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If I had to make an analogy of my life change philosophy, I would have to say I’m like the tortoise. I am comfortable plodding along at a decent pace, taking the time to smell the roses, double-check my directions, and sometimes back-track. It may take me longer to get to the finish line but I will eventually get there, even if the finish line has moved to a different place.

My husband, of course, is the complete opposite. Taking off at the speed of light as soon as the gun fires. And while I admire his enthusiasm, I am extremely put off by his “figure it out as we go” approach to most tasks and endeavors. Sure, he has had a few good wins. But he has also found himself in some precarious situations where guess who, yes me, had to help him clean up. 

I suppose that is what makes us such a good couple. He makes me take chances once in awhile and I try to grab him before he jumps off the cliff. (Like the time he thought it was a good idea to quit his cushy, well-paid job five years before retirement to move to California. I did tell you he is bipolar right? lol)

Life change for me needs to be structured and planned. After all, the main reason to contemplate a change in your life is because you are unhappy. If the process makes me weary and fearful, the chance of follow through to the end result will be nil. Of course, I do expect a certain degree of discomfort when trying to change your life after 50,  but I believe that you can be relatively at ease and I daresay, in control, on the road to contentment if you take the proper steps.

The biggest life change I had wanted to make soon after I turned 50, was to quit my job. Not so much because I hated it, though I did, but because I felt there were other things I wanted to do. My mother was ill and I wanted to spend more time with her. My husband and I never saw each other because we were on opposite shifts. And most importantly, I was worried that life would pass me by and all I could look back on was a successful career working for someone else. To me, that was not enough.

Your reasons for wanting a life change may be very different than mine. And yes, there are unfortunate times that you may find yourself with extreme change being thrust upon you. A sudden job loss, marital change, unexpected death or illness can force you onto another path quickly. But you can take some time to evaluate your options and move toward making your own situation tolerable and maybe slightly better, even during those most trying times.

I have to admit that I have gotten better at change. Mostly because I follow a structure for doing so. My methodical approach has also come in handy when I needed to make fast decisions because I have learned how to shift and focus my mind on what is most important. Any change, especially one that will alter my life substantially, is tackled step by step so that the process will not bring any more stress to me and eventually the outcome I desire.

 

Do you want to make a life change but are too afraid to start?

If you need to feel comfortable with the process, start here:

1. Research. Choose. Commit.

I like to do a lot of research before making a plan (or before buying anything new, but let’s not get stuck there.)

Knowledge to me is power. The more I know about my options/possible outcomes the better. If you consider yourself a non-risk taker like myself, you will want to find out as much as you can about the life change you wish to make. The internet is a wonderful place to start but don’t forget to talk to people who are already doing what you want to do. The wisdom they can share with you through their own experiences is huge. They may give you a whole new perspective which may have you eagerly taking the next step toward change or finding a completely different path.

For me, I talked to many ex-employees to find out how they quit and what they did after and what they would do differently given the chance.

Life change tip: Try not to get stuck in the research mode too long. I tend to do that and have to set time limits for myself, usually 4 weeks. Change will never happen in research mode. At some point, you have to make a decision to move forward or not. More research won’t get your there. A clear choice has to be made, followed by a commitment to your new life. 

 

2. Examine financial impact & plan for emergencies.

Let’s face it, most things we want to do cost money. So, a decision to change your life will probably not be feasible unless you have a financial plan as well. This is where math comes in and you need to put pen to paper.

The older I get, the more secure I must feel about my finances before I make any huge changes. While I am ok with being frugal, eating pet food in my old age to make ends meet is not. One of the biggest ways I cut expenses when I decided to quit my job was to give up my car. It was a sacrifice and it did take getting used to not having a vehicle whenever I wanted or needed, but well worth it in my opinion for my freedom from the 9 to 5.

 

3. Make a plan.

Create a plan that involves many small, achievable steps. The smaller the better. It may feel like you aren’t doing very much in the beginning but don’t give up hope. Remember, progress is progress, no matter how small.

The easiest way to make your plan is to work backwards. Start with your end goal and then decide on each step that comes right before. Selling my car and getting used to not having one was one of my steps before I quit my job. It also allowed me to start saving money for emergencies.

Your confidence and comfort with your plan will grow with every actionable change and propel you to move forward confidently.

 

4. Be flexible.

Always be ready and willing to re-adjust your plan. Allowing for changes and re-structuring ensures you continue on your path for change. 

Things may not go as planned. That is life. But being able to shift gears will help you to achieve your ultimate goal. I personally was willing to go down to part-time before quitting all together if necessary. I luckily didn’t have to but it was a step I was willing to make if I couldn’t make the finances work for our family.

 

5. Leave a door open.

Try to leave the option of returning to the point you started from as far along as your plan allows. If you realize that you have set yourself up on the wrong path, it is less stressful to know you can start again from zero and pursue a new life goal.

While I would have loved to walk into my boss’ office and tell them to, “Take this job and shove it!”, I knew for my own sense of security that it was important that I be able to return if I found out quitting my job was not going to work out for me. I left on very good terms to ensure that possibility was available to me.

Life change is hard the older we get. It seems like there are so many variables we have to take into account before we can change the direction of our lives. And it is even more crucial as a risk adverse person, that all the steps and plans are simple and as stress free as possible. You can re-define your life and be happy. It may take you a little longer, but with my steps, you will enjoy the journey to get there as well.

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