4 weeks ago I moved to a city I didn’t know with no job lined up. I had $1500 to my name and only 6 months of traditional work experience under my belt.
A lot of my friends thought I was insane. “That’s so risky! How could you do that?” they asked. My response was always, “Why not? I’m not happy with my lifestyle as it is now. And what have I really got to lose anyway?”
For some reason, whenever we want to make a major change in our lives (like quitting a job or moving to a new city), we have a tendency to envision the worst case scenario, compare that to our current situation, and then never end up making the changes necessary to really be happy.
The problem is that we altogether fail to consider what we stand to gain by taking the risk. We rarely stop to envision the amazing work opportunities that are out there if we would just quit that job already. We don’t realize that there are a bunch of interesting people who could teach us a thing or two, if only we had the courage to go out and find them. All we focus on is the picture of having to dumpster dive at the sketchy McDonalds just off the interstate in order to survive after a well-intentioned decision went sour.
The reality is that with great risk comes the opportunity for great reward. If you invested in Bitcoin back in 2013, you’re doing pretty well right now. You took a risk and it paid off.
However, there’s a significant difference between investing in Bitcoin before it was cool and packing up and moving to a new city. Investing in Bitcoin is ultimately a bet on something you have no control over. Choosing to move to a new city, on the other hand, is a bet on your own ability to be successful.
You’re betting on yourself when you quit your job before finding the right alternative. You’re saying, “This doesn’t work for me, but I’m going to find something that does. I bet my current standard of living on it. I bet I’m better than this.”
What are we so scared of?
Why is it so hard to up-and-leave the job we hate? Why don’t we sell everything we own and hop on a plane to backpack through Southeast Asia? Why can’t we shake that “hobo behind McDonalds” scenario out of our heads?
I think it ultimately comes down to this: we trap ourselves in routines. The difficulty of striding into the unknown is on par with having to shake off the warm covers on a Monday morning after a satisfying weekend. It’s hard.
But as I’ve written once before, the things that we can “do in our sleep” run the risk of luring us into a slumber we may never wake up from. That’s why it’s so scary to quit our jobs, move to a new city, get out of an unfulfilling relationship, travel the world. Those kinds of changes don’t just change our routines, they dismantle them. Whether we succeed or fail, in the moment of making one of those life-changing decisions, we’re left with nothing but rubble and memories of “how things used to be”. That’s terrifying.
At this point, the kinds of decisions and conversations that I mentioned in the beginning of this article are commonplace for me. I’ve quit uni, moved to Europe, moved to Charleston, and now moved to Atlanta all in an eerily similar fashion. The more I do shit like this, the more I really question what everyone else is so scared of. Especially ambitious 20somethings. If you don’t have any mouths to feed other than your own, you have a lot to gain and relatively nothing to lose by dismantling your routine and changing up your life.
But how do you strike up the courage to make a big change?
I’ve found that when I want to make a dramatic change in my life, I can’t wait around for a good opportunity to make it happen. I have to “clear the way” by getting rid of one thing so that the new thing I want can slide in. If you’ve got a table overflowing with groceries and knick knacks, how can you expect to put more stuff on it? You’ve got to make room. Clear some things off. Throw them away. Then you’ll have the space to enjoy new things. If you’re slaving away at a “job that pays the bills” or living in a “city that isn’t too bad”, you won’t have the time, resources, or urgency to actually find something better.
The best way to make a big change is to just take the leap and fill in the gaps as you go. Don’t overthink it. Just act. Bet on yourself.
Some people don’t believe in happiness. I guess that’s cool for them. But I do believe in happiness. I’m happy right now, in fact. I love my job, I love my friends, and I love all of the experiences and opportunities in my life. I feel like my happiness is always directly correlated with how intentionally I’m living. Those big, life changes are always a way to kickstart my happiness because they cause me to be more aware and intentional with what opportunities I say yes and no to.
Being intentional is everything. If you find yourself stuck or unhappily unhappy, maybe that terrifying, big, life-changing decision is something you need to embrace.
So I encourage you to ponder: how long have you been going through the same routine? How intentionally are you living? Do you feel like doing something crazy and changing up your life? What’s stopping you? What are you so scared of? But most importantly of all: what do you have to gain?