How to cope with change: 7 lessons from disrupting my life

How to cope with change: 7 lessons from disrupting my life

‘Are there any shops nearby?’ I asked the friendly receptionist at Dr Uni’s Ayurveda retreat where I was staying in Kerala, in the tropical South West corner of India.

‘About 20 minutes away, let me get a ride for you.’

A few minutes later, a young chap appeared and beckoned to me to follow him. We made our way through the rugged hills at the back of the part-finished hotel, winding our way to a rough, flat patch of land where I expected to see the car. What I saw when I got there, though, wasn’t a car, a minibus, or even a rickshaw. What actually greeted me was a less than shiny motorcycle, and my host jumped on, helmet-less, and invited me to do the same.

In that situation, what would you have done?

I’ve grown up in Britain, a country where the health and safety rules, well, Rule!

We have been taught to be cautious, to be risk aware and to think through the implications of our actions.

My host, of course, sensed my hesitation and then said the magic words that actually moved me forward:

“You fear?’ ‘Indians don’t fear.”

For some reason, those words connected with me at a really deep level, and even though the more cautious side of me was screaming at me, holding up the future newspaper headline that would be written:

‘Brit killed in India whilst riding a motorbike without a helmet,’

the more adventurous side of me thought, ‘When in India!’ and with that thought, I climbed on, gripped hard and before I could change my mind, we sped off down the bumpy hill into the unknown!

Fortunately, that headline was never written. In fact, that 30 minute motorcycle ride through the busy and chaotic roads of Kerala made me feel freer and, ironically, more in control than perhaps ever before! Once I began to relax into the ride and let go of my fear, I started to enjoy the journey, witnessing Indian life in all of its colourful glory. It was such an amazing place. So different to what I was used to, on both a physical and spiritual level. I was completely in the ‘Now’, and loving it!

When I left India five days later, I was a bigger person. I’d grown on so many levels through the experience. And that experience became the catalyst to a decision process that would ultimately take my family on a life adventure which saw us swap our life in the UK for a much less certain future in Sydney, Australia.

Why Sydney? After travelling a great deal to Australia over the years, we fell in love with the lifestyle and the opportunities, so had applied for and were granted residents’ visas which were expiring imminently. It was a now or never decision, and after much discussion, we decided to take the opportunity and make the shift!

10 months later, here we are in Sydney. We now have the benefit of experiencing life on the other side and are definitely richer for the experience. In many ways, we have moved to the perfect spot as it combines wonderful scenery (beach & warm weather) and city energy, with like-minded communities.

But the journey to this point has not been plain sailing. In truth, it has been an emotional roller coaster, requiring hard work and a massive amount of psychological stress that gave me the opportunity to put every one of my ’28 Tips for reducing stress’ to the test!

Change of this magnitude is not easy. Most people who move to Australia fit into three groups: the twenty somethings who come for a life adventure before settling down; those who come to do a specific job with a company sponsoring them, and those who arrive as refugees escaping a terrible situation in search of safety and freedom.

We didn’t fit into any of these categories. We came for the experience of living in another country, for personal growth, for a more spiritual connection. We came because something seemed to be pulling us here. And though we resisted for a long time, eventually we had to answer that calling.

Practically though, this shift involved many steps:

Finding a good school in Sydney for our son (priority 1)
Deciding which of our belongings to take, what to throw, what to give away, what to store
Packing all of our things and shipping it to where it needed to go
Finding a home for our plants (we had a mini jungle in our house)
Preparing our UK house for rental
Finding a tenant
Selling our cars
Deciding where to live in Sydney
Finding somewhere to live (quite a learning curve)
Deciding what to do work-wise
Saying goodbye to our friends and family (the hardest thing)
And on top of that, I was leaving a leadership role in a large, growing company with responsibility for a lot of people. It was a key priority for me to ensure that new leadership was in place and the teams at RBI could continue to evolve and thrive in a new world. If all of that wasn’t hard enough, just to make sure that my stress levels were put to the maximum test, we decided that Heather and Sam would stay in Sydney from August to get things set up, and I would return to the UK until the end of the year to tie up some pretty large loose ends.

Given that change is a normal part of life and the pace of change is accelerating, I want to share with you some of the lessons I gleaned from this life-disrupting experience in the hope that they will help you embrace change and build your own resilience tool kit. I learnt 7 key lessons:

What was really important in my life. We’d accumulated so much stuff: clothes, books, photographs, souvenirs, a hoard of things that were actually holding us down. It was so hard deciding what to give up and what to take, and in the end we put a lot more into storage than we should have. But, truly, most things are replaceable, except for the people in your life (and perhaps the photos). Other than that, you don’t actually need very much at all. I’ve wasted so much money on things that I really didn’t need. Lesson 1: Keep light
To make the most of the life experience. Whilst change is often forced on people, I was actually driving the change, and though the last three months of 2016 were really hard, I quickly got used to the new ‘normal’. I became at peace with my situation, and found myself surrendering to it. From that moment on, my attitude changed. I was out every evening seeing different friends, I spent a lot of time with my parents and helped them as much as I could, and I went around London looking at it through the eyes of a tourist. What an amazing city London is! Lesson 2: Surrender to your present reality and make the most of the opportunity
To have faith. Giving up a role that I had done for the best part of a decade wasn’t easy, particularly as the RBI company values were very aligned with my own. However, after 9 years, I felt that it was time to step away and make space for something else. Though I didn’t have a very clear picture of what that something else looked like, I knew deep down that it would work out fine. Lesson3: Trust in the universe (however hard that is to do)
To create a strong support system. Being apart from my family, driving significant change at RBI and worrying about the future was quite stressful. However, to ensure that I remained well, I made sure that I didn’t neglect my healthy habits. For me this meant drinking gallons of green juice and kombucha, taking supplements, running a lot, meditating daily and surrounding myself with positive people who presented an optimistic version of the future that I needed for encouragement. Lesson 4: Create your own healthy habit tool kit (for inspiration, sign up for my Healthy Habits newsletter)
To embrace the fear. I had many dark moments, quite often waking up in a state of panic, imagining myself penniless, homeless and alone. This catastrophic thinking wasn’t particularly helpful, and fortunately I had planned for these moments. I realised this fear was really my ego trying to be helpful and protecting me from myself, desperately trying to avoid change and keep to the status quo. To cope during these moments of panic, I’d written an inspiring narrative of our future life, a ‘Letter from the Future’. Whenever fear came knocking, I poured my heart out into my journal, and then pulled out my ‘Letter from the future’ and got absorbed into its contents, imagining the life we had written for ourselves. This positive thinking made me feel instantly better. I then redirected my energy into my work, realising that I was actually the author of my own future. Lesson 5: Have a clear vision of the future and know it’s OK to feel afraid (it’s only a feeling after all)
To practise the “no lose” model of decision-making. A book that really influenced me years ago was the classic ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. The premise of the book is that fear holds us back from living our dreams and realising our potential. However, by practising the ‘no lose model’ you realise that you can’t actually make a wrong decision. Every decision leads to growth, no matter what you decide to do. That concept helped a great deal. Lesson 6: Realise every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow and that ultimately everything will be fine
To get behind my decisions. I can’t tell you what a big thing it was for me, deciding to leave a country that I had lived in for my entire life, and a company that I loved. I really wanted to split myself in two and experience both lives simultaneously. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, technology hasn’t yet made this an option! So we had to make a choice. It wasn’t easy as there were many implications, but once we decided, we got fully behind the decision. Lesson 7: Always look forward – don’t waste energy in regrets
So there we have it. We now live in Sydney, work in the wellness industry, and am following my dharma to make the world a healthier place, one person at a time. Of course, I miss so many things about the UK and am fortunate to be able to spend time there each year and see the people most dear to me. Looking back, this vision was actually first created over 10 years ago and though at the time we were clear on the ‘What’, we had no idea on the ‘How’. Gradually, though, the pathway became apparent.

What about you? What would you really love to do in your life? Where would you like to go? What would you like to be?

If you would like help in answering these questions and creating a vision of your future life, help is at hand. I have created a course to help you move through the steps to get clear on your future life. Whilst moving to the other side of the world isn’t everyone’s thing, I know that everyone has passions, skills and potential, and, as Oprah says, ‘when passion, skill and opportunity meets, magic occurs’.

Sign-up for a a free copy of my ‘How to create a Better Life’ course and get 50% off your first VIP coaching session. Simply quote: ‘OFFER50’ when booking your slot.