The desire for a life change: The first step towards freedom
After our stay at the Trill Farm, something funny started to puzzle me. As people around me asked me how the week-end went, how we enjoyed it etc, I replied that actually this was exactly the type of life and activity that my wife and I wanted for ourselves. And far from getting the enthusiastic and curious reaction from the other person in return, on the contrary I felt some sort of opposition, as if a gap widened between this person and me at the very moment I formulated my answer.
This sceptical reaction can be declined in three different ways:
- The “ah ok” — well not much to say about it. The person doesn’t bounce on the fact that I want to live in a farm, or doesn’t even pretend to be interested.
- The “why would you want to do that?” — This idea sounds like a crazy one to the other person, who, instead of trying to genuinely understand why I want to make such choice for my life, wants to know why I sound so stupid to make such a stupid choice
- The “hahahahahahaha (laughing)! You! A farmer!” OK I am exaggerating slightly, but it often happens that people find that funny, a bit as if I had just told them a good joke (even if I was very serious at this very moment)
When I get such reaction after I genuinely open-up about my life plan (something I usually do with people I trust at least a little bit), it breaks the rapport straight away. Firstly because I’m a bit offended and tempted to say “just f…ck off if you’re not interested. I don’t give a sh…t about your life but at least I’m polite pretending doing so”. Secondly because I lost the person, the conversation went down a path it cannot go back from. We need to move the conversation to something else or it is just going to become awkward.
When I try to think of the potential reasons why people are naturally sceptical when I share my life change plans, I come to the following conclusion:
The idea of such radical life change scares people, more or less consciously. This (to me) explains their denial, their challenge, or their humorous escape. I feel like changing life needs to remain at the state of dream to most people, as if the whole point of having such dreams was for the pleasure of dreaming, not for the joy of accomplishing them.
But as soon as you bring a spark of reality into this addictive dreaming cocktail, you realise quickly that most people feel embarrassed speaking about changing life. They feel lost, guilty or scared, and you better not tickle them any further on this.
To be honest, this is completely understandable. Admitting you really want a life change is a psychologically shaking experience. I personally think it took me several years to admit that I wasn’t made for the corporate world and that I will take the first opportunity to leave it and live a happier life. Why is that so difficult? Because desiring a life change means that you acknowledge the idea that you feel out of place in your existing life, and that your happiness lies somewhere else. In other words, if you really really want to change your life, it means that you are currently ruining it as it is at the moment… up to the point you change it. And admitting that you are ruining your life (or the professional part of it) is… tough! Very tough for your ego.
I am past that difficult point, because I am now working on preparing the next steps: the farmhouse, the coaching, and the coming baby — you know all of that. And I have had plenty of time to mourn for my future-ex life (life, now wife, I haven’t planned to change wives, let me be clear!). So the life change has now become a real journey that is very exciting for me, to the point that it is difficult not to share this excitement with my friends, colleagues etc. And that’s how I get to the situation I was describing at the top of this post.
At work, assuming the desire for a radical life change is a real challenge. It is almost impossible as an employee, which is why I turned to a freelancing career. When I say to my colleagues that I want a life change, it is because of deep, almost existential reasons: it has to do with the meaning of life, my raison d’être, my desire to do something in line with my values etc.
But as they are sharing the same employer, the same job, the same career path, the same industry as me, what they understand is that I am telling that their job is rubbish as well as their own career and life choices…
Well, I was stupid not to understand their sceptical reaction…
Even beyond that, I have always felt that life change plans are difficult to assume in the work place, particularly for those who have always been good students and were promised to a successful life (even if today I don’t even know what this means). After a top university, great studies, and competitive interviews, they land a very good graduate job in a top firm (consulting from my perspective). They do two, three years, and then, like me, they just realise they want to do something else with their lives.
Well this situation is incredibly difficult, because this type of job is pretty much impossible to survive if you’re not 100% or even more into it. You have to live their job, vibrate it, breathe it, almost fart it. You differentiate from others by going the extra mile, but as everybody is doing the extra mile, you have to do two, or three to stand out. You must be (understand “look”) happy, always, never complain, and more importantly you have to constantly focus on your development and what it takes to go to the next stage. So, in this context, when you feel like you don’t really want that, then… you’re heading towards a big career failure, and the depressing feelings that goes with it. Well we could say that it is not a problem when you aspire for a life change. But very often, at the beginning, “life change” is not an option yet, this is way too early for you to admit it.
CONCLUSION — LIFE CHANGE
The conclusion is that life change is a very personal journey, and you can usually count only on a few trustworthy people to accompany you on this journey. Even your relatives may not support you as you’d wish: your parents who are worried for you ; your friends who think that you just smoked too much, it is very possible that they would not be the ones who would provide the best support. Actually, I found that the people who usually don’t know you too much are the ones who would support you the most, because this is always much easier to encourage somebody that you are not attached to to go and fulfill their dreams.
But in the professional space, there is no doubt: you’re on your own, and this is going to be a big test for your mental toughness. And you’ll have to make a choice: Be free on your own, or be comfortable as one among others.
Originally posted on the Home Geek Consultant blog.