“You can’t change what’s going on around you until you start changing what’s going on within you.” ~Zig Ziglar
When you’re studying for eighteen years to have a chance at a better future, you’re not expecting to end up wearing yellow gloves and washing dishes, right? But what if I tell you that it made me happier than a job sitting behind a desk at a renowned institution?
You might be thinking now, “If this post is about how to change from a job behind a desk to one behind a sink, I better not waste my time reading it.” But no, it isn’t.
This post is about the attitude that helped me to overcome a situation that was eating up my soul and create a life that makes me excited about the future.
We’ve all experienced different kinds of change in life: changes that you don’t want to face, changes that you’re forced to accept, and changes that you can’t wait to see happening but that seem to be impossible, leaving you feeling stuck with what you have.
After I got my master’s degree in psychology and spent months without a clue about what I was going to do with it, I finally got a job in a pharmaceutical company, working as a psychologist for patients on a clinical trial.
It felt like I had won the lottery. I had my office and my desk; the company paid for trips around the world and gave us an unlimited supply of coffee and soda. The old-fashioned side of my mind thought, “This is it. I just got myself a job for life.” Yeah, sure.
After one year there, thinking I had finally become a grownup a with a real job despite my internship-like earnings, I asked for raise and got fired for that reason, two weeks before Christmas.
At that time, I had no practice in mindfulness and had never meditated, so my boat would rock hard with any little storm. I cried, and it wasn’t pretty.
How was I going to pay the bills? How was I going to manage to continue living in that beautiful little duplex downtown?
Well, it turns out, just like most of the things that happen in life, this was also a blessing in disguise.
Being fired forced me to let go of a life that I was getting used to, even if it was far from my ideals of living in harmony with nature, with time and the freedom to be more creative. It was a wake-up call that forced me to find another path, one more aligned with my values that would lead to a future I could rely on myself to build.
I decided then that I didn’t want to put my future in others’ hands and wait for their recognition or approval to progress in life.
Of course, I had moments of uncertainty and a little despair when I was forced to change, and had no idea what I was going to do. I knew that sitting behind a desk again wasn’t going to be the best option, or else I wouldn’t be searching for alternative jobs and alternative lifestyles on every single break I had on that job.
So how did I move on? Well, first by doing nothing. What? I hear you ask. That’s right. I took the time just to do the things I loved to do, explored more about what they were, and allowed myself to take a break from the “must be doing something” mindset.
Then, when the opportunity appeared and the moment felt right, I moved to Sweden—a place where I had been happy before—to experiment starting a new life.
I got a second master's degree while being a waiter, living in tiny rooms, and taking many skinny dips in beautiful and extraordinarily cold lakes.
Then I got the courage to travel to India by myself, where I took yoga and meditation courses.
I did all this with a purpose in mind: to own the creation of my life.
So even when I was washing other people’s plates with yellow rubber gloves on, I felt happy. It all had meaning; I was pursuing my dreams.
The result? Now, I finally am my own boss and have full ownership and responsibility for my future. And I get to live in a house with a sea view, in harmony with nature, as I dreamt. All it took was the right mindset, along with calm, courage, willingness, and persistence.
If you’re going through some imposed change or you’re looking forward to seeing one, it may help to remember these six thoughts that helped me make that transition and create lasting transformation:
1. Don’t panic: this too shall pass.
Just because there’s something you desperately want or need to change, that doesn’t mean you need to go into urgency mode, trying to do all at once. Keep yourself calm and relaxed so that you can make the right choices, not choices urged by worry and stress.
Change is inevitable; you don’t need to rush it. Just keep yourself open to receiving what life brings you and try to make the best out of it.
2. Being still is much better than moving in the wrong direction.
When you calm down and give yourself time for self-discovery and improvement, the next right step will become much clearer.
If you don’t, you’ll end up getting yourself in some situation that seems different but, at its core, is the same. You’ll just be wasting your precious time—that time that you so want to use wisely and not spend on wrong life decisions.
3. Change doesn’t happen in a day, it happens with every little habit.
Sure, there are times when life calls for dramatic changes, such as leaving a job, moving to a different country, or ending a long-term relationship. But the biggest changes are the ones that we cultivate day in and day out.
Every time we decide to work out and eat a healthier meal, every time we choose a positive thought over a negative, and every time that we do something we love, even if that scares us, we are shaping the course of our life.
4. Our life is a reflection of our mind; energy flows where attention goes.
Every day we have an opportunity to make change happen. No matter what situation we’re in, it's our choice and our responsibility.
The state of our life is not our parents' fault, nor the economy, nor luck. The choice and the responsibility for our life and our success are ours, and it starts with what we focus on, how we perceive things, and how that perception influences how we decide to act.
If we focus on our fears and worries, our actions will reflect that, and we'll find more to fear and worry about. If we focus on hope and possibilities, our actions will reflect that, and we'll find more to be excited and hopeful about.
5. Change means progress, and progress means happiness.
Life is, in essence, change. Trying to fight it is like trying to stop the seasons.
Nature is in constant transformation, and so are we, and so is our life.
If we embrace change as something natural, we can start to cultivate it positively, just as one waters a seed to make it thrive and grow into a fruitful tree.
When we accept living a progressive, ever-changing life, we feel more alive, purposeful, and proud of ourselves. We see more meaning in the experience of living.
6. Sometimes, what seems to be a step back can be a huge step forward.
Many times, what holds us back from going after our dreams is the attachment we feel to what we already have or a stiff idea of how things should and shouldn't be.
One shouldn't be washing dishes with two master degrees, right?
But it's the ability to be open and flexible to life circumstances that dictates how much progress, success, and happiness one is able to experience.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back if we want to move forward.
Change might not always be easy, but it’s what leads us to different experiences and lessons in life. Isn’t that what life is all about? A journey of evolution and learning?