Change hurts, which is why no one wants to do it (but you should)

Changing your life doesn’t usually spark joy. It usually sucks. Like, a lot. But it’s worth it.

by Eiko Ojala - A layered digital papercut of the inside of a person's mind with small figures digging in it

Googling “change your life” turns up 5,370,000,000 hits in less than a second.

Five.
BILLION.

Humans are clearly looking for advice, resources, and tactics to take what we’ve got and make it into something better.

Trouble is, we don’t actually like change.

We like the idea of change.

When we run across stuff like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or The Happiness Project, we jump on it like Mario on a mushroom thinking we’ve found the solution to all our problems. High on hope, we breathlessly share our life-changing aspirations with anyone who will listen (and some who’d rather not).

I mean, who doesn’t want to quit smoking, clean up their eating, purge their house of clutter, delete their social media, quit their soul-crushing job, and move to a tropical island? That’s the stuff that dreamboards are made of.

But….

Who wants to suffer withdrawal from nicotine or sugar or caffeine, face their hoarding and attachment to objects, lose friends and be left out, start over at the bottom rung, and be alone in a place where they don’t speak the language?

Nobody, that’s who.

And so while we love to talk about changing our lives, very few of us do.

Because we forget that change has a cost.

We forget the struggle, the lack, the fear, and the pain we’ll suffer as we reach for our heart’s desire.

To truly change our lives, we have to sacrifice things that bring us comfort and security, things we’ve lived with so long we don’t know who we’d be without them, things we’ve accepted as our identity. Ideas, habits, beliefs, relationships.

We have to choose to leave the old behind to step into the new, even when it hurts like hell to do it.

As I stand on the precipice of a life I’ve never known, I find I must become a person I’ve never been. I’m shedding my skin, sheets of old me sloughing off by the week, taking with it my assumptions about who I am and what I need to not just survive, but to thrive.

And it hurts.

Letting my husband take his rightful place when I’ve been in charge for years hurts.

Allowing my daughter to have big feelings when I want to stop them hurts.

Selling my creative services when I’ve only ever used them for myself hurts.

Accepting changed friendships without trying to reclaim them hurts.

Confronting a call to speak in public when I’ve dropped out of classes to avoid it hurts.

Living faith-forward when I’m so good at controlling the details hurts.

Working with my body when I’ve been at war with it for decades hurts.

Shedding the dragon skin hurts.

But there comes a point when the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.

And on the other side of that is a life even dreams can’t imagine. One free of the itchy tightness suppressing my spirit. One where I walk upright, fully myself, unburdened by fear.

One I want–but have to pay for.

Enduring the crucible is the only way to truly change your life. There is no easy way out, no magic bullet, no fairy godmother. In order to be different, you must be different. And most people choose not to because it’s hard, it’s messy, and it hurts.

But it’s worth it.


Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. [Joshua 1:9]


What changes are you facing that are costing you more than you bargained for? How can you remind yourself that it’s worth it?

Sometimes you find a rock right when you need it the most

Of job loss, scarcity demons, uncertainty, stones, and–most importantly–hope.

It’s been a long week month season. Since the start of the year, I’ve been pressed, squeezed, and tested in ways I never imagined I would be, much less that I’d survive. I’ve been more excited and sure than ever; I’ve cried and doubted more than ever. Life has been increasingly wondrous and terrifying at the same time.

Perhaps the biggest suckerpunch of all came last week, when my husband was told his last day of work is May 31st. After 10 years of service, loyally shepherding the company and its people, his job is being “phased out” because his company is “restructuring,” and there are no plans for him to “transition” to a new role. Which wouldn’t call for scare quotes if they hadn’t promoted the protege of the most money-hungry, least compassionate director in the company the same week.

Translation: Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

I got the news in the car headed for the Disney Store. (Their displays are always changing, they have shows to watch, and they don’t care if you’re not buying. It’s like going to the playground without getting all that nature on you.)

My body autopiloted us to the mall. My brain seized up, whirring in processing mode, trying to comprehend what the news meant for us.

Both of us came from low-income families, and Lino worked sacrificially hard to get into this tax bracket. It’s allowed me the freedom to be a housewife, to build businesses and write books, and to stay home with our daughter. It’s been an honor and a privilege for us to be a single-income household.

But suddenly being a no-income household is uncharted territory, and my old scarcity demon seized its chance to claw its way up from the depths.

Strict budget. Meal planning. Cut the gym. EI. Get a real job. Daycares are full. Sell the car. Cancel life insurance. Get to the dentist and fill prescriptions before the benefits end. Cancel your anniversary.

The familiar litany of fear and control rolled through me as I got Mackenzie into the stroller. The parking lot was fill of warm sun and the sweet smell of spring, but they couldn’t reach me. I was tumbling too fast down a darkening path, getting lost in thoughts I didn’t want to think.

That’s why I’m surprised I noticed it.

A tiny splash of fuchsia on the concrete by the automatic door into the mall.

I swerved sharply to look. And when I realized what it was, tears sprung into my eyes.

A purple pink colored stone with the word HOPE written on it

Hope.

One word. That’s all. Painted on a stone lying right where I would see it. Dozens of people had passed it in the time it took us to cross the parking lot, but no one had noticed it. Except me.

I picked up the stone and closed my fingers around it like a lifeline, its reassuring weight in my palm also gently pushing down my rising anxiety.

Thank you, but no. You aren’t needed. She is taken care of. She is mine. Stand down.

“What you find, Mommy?”

I opened my hand to show her.

“What is it?”

“It says, hope.

“Why?”

“God’s trying to tell Mommy something.”

I gave the stone another squeeze and tucked it into my pocket, then hit the button to open the door, leaving behind fear with every step.

There is hope, even here.