I’m a big fan of change, as you can probably guess, since I’m writing on a blog called “The Change Blog”. I’m very much in favour of growth: people finding their path through life, taking the next steps, learning, discovering and doing new and fulfilling things.
Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to hold back from change. Sometimes, you might be tempted to implement a big change in your life – but a nagging feeling warns you against it. Not all changes are appropriate for everyone, and even if a change is right for you, you may need to be cautious about implementing it at the right time.
Over-hasty change can exact a high price. At a minimum, you’ll probably end up wasting some valuable time – and quite possibly some money. In worse cases, you could lose friends, spoil relationships, make yourself ill, or even suffer a financial set-back which takes you years to recover from.
So when might the price of change simply be too high? Here are a few situations when you might want to stop and think hard before making a particular change:
- When external circumstances are against you
- When you have important values or commitments that go against the desired change
- When the impulse for change comes from outside
- When the change would have irreversible consequences
When External Circumstances Are Against You
Now, like most people, I’m prone to make excuses at times. It can be easy to put off making real change because of “the situation” (Sid Savara has a great post on .) But in some cases, you may need to take the hard decision that while you want to change something in your life, the time isn’t yet right.
For example, if you want to quit your job, you may need to wait until you’ve built up an emergency fund. After I read Steve Pavlina’s popular , my growing feelings that the corporate world wasn’t quite right for me became impossible to deny. But it took me about 20 months to be in a financial position (and with the freelancing skills and contacts I needed) to quit my job.
Even if you’re feeling hugely inspired by a book like Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work-Week or Jonathan Fields’ Career Renegade, you might need to stick it out in your day job or current career until you’ve build up the resources – both financial and skill-based – to move on.
When Your Values And Commitments Go Against The Change
Another situation when you need to hold back from a change is when you feel it contradicts your own values, or the way you want to live.
For example, I know I would have more time to pursue personal projects and paid work if I cut back on my voluntary roles at church – and I know that many secular life coaches or personal development writers would advise me to do so. However, these roles are important to me, and I’m not willing to ditch my commitments here, even for the sake of faster change in other areas of my life.
Many of us struggle to make change when it involves dumping relatives, lovers or friends. Some personal development gurus recommend cutting “negative” people out of your life: for me, though, and I’m sure for many of you, this is often simply not an option. That might mean that some of our energy is going on people who are “high maintenance” friends or relatives – but to make changes here would mean going against our key values.
When The Impulse For Change Comes From Outside
In some cases, you might have a particular goal that requires a change in your life. A popular one is becoming an early riser – huge numbers of people seem to have this as a target in their life. But in many cases, I suspect the impulse from change comes from outside – from a personal development writer who happens to be a morning person.
I myself find mornings a good time to write and to work. I enjoy being up early and getting on with my day. But many, many people are simply not at their best at 7am – and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you do your best work in the afternoons or evenings, stick to that pattern. There’s no sense in pushing yourself towards a change because you feel you “should” do it. The price of achieving it – forcing yourself on despite a lack of real motivation – is likely to involve you becoming unhappy or grouchy.
When The Change Would Have Irreversible Consequences
Some changes – getting up at 6am, jogging daily, writing a novel – don’t have huge or irreversible consequences. (If getting up at 6am makes you hellish to live with, you can always just start lying in again.) Other changes, though, may exact too high a price:
- Quitting your job to start your own business (you might be able to go back if it all falls apart, but you’ll have lost money in the meantime)
- Dumping a partner or friend (if you do decide it was an awful mistake, it’ll be hard to patch up the relationship – and things will never be quite the same)
- Investing a lot of money in a new scheme or idea (if it fails, the money’s gone)
- Moving to a new country (again, you can go back, but you’ll have lost money and possibly acquaintances in the process)
Of course, if you want to make a big life change that you’ve reasoned through and that you’re passionate about – go ahead, and the best of luck to you! What I’m cautioning against here is getting fired up by a self-help book or by a passing impulse. Do invest serious time into thinking about and planning for large changes in your life – and determine what the price would be if it doesn’t work out.
Have you ever considered making a change, but decided against it because the price was too high? What was it – and how did you make your decision? Alternatively, have you ever madeover-hasty changes that you now regret?