The last five months having been absolutely incredible in so many ways. Living in my van, traveling around New Zealand, being away from the noise and pressures of ‘normal’ life, being free to live day by day and to follow my heart and passion, allowing myself to just be, be in the moment without any expectations or plans as to what will come next…
It has taught me so much about life and myself. It’s given me a new perspective and new clarity around my values and priorities in life. And it has also confirmed something, once again, that I kind of already believed in beforehand:
The importance of creating space for change and for new things to find us, for the right things to find us.
I think many of us have been, or maybe are, in a situation where we feel like something in our life isn’t quite right anymore. We want to change something or would like something new to come into our lives. But often, we expect that change or new thing to find us while we keep doing what we’ve always done. We want certainty and answers before