Do you have any experiences that, when you look back on them, think to yourself, “Wow. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t be who I am or gotten to where I’m at today!” It could be something like a chance encounter that led to a great friendship or job opportunity. Or a trip you took that gave you a broader perspective on life. Or a risk you took to put yourself out there artistically. There are so many small or major things we do that can change the trajectory of our life. Some of these things we are aware of, such as a planned event. And other things are serendipitous, like being at the right place at the right time. But it’s so interesting to look back on our lives and notice all the ways things could have turned out differently.
You could have gone to a different college. Chosen a different major. Joined one friend group instead of another. Taken a different job. Quit a job. Moved to a different city. Dated a different person. Attended a different social event. Said yes to more invites. Said no to more invites. Frequented a different coffee shop.
There’s just so. many. things.
When I think back on my life, there are some pivotal moments that would have changed everything. For instance, if I had decided not to play soccer in college, I would have ended up at a different university and had a completely difference experience (which could have meant a different major and different types of friendships).
If I hadn’t lost my first teaching job after 2 years, I wouldn’t have taken the time to reassess my career, which ultimately took me back to school to become a therapist.
If I hadn’t taken my dream trip to South Africa when I was 23, I wouldn’t have fully learned the lesson of “wherever you go, there you are”, further reinforcing the fact that happiness is not found elsewhere, but is cultivated from within.
If I hadn’t decided to go to that one hiking meetup I attended, I wouldn’t have met the friend who introduced me to his cousin, which turned into the most wonderful and important romantic relationship I’ve ever had.
And if that relationship hadn’t ended when it did, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to more clearly see what I really, deeply crave in a relationship.
… And if I hadn’t taken the risk of quitting my job last year to become a full-time therapist, I wouldn’t be typing these words right now. I wouldn’t be doing a job that I love. I wouldn’t be able to talk to all the wonderful clients I get to talk to everyday. I wouldn’t be as happy as I am.
When it comes to personal growth, so often we want things to be different, yet we’re less keen on doing things differently.
If someone is dissatisfied with their life, yet they continue to make the same choices in every moment, go to the same places everyday, or resign to the same outdated beliefs that have always held them back… then chances are, nothing will change. Chances are, they will look back on their life a year from now and see a carbon copy of their life today.
It’s so important that we make the choice to engage with life differently if we want to get different results. Now plenty of times, things just happen, such as meeting a stranger who ends up being a positive force in your life. And that’s awesome.
But what’s important to note about things “just happening” is that it requires an open stance from us. An ability for us to see opportunity and let it take us somewhere. Had someone been closed off to a chance encounter with a stranger for example, then their life would have gone completely unaffected. An opportunity missed.
But on the flipside of things just happening to us, lots of times we can decide to make something happen. We can take a risk. We can do that thing we always wanted to do (even if it’s just a small step towards it). We can decide to treat people differently than we’ve always treated them. We can decide to treat ourselves differently than we’ve always treated ourselves.
Doing something, anything, and remaining open to the random moments that you happen upon in life? That’s the only thing that will enable you to have a life that moves. That evolves. A life that doesn’t make you feel stagnant, stuck, and filled with regret.
So, are you open to new experiences, and are you actively creating them? I hope so. Because that’s the only way stuff’s gonna be different.