This is the fourth article following The Irony of Quitting My Job to Take a Sabbatical, a series on what I learned and what I’d recommend from quitting my job to take a six-month sabbatical (without another job in sight). Here, I share what is really the first step to getting into leap-ready state—the mindset you need to dance with change.
I was unsure of how to move forward.
In reaching the tipping point, my mind kept turning on the how’s and the what’s to no avail. The many possibilities morphed into its own obstacle. I was overwhelmed and doubtful, not fully trusting I’d make the change I resolved to make.
Many people, myself included, start wondering about the tactics of a potential change without addressing what I now know to be a key part of making the leap.
It’s not about the tactics or the “how” at the beginning. As Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” It is in the dancing where you’ll figure out the next steps you need to take.
And you’re better able to dance along with change when you have a healthy mindset.
A mindset that is productive, self-assured, uncriticizing and excited about the possibilities instead of fearful—that works to move you forward instead of keeping you back. A mindset that listens to what is truly calling you, and in the face of ambiguity, simply focuses on the next, controllable immediate step.
I did not have such a mindset and relationship with myself. Not only did I criticize and second-guess to exhaustion what my soul wanted to do without taking any action, I often disrespected my body’s needs—for simple things like enough water, regular exercise and healthy food.
I sensed the importance of developing a healthier mindset.
But how? I didn’t really know, but in my eyes, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I experimented over the next couple months, trying things without knowing if they’d work. It was part of my commitment to do anything and everything I could to make the leap happen.
One of the experiments was a lengthy daily affirmations exercise I went through two times a day for three weeks. I did one round in the mornings or at lunchtime and another round before bedtime.
The affirmations included statements like:
- I am self-confident.
- I love and approve of myself.
- I am enough just as I am.
I couldn’t keep from scoffing and rolling my eyes at the beginning. It seemed silly to listen, say and repeat many of the statements. Even then, I continued on to see what would happen.
Within the first week, my thought of “This is stupid” turned into a sarcastic “Yeah right,” followed by the sobering thought, “Wow, maybe my reaction is because I don’t believe some of these statements.”
In the weeks that followed, I noticed how my emotions and physical reactions shifted in response to certain statements. Some statements were more off-putting than others. I put more attention and focus on those particular statements.
I noticed which areas of my body reacted the most. My shoulders were tense. I’d wrinkle my nose in irritation and feel discomfort in the cringing of my stomach.
Eventually, my thoughts turned into, “I really want to believe it, but I don’t…”
Then to, “Yes… well, no—I mean—yes, I am.”
And then… two weeks in, someone complimented me.
I used to cringe internally when receiving a compliment. A part of me felt like I didn’t really deserve it. Another part thought that if they got to know me better, they’d take back the compliment and then some.
But on that day, I was able to genuinely accept a compliment for the first time in my life. No caveats. No conditions. No internal discomfort. A simple “Thank you” and a smile. Amazing. I used to think there was no other way to react, and here was something I’d never felt before.
By the end of the experiment, I was going through the affirmations openly, in peace and completely accepting of the statements. I felt loved and warm, all by myself.
Through this, I gained a new level of understanding on just how much your mindset is like a muscle. It needs to be trained, exercised and maintained.
And similarly to how some people are predisposed to an athletic build, needing less conditioning to achieve a certain performance level, some people need more conditioning than others when it comes to the mental landscape.
For some, the default setting is tuned more towards the positive. For others, they may need to do more tuning up every now and then. But everyone benefits from regular conditioning.
Following the experiment, I began taking better care of myself. I learned to have more compassion and to respect my boundaries instead viewing them as shortcomings or burdens. I started standing up for myself and being more intentional with what I was willing to put up with and what I wasn’t.
I still have my down moments, but they are far fewer than they used to be. When I’m in a rut, they are more manageable because I’ve built strategies for conditioning and a core foundation of compassion and self-love.
And because I’m human, I fall off the wagon sometimes and make it harder for myself when I need to get back on. The more you practice though, the easier it is the next time, and the next.
With any big change, entrepreneurial venture or identity shift, there is a great deal of courage, self-belief and perseverance involved.
The healthier your mindset, the better you’ll be able to dance with change while fending off the doubts and trials that come along.
Practicing a healthy mindset is key to making big changes in your life, and people get there in different ways. Some people work with coaches and other professionals, some spend time in monasteries or retreats, others practice mindfulness and positive thinking. What I share from my experience may help you, and just as likely, it may not.
There is no formula. There is no secret answer. What worked for others will not work for you in the same way.
At the time, I had very little assurance if what I was doing would work. The past me wished I had a better idea, but I didn’t. In reality, I stumbled around and experimented with a whole bunch of different things.
In making your own change, you’ll need to do some stumbling around yourself.
For me, developing a healthier mindset and relationship with myself was a key part in my process. It will be a key part in your transition, although how you get there may look very different.
Up next is one of the scariest parts of the process for most people: letting go. There are many reasons why it’s hard for us to let go.