So you’ve embarked on changing your life: you want to move houses, change job, find a partner, create a positive new habit… You’ve been working for it, with motivation, discipline, focus. Yet the outcome you want just isn’t happening. Sadly, life isn’t always fair. We can’t always get what we want. You feel frustrated, rejected, even despondent. What to do? Read on for 6 survival strategies I use to help me through when one of my desired changes isn’t happening…
So you’ve started working on making changes in your life, yet the outcome you are hoping for just isn’t materialising. You’re just not getting the results you wanted.
- Perhaps you’ve been trying to sell your house and it’s not selling.
- Perhaps you’ve been applying for jobs and never get one.
- Perhaps you’ve been looking for a partner and don’t find him / her.
- Perhaps you’ve been working on eating more healthily / calming your angry outbursts / letting go of bitterness – and the habit or behaviour you want to change just isn’t shifting.
- Perhaps… [fill in your own example here]
That’s tough – particularly, if it goes on for a while.
You’re trying, you’re working, you’re moving things forward, and yet results aren’t coming. It can really drag down your motivation. Make you feel incapable, rejected, disappointed and frustrated. You might feel a failure, lose hope, or even quarrel with yourself.
I’ve had a few readers of my regular doses of inspiration writing to me with questions about this – and I also feel that I’m speaking to myself here, having written a children’s book and being in the process now of looking for a publisher, which everyone I speak to assures me is at best arduous but most likely near-impossible. (So if you have any insights or contacts for me, do let me know! 🙂 )
We can make change – and the purposeful projects and actions that lead us to it – more joyful and easeful by learning about it, using tools and support, and practicing. But the truth is that, sometimes, working towards a change and sticking with it can still be hard. And the desired results slow to come.
So here are six strategies I remind myself of and apply when I’m feeling low about my change or about a new project I’m developing in my life:
1. Gain perspective
Some undertakings are difficult. Selling and / or buying a house, for example, is a notoriously stressful thing to embark on. Everyone I know – including myself – has a story to tell of all that went wrong until they finally managed to sell or buy.
When I was looking to buy a flat in London, I’d been searching for ages. Finally, I found a small house I really liked, and my offer was accepted. Then the survey revealed that the house was structurally unsound and needed an additional investment of tens of thousands of Pounds to make it right. My sellers lowered the price – but I wasn’t up for such a big resuscitation job. I pulled out of the sale, losing all the monies invested up to then – and going right back to square one in my property search.
I’m not saying you should console yourself with others’ misfortunes when the result you work towards isn’t happening. And I’m not saying that change can’t ever go smoothly and easily for you, even when it doesn’t for many others. (Because it can. You never know!)
What I am saying is to keep things in perspective. Don’t beat yourself up if your results aren’t happening as quickly as you’d hoped. Sometimes, changing presents difficulties. It can take a while.
You’re not the first and nor the only one to experience this. Others have come through despite the difficulties. I have. And so can you.
2. Work on what’s in your control
Remind yourself that you don’t control it all.
You can put in a proposal or an application, but someone else will have to say yay or nay to it. You can send your lonely hearts ad out, but someone else will have to see and reply to it. I can submit my book manuscript in the best way I know, but someone else will have to decide if it’s worth investing in by publishing it.
The responses we get to our change efforts are not something we can do something about. All we can ever do is work on what’s in our control. And surrender what is beyond that.
3. Let go of being attached to the outcome
Not easy – I know! Particularly, when we’ve invested so much in our project or change.
What helps me here is making my peace with the fact that what happens now is out of my hands. Then I can find within myself a place of equanimity about the outcome. I remind myself that getting a yay or a nay, my desired results materialising or not, is not a reflection of my worth as a person. It’s just a judgment somebody made, a decision someone took on what I’ve put forward. It’s just an opportunity that happened to be open or not.
