This post is about the awareness and commitment needed to change long-standing patterns of behaviour and how a change in one area of life can help with a shift in another. As an example, I talk about a well-established habit of my own, which I was determined to change. I go on to describe how the change effected a shift in another, perhaps more important area of my life.
For years, my pattern was to run away every 2-3 years. Sometimes it was four years but always, in my dissatisfaction with whatever was happening in my life, I moved jobs, houses, even countries sometimes; I ended relationships and started again, convinced that this time it would be different. But, of course it never was. Yes, there was always some excitement at the beginning of the fresh starts, but eventually the same feelings returned: dissatisfaction, disillusionment, frustration.
Following my coaching training in the UK, I moved back to Germany and was determined to stay put and build a life for myself. I had seen a good friend of mine do it: Francis had remained in the same place, in the same flat and in the same job for ten years, during which time I had moved from Germany to Spain, to England, to Germany, to England and back to Germany again, going from one relationship to another and having a total of seven or eight jobs. The time had come for me to stop running.
I finished my training at the end of 2003. It had been an intense experience. I had spent every waking hour of those four years in self-reflection, observing my own and other people’s behaviour, giving and receiving feedback, and regularly feeling as though I was being exposed to the very core of my being. In the end I just wanted a normal job and a chance to process everything I had learnt. I left and returned to Germany, a place where I had always felt comfortable.
In Frankfurt I worked in a number of temporary positions before eventually finding a steady job and a place to live. When I started that job I was asked where I saw myself in five years’ time. “Quite honestly”, I said, “I’d just like to still be here, because normally I’m gone after three years.”
And so it was: three years into the job I felt the familiar stirrings of restlessness. Very soon my whole being was screaming at me to move on: “Come on, let’s go. This is not what we want to do with our life and you know the routine. Look for another job, town, country and let’s go. Let’s start all over again.”
To quieten the voice a little, I went through the motions of looking for another job. At the same time, I knew I would have to sit this out for as long as it lasted until I emerged on the other side. But, as this was new territory for me, I didn’t know how long the restlessness would endure or how my life would look when it ended. I just knew I wanted to change my pattern. This was where my focus remained; it’s the goal I returned to again and again as I reinforced my intent to lead a more settled life.
That difficult period lasted for four months. It was far from easy but my goal was clear and I had every motivation to pursue it. Eventually the feelings of restlessness subsided and I began to settle into the life I had built for myself, confident that I had made a substantial change to a pattern which, up until that point, had been a constant element of my life.
Most interestingly, a month after I had come through that difficult phase, I met my girlfriend. She is someone I have referred to a few times in these blog pages because my relationship with her is like nothing I have ever known. I look back on that time with great affection because the most inspiring part for me is that, had I not stuck it out during those difficult months, I would not have changed my patterns sufficiently to be in a position to meet someone who has had such a positive effect on my life.
The irony of this story is that 18 months later I moved from Germany to the Netherlands to be with her. But that move was different to all the times I had moved before. In the past I was always moving away. This time I was moving towards.
In conclusion, the breakthrough I made in changing one aspect of my life led me into a realm I had never been before. My initial goal had been just to stop running. But when I eventually stopped and looked around I found that other things had changed too. How encouraging it is that, with a clear intention to change something, we can move ourselves into a space where the most beautiful things happen.