Unhappiness is a sign we need to change. And the constant companion of change is choice. You see, we can’t change until we choose to do so. Life is an endless stream of choices. Our primary choice is to accept things as they are or to accept the responsibility for changing them. Often, it’s a choice between freedom and enslavement, a choice between living our dream or having a nightmare. If we’re unsatisfied with the conditions we find ourselves in, how do we change them? We do so by changing ourselves.
Let’s say I’m unhappy with my present income, if that’s the case, instead of complaining about my boss and company in the hope that they will change, I need to change myself. I need to make myself more valuable, worthy of a greater income. Maybe I need to go to night school and study the new technology, or how to become more productive, or how to become part of the solution for my boss’ problems. We all want to increase our earnings, but too often we forget we have to earn the earnings we desire. We want the prize without the work.
Now we have come to one of the main reasons why some people are not experiencing the life of their dreams. They want the gain without the pain or strain. They want to eliminate their debt, but without the sweat. They refuse to accept a basic law of life: THERE IS A PRICE TO PAY FOR ANYTHING WORTHWHILE. The price comes in the form of effort, struggle, and sacrifice. The greater the prize, the greater the required effort. But the prize is always worth the struggle. Those who make the effort to follow their dream, whatever it is, never regret it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the slackers, do-nothings, and loafers, for they will live with regret, disappointment, and sorrow.
Perhaps even worse than doing nothing is searching for a magic bullet, quick fix, or miracle cure. Take the case of Harry, for instance. He has emotional problems that have put is life on hold. His counsellor has told him he needs to change his way of thinking.
“Just seeing me, Harry, isn’t enough. You need to change your patterns of thought. Here, take this Cognitive Therapy workbook and do the exercises daily. Spend between 30 minutes and an hour on the workbook every day. If you do so, within three weeks you’ll begin to feel better. After three months, you’ll be well on the road to a bright new life. But the only person who can help you is yourself. You’ve got to make a commitment and be willing to make the small effort that is necessary for success.”
The trouble is, rather than making an effort, Harry makes excuses. When we speak to him he says, “I feel miserable and want MY LIFE to change.” Notice that he didn’t say, “I WANT TO CHANGE.” After all, for that to happen he would have to make an effort. None of that for him. He prefers to remain passive and dream of someone or something fixing his problems for him. He’s on a quest for the magic bullet. Ironically, he does make an effort. But the effort he makes is to avoid doing the exercises in his workbook.
Harry spends time, energy, and money on his search for a ‘miracle cure.’ He goes from seminar to seminar, from one herbal remedy to another, from one New Age ‘healer’ to another, from one religious cult to another.
Harry not only hasn’t gotten better, but like many us, has forgotten how quickly time flies. It’s too early to say how long Harry will steadfastly pursue his futile search for an effortless cure. But others have been doing so for years. What a waste of time, energy, and money! Meanwhile, the counsellor’s words continue to be ignored by Harry, and he irrationally refuses to improve his life. Yet, the tasks that his counsellor has given him require far less effort than the fruitless activity he is engaged in. Let’s hope we learn from his example and come to understand that there are no shortcuts on the path to success and happiness. Don’t complain about being in a rut if you’re not willing to make the effort to crawl out.
Another cause for people failing to follow their dreams is their fear of giving up the known for the unknown. We are inclined to avoid taking risks. For example, when I was a university student in Japan, I supported myself by teaching English as a second language. Later, I started doing some translations on the side to earn extra income. However, going to the university, teaching, translating, and studying was stretching things too far. I couldn’t do everything, so I had to decide whether to continue teaching or quit it and build a translation business. I announced my decision to my wife. I was going to quit teaching and use the time to start a new business.
Her mouth dropped. She was in a panic. I can understand how she felt because besides ourselves, we had two small children to worry about. If I were to make the change, there were costs involved. I would have to give up the security of a high paying job with a fixed income, not to mention the comfort of an enjoyable job. But the lure of a new adventure was too much to resist. I was determined. Though fearful, my wife supported my decision, so I leapt into the unknown. A year later, I was still leaping, but this time leaping for joy.
Little did we realize I would multiply my income fivefold. And I would do this while cutting the number of hours I worked by half. So, my hourly income grew by 10X. Because I was willing to give up security and comfort, I gained far more of the same. I multiplied the very things I risked losing. Yes, there was a price to pay to make the change, but there would have been a greater price to pay if I had not made the change.
Refusing to risk what we have is a risk in itself. It is risking the loss of an opportunity to have much more. And I’m not just referring to income. The same is true for happiness, peace of mind, and freedom. We gain more by risking the little we already have. Harry, whom we spoke about earlier, wants to be comfortable, so he avoids making the effort to change. Little does he realize that if he were willing to sacrifice that small amount of comfort he clenches so tightly, he would gain much, much more. Let’s avoid his mistakes. Our dreams are worth fighting for. Let the struggles begin!