I have a regular submission process in place by which I send off my children’s book manuscript to publishers. I send it out in batches, accompanied with the best vibes and wishes I can muster in its support. I know publishers take a long time to reply – if they reply at all. I know it’s out of my hands now. So I kind of ‘forget’ about the submissions that are underway and go back to working on my next book.
I choose to focus on writing and submitting, rather than on outcomes. Then, whatever does or doesn’t happen, does or doesn’t happen. Increasingly, I can be OK with that. And I have had some pleasant surprises, too! 🙂
4. Celebrate the small successes
See the good work you’ve done along the way. Be happy about a potential buyer coming to look at the house you’re selling. Appreciate positive feedback on a job interview even when you don’t get that particular job. See it as a positive sign that you’re getting responses on your lonely hearts ad, even though they’re not from your soul mate (yet).
Give yourself a pat on the back when you do manage to follow a new virtuous habit, or change your behaviour in a good way, even in just one situation where you were previously stuck doing something not so constructive. And if you’re a writer like me, give yourself a thumbs-up when you’ve actually managed to finish writing a book. (‘Cause that’s hard!)
Celebrate every small YES that comes your way, even if it isn’t your final desired outcome. (Yet!) Do a happy dance in your living room, allow yourself a treat, or celebrate with a friend.
Sometimes, making change is a long haul, so you’ll need those little positive milestones to keep you going!
You’ll also need to…
5. Find your fighting spirit
If a change you want to make is really important to you, it’s worth fighting for.
There’s a certain stubbornness in a fighting attitude, something that says: I’m not going to give in. I’m not going to let this beat me. I’m going to do everything I can for this. I’m going to carry on working towards this even if it’s hard.
To fight for the change you want to create is a decision you make within yourself. It’s a choice, an act of your will. You go on because you want to. Because what you’re working towards matters to you.
If you can tap into your fight, you can transcend the tiredness, discouragement or frustration.
Read more about this in my guest article for Tiny Buddha:
6. Be patient and persistent
Rome wasn’t built in a day. For as long as your change project feels right for you, keep working, keep trying. For things can and do happen – sometimes just not in the way we think they should. And they might require more work than we thought.
Patience and persistence are key. Working through things. Not giving up at the first hurdles.
After losing that first house I’d set my heart on, I kept on searching. A short while after, I found a flat I really liked. And this time, the buying process went through.
I know people who’ve found their partner online and got married – and yes, some kissed a few frogs in the process. A friend of mine had been fruitlessly applying for jobs, only to then have a company she used to work for get in touch and offer her a job – out of the blue. Roger Federer (if you’re into Tennis) did eventually succeed in managing his young-tennis-crack temper tantrums on the court and has since then stopped breaking his rackets in a fury about a lost point. (And gone on to win big in his sport!)
Change can and does happen. And you can choose how long you want to keep fighting for yours.
And if your change really doesn’t come?
It can happen, sometimes, despite all our efforts. Life, sadly, isn’t always fair. And the Rolling Stones already knew that you can’t always get what you want.
If your change just doesn’t materialise:
Accept it. Make your peace with it. Then make the best of where you are. What’s the most constructive way you can respond to where you are right now?
A friend of mine, who just couldn’t find an affordable home in the specific area she so wanted to move to, decided to stay where she was, after all, and instead put some money into making her current home really, really nice. She’s still living there today – and very happily so.
Two other friends, whose home didn’t sell when they wanted it to, are waiting out the market and doing up their homes, until they feel it’s the right time to try again.
If I ever get tired of submitting my book to publishers who won’t take it up, I could decide to self-publish it. Or to keep this particular book for family and friends, and put my fighting spirit into trying to publish another one.
My point is:
No one’s ever gotten everything they wanted when making change; everyone’s had wins and losses.
Life goes on after one thing we’ve tried for hasn’t happened. If your change outcome isn’t happening, put it down to experience, take a break, then regroup. Focus on what’s in your control – on the choices you always have for how to go on!
Over to you now
What are your experiences with making change happen?
What do you do when a change you want to create just doesn’t seem to want to materialise?
Please share your comments below!