“Yeah, so, I am not coming back.”
Uttering those five words changed my life forever. It was actually the first time I had said them aloud. Hearing them felt as if I had temporarily stepped out of my body and left a crazy person in charge.
I was 19 years old and talking to my mum in England from Sydney, Australia. I was on my “gap year,” a popular rite of passage in the U.K. that many students take—a year when you volunteer somewhere in the world between high school and college.
I had the certainty that only youth and foolishness allow. But I remained loyal to those five little words that ultimately shaped my future: Seven years later I was still living in Sydney, and now, well over a decade later, I can still say that it has been one of the greatest decisions of my life so far.
Was I scared? Yes! Was there any certainty for me? No. But here’s what you learn along the way as you make a few bold moves. There’s no certainty in life—ever. In fact, no one knows what is going to happen next.
You don’t have to follow a conventional path. You don’t have to live a life that other people expect you to.
What no one ever tells you is that you don’t have to follow a conventional path. You don’t have to live a life that other people expect you to. You are allowed to make the daring decisions you dream about—the ones that stir your soul and ignite your spirit. And that might just define your life in a way that dramatically improves it.
What's Holding You Back?
As a life coach, people often come to me when they want to make a big change but are held back by fear. Some examples include:
- Breaking off an engagement
- Relocating (whether it's from San Francisco to Singapore or New Jersey to New York)
- Launching a side hustle totally unrelated to a day job and planning a corporate exit
- Confronting a passive aggressive friend after years of tolerance
- Spending the majority of their life savings on extended travel
I know someone who currently works as an executive assistant in an investment bank by day and designs and sells jewelry on Etsy by night. She puts every spare ounce of her passion into it and is gearing up to resign once she hits her savings goal in the spring. Bold move!
A couple of years ago a friend of mine broke off an engagement after six years together—and after a joint home purchase!—with just three months to go until the wedding. Bold move!
In these moments, what our heart wants becomes stronger than our fear. And what we really, really want to do takes precedence.
What do these situations have in common? They are driven by something almost greater than us. These moves might terrify us—fear thrives on the unknown—but we proceed anyway. Why? Because in these moments, what our heart wants becomes stronger than our fear. And what we really, really want to do takes precedence.
And Then What?
If you are considering a dramatic change, one that does not feel entirely practical or safe, ask yourself these questions:
1. How long have I been thinking about this?
The longer you have been considering anything, whether it's getting a dog or moving to Paris, the more likely it's something you truly want. What can seem to others like an overnight decision, like “I’m staying in Australia!” is probably a compounding of many thoughts and feelings over time. In my gap year, I lost my dad. My last couple of years in England were terribly sad for me while he was so sick. I wanted to start a new life in a new place.
2. What’s the worst that could happen?
Say you want to quit your job next summer and spend six months travelling through South America. What is the worst that can happen—you run out of money? And then what? You come back and find another job? And then what? Keep asking yourself “and then what?” until you come to a real, final, worst-case scenario. Is it worth risking? Your heart will answer.
3. What’s the best that could happen?
This is one of my favorite questions! I wish we would all dwell on this a bit more in our lives. My client who broke off her engagement went through a big transition. She ended up changing jobs and moving to a totally different neighborhood. Now she has a new love in her life and tells me it feels totally different. She says that everything about it feels right. She finally feels like herself.
Know You're Not the Only One
Now I’m not suggesting that you tell your boss to stick it and buy a plane ticket to New Zealand that you can’t afford. I’m just suggesting that you pay attention to the “crazy” ideas you entertain. They might not be so crazy after all. And you certainly would not be the first person to go against the status quo to do or create something different.
If you fear failure, it’s often not based on anything factual that will happen. Nor are many of the consequences of a bold move final. There’s a saying that success and failure are actually on the exact same road—success is just farther down that road.
Hey, a college education is a far 'safer' choice. But we’re all missing the point if we think that safety in life is the ultimate goal.
Consider for a moment how many successful people are college drop-outs: Elizabeth Holmes, 30 (Theranos founder, the youngest self-made female billionaire in the U.S.); Daniel Ek, 32 (Spotify founder); David Karp, 29 (Tumblr founder, who didn’t even graduate from high school). Imagine if they followed a conventional path and did not invest 100 percent into entrepreneurship. Hey, a college education is a far “safer” choice. But we’re all missing the point if we think that safety in life is the ultimate goal.
The risks we take allow us to jump farther along our path to the destiny that awaits us, even though everyone (even your own common sense) might disagree with you. One day you will look back at your life, perched atop the perspective of old age and mortality, and appreciate that your bold actions led the way.
In life, there’s no commitment without taking action. These acts might terrify us, but our inner guiding system and strength are louder than our fear, especially when we truly tune into them. What does yours tell you? What does it desire? What is just one small step that you can take today to honor it? Once you dare to do this, buckle up. It could just be the start of something unbelievable.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!