Personal Reflections on Making a Big Life Change

Even the best of big life changes can challenge you in unexpected ways.

Even the best of big life changes can challenge you in unexpected ways.

I’m writing a lot about the practical experiences of building a life in Italy. Now, I’d like to pause and talk about the incredible mind shifts and life shifts that have been occurring as a result of making a big life change. I’ve loved how the adventure has unfolded, but it has challenged some long-held beliefs and ways of relating to the world. I suspected the move wouldn’t just be a romantic, magical manifestation (though there has been plenty of magic). I suspected I really would have to see how comfortable I was in my own skin.

I had a wonderful career in creative marketing, working with many talented and kind-hearted people. Friends thought I was insane to leave such a great gig to venture into a world that didn’t provide me a regular paycheck, and a matured social network and support system. I can understand such concerns, because I knew I would have to weather the transition of suddenly living in a dramatically different place and culture – one in which I would feel like a complete novice, and one in which I would be have significantly more time for personal creativity, and reflection.

John Kabat-Zinn wrote a book “Wherever You Go, There You Are: A Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.” I knew my journey to Italy would involve my realizing this concept in a huge way. I had been living a life full of distractions and involvements. And then, I was Italy, surrounded by incredible beauty, new friends, my wonderful partner, and loads to do. But, I also had more free time – time that wasn’t filled always doing, doing and doing. I realized I had developed a pattern of going from one thing to another with very little down time, and very little time to reflect and “be”. It didn’t help that I was nursing an escalating addiction to digital devices and always being connected (I’m still working on recovery from that rabbit hole).

The mind is an interesting mechanism. It can be pretty sneaky, running the show and keeping you on a short leash. It’s most effective controlling you when you’re not aware of its conditioned responses. However when you allow “things” to slow down, and if you’re up for it, you can observe the mind at work. The gig is up, and the mind isn’t so happy about that. It’s hungry for something to figure out and solve. Let the games begin.

Fortunately for me, I had been reading up on brain plasticity and recent research of how the brain isn’t in “lock down” when you start getting older. This isn’t just about learning things like new skills and languages, but it also pertains to behaviors and ways of thinking. Most things can be reprogrammed, though not always easily. This has been a beacon of optimism to support a steadfast belief that I can create the life I envision, and that I’m not a prisoner of conditioned responses. As I paint my new life, understanding this is my fuel to keep forging ahead, even when I feel the internal brakes coming on from old thinking and being.

You may think I’m getting too philosophical and metaphysical. Maybe so, but I share this to help prepare you for making a major life change and all that will entail. Like me, you may pride yourself on being organized and anal-retentive, but I’ve found life isn’t just about making a plan and executing the steps with great precision. A self-reckoning can accompany such a big change. You may already be prepared. If so, that’s great.

In closing I want to share one of the most moving and inspiring TedTalks I’ve ever watched. I’ve come back to it again and again, and I’ve shared it with many people. It’s about a woman who is a brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, and she had a massive stroke. Her story should not be missed…

I do not claim, by any stretch of the imagination, to have “arrived”. If anything, I see a big, open road of learning ahead. I’m committed to the journey, and I refuse to let “regret” be a word I utter when I write the final pages of my life.