who’s focus is on helping Australia become healthier by providing delicious, highly nutritious food, something I’m super passionate about as many of you will know.
But the journey to this point has not been plain sailing, and it’s easy to forget the pain we went through to achieve this growth. In truth, it has been an emotional roller coaster, very hard work and a massive amount of psychological stress that gave me the opportunity to put every one of my ’28 Tips for reducing stress’ to the test!
Change of this magnitude is never easy. Most people who move to Australia fit into three groups: the twenty somethings who come for a life adventure before knuckling down to a career; those who come to do a specific job with a company sponsoring them, and those who arrive on asylum, escaping a terrible situation in search of safety and freedom.
We didn’t fit into any of these categories. We came in search of the experience of living in another country, in search of personal growth, in search of a more spiritual connection. We came because something seemed to be pulling us here, a calling if you like. And though we resisted for a long time, eventually we had to answer that calling.
Practically though, this involved a massive amount of work. Making the shift took the form of many steps:
Finding a good school in Sydney for our son (priority 1)
Deciding which of our things to take, what to throw, what to give away, what to store
Packing all of our things and shipping it where it needed to go
Finding a home for our plants (we had a mini jungle in our house)
Preparing our UK house for rental
Finding a tenant for our house in the UK
Selling our cars
Deciding where to live in Sydney
Finding a place to live (quite a learning curve)
Deciding what we would do work-wise in Sydney
Saying goodbye to our friends and family (the hardest thing)
And on top of that, I was leaving a senior leadership role in a large, growing company with responsibility for a lot of people. It was a key priority for me to ensure that everyone was ok, appropriate new leadership was in place and the teams at RBI could continue to evolve and thrive in a new world.
And if all of that wasn’t hard enough, just to make sure that my stress levels were put to the maximum test, we decided that Heather and Samson would stay in Sydney from August to get things settled, and I would return to the UK until the end of the year to tie up some pretty big lose ends.
Being separate from my family for the best part of three months was very hard, but it did lead to many new experiences and insights that I would not have otherwise had.
Given that change is a normal part of life and the pace of change is accelerating all of the time, I want to share with you some of the lessons I gleaned from my life disruption, in the hope that they will help you cope better with change and build your own resilience tool kit:
What was really important in my life. We’d accumulated so much stuff: clothes, books, photographs, souvenirs, a hoard of things that was in truth holding us down. It was so hard deciding what to give up and what to take, and in the end we put a lot more into storage than we should have. But, truly, most things are replaceable, except for the people in your life (and perhaps the photos). Other than that, you don’t actually need very much stuff. I’ve wasted so much money on things that really I didn’t need. Lesson 1: Keep light
To make the most of the life experiences. Whilst change is often forced on people, I was actually driving the change, and though the last three months of 2016 were really hard, I quickly got used to the new ‘normal’. At first I was very grumpy, but then I decided to make the most of the life experience. I became at peace with my situation, surrendered to it if you will. From that moment on, that’s exactly what I did. I was out every evening seeing different friends, I spent a lot of time with my parents and helped them as much as I could, and I went around London looking at it through the eyes of a tourist. What an amazing city London is! Lesson 2: Surrender to your present reality and make the most of the opportunity
How important work is to my life and my identity. Giving up a role that I had done for the best part of a decade wasn’t easy, particularly as the RBI company values were very aligned with my own. However, after 9 years, I felt strongly that it was time to step away and make space for something else and though I didn’t have a very clear picture of what that something else looked like and that, by definition, brought more risk into my life, Heather and I both felt that it was time to change. Lesson3: Trust in the universe (however hard that is to do)
To create a strong support system to boost my resilience. Being apart from my family, driving significant change at RBI, worrying about future income was all very stressful. However, to ensure that I didn’t get ill, I made sure that I didn’t neglect my healthy habits and flooded my body with nutrients everyday which meant drinking gallons of green juice and kombucha, running a lot, meditating daily and surrounding myself with very positive people who presented me with an optimistic version of the future that I needed for encouragement. I realised by the end of the period how fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life. Lesson 4: Nurture your most important relationships
To embrace the fear. I had many dark moments, quite often waking up in a state of panic, imagining myself penniless, homeless and alone. This catastrophic thinking wasn’t particularly helpful, and fortunately I had planned for these moments. I realised this fear was really my ego trying to be helpful and protecting me from myself, desperately trying to avoid change and keep to the status quo. To cope during these moments of panic, I’d written an inspiring narrative of our future life, a ‘Letter from the Future’. Whenever fear came knocking, I poured my heart out into my journal, and then pulled out my ‘Letter from the future’ and really got absorbed into its contents, imagining the life we had written for ourselves. This positive thinking made me feel instantly better. I then redirected my energy into my work, realising that I was actually the narrator of my own future. Lesson 5: Have a clear vision of the future and know it’s ok to feel afraid (it’s only a feeling after all)
To practise the “no lose” model of decision-making. A book that really influenced me years ago was the classic ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. The premise of the book is that fear holds us back from living our dreams and realising our potential. However, by practising the ‘no lose model’ you realise that you can’t actually make a wrong decision. Every decision leads to growth, no matter what you decide to do. And we were fortunate to have a good life in the UK that we could always go back to. That concept helped a great deal. Lesson 6: Realise every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow and that ultimately everything will be ok
To get behind my decisions. I can’t tell you what a big thing it was for me deciding to leave a country that I had lived in for my entire life, and a company that I loved. I really wanted to split myself in two and experience both lives simultaneously. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, technology hasn’t yet made this an option! So we had to make a choice. It wasn’t an easy choice as there were many implications, but once we decided, we got fully behind the decision to make it a success. Lesson 7: Always look forward – don’t waste energy in regrets
So there we have it. Heather and I created a new life for ourselves. We now live in Australia, work in the wellness industry, and am following my dream and ambition to make the world a healthier place, one person at a time. I am fortunate too to be able to spend time each year in the UK, so I still get to keep some of my previous life and see the people most dear to me.
Looking back, this vision was actually first created over 10 years ago and though at the time we were clear on the ‘What’, we had no idea on the How. Gradually, though, the pathway became apparent.
What about you? What would you really love to do in your life? Where would you like to go? What would you like to be? What are the obstacles in your way?
If you would like help in answering these questions and creating a vision of your future life, help is at hand. I have created a course to help you move through the steps to get clear on your future life. Whilst moving to the other side of the world isn’t everyone’s thing, I know that we all have passions and skills, and, as Oprah says, when passion, skill and opportunity meets, magic occurs.
Sign-up for a a free copy of my vision creating course “A Better Life” today and get 50% off your first VIP coaching session. Simply quote: ‘OFFER50’ when booking your slot.