As enormous splashes in the ocean of life, one crisis after another forms tidal waves that roll across the globe and affect us all. The waves are tallest close to the event, then die out over time and distance, as new waves take their place.
But every splash and every wave is an opportunity for change. For the society at large, but also for us as individuals. And that’s who it all starts with—the individual.
Now, I as an individual know too little about social movements, health crises and the resurfaced societal inequality to comment on these matters in a meaningful way. But I do experience, time and time again, that global events remind us of the instability of life. Of how new normals are established in a matter of days. And how our perception of reality is shaken again and again.
The only constant in life is change.Heraclitus
Whether we like it or not, “the only constant in life is change” as Heraclitus put it, and the quality of our lives depends on our ability to deal with this fact. Most of us don’t like the sound of that, because we’ve somehow learned that change is bad and often equals a change for the worse. For me personally, this has rarely been the case when I look back at significant changes in my own life.
Going to school in a foreign country. Quitting a job to pursue something else. Or seeing my parents get divorced and find new partners. All these changes hurt at first, but ultimately lead to better days.
The days in our lives shape us, and I am grateful for having been accustomed to change, repetition after repetition. Maybe this is why I don’t fear it (that much) anymore? To experience change again and again, and seeing that it’s often for the better, is the best remover of fear there is. It seems as if fear of change can be quieted through exposure to it.
Like parachuting—after 10 jumps, it’s not so scary anymore (I’ve heard). In dealing with change, fear and uncertainty, I think there are lots of benefits in taking the first couple of jumps.
Do you fear losing your job? Then the antidote is to actually get fired or quitting—only to experience that it wasn’t so bad, and that you found new and better work to do. Do you fear breaking up with someone, you know is not good for you? As hard as that conversation is, you’ll breath more easily a few weeks after and be certain that this truly was for the better.
We ought to want to get close to, and smile in the face of, change. Experiencing it again and again, and reaching a point where change isn’t all bad might even be one of the keys to a happier life. It makes little sense to worry about what we can’t control, right? And we should not fear a change of events, as there is always a way out on the other side—often leading to something better.
Do you think about your fears on a regular basis? Are these deeper introspective conversations with yourself trivial, or some of the most important?
I can almost smell how tiring some people think I am, when I start talking about my pursuit of happiness through an independent worklife. Whether it’s because they think that these existential questions consume too much energy to address, or it’s because they dislike my excitement about something so seemingly different from normal jobs, I don’t know. I only know how much these leaps of faith have improved my quality and appreciation of life. And I wish the same for all my friends and fellow humans.
Some may think that a radical change in lifestyle design is unobtainable for most people, so “shut up with your solo-happiness”. If there’s one point I want to make about my work life, it’s that it’s not that different from normal employment—still hard and still boring sometimes. And still applying so many of the skills learn in employment. When it’s not radically different, you don’t need to be extraordinary to reach out and get it. So if you want to start your own business or be a freelancer, you should 100% give it a try.
We should almost make it mandatory. If just for a few months, in between jobs, or at the end of an education. Everybody should try starting a business, making a product, selling it to customers and getting paid for it. This experience removes all fear surrounding the loss of a job. Or starting for yourself. (And having embarked on such an entrepreneurial endeavour will boost your CV tremendously, if you decide it’s not for you after all).
A healthy practice is to take a moment to notice what you are worried about and consider if that it’s a valid worry – or if you can do something to remove it. With everything going on in the world right now, recognise that change is inevitable and that there will always be a million things to fear and worry about. Instead of letting change scare and fear numb you, know that you’re most likely to be just fine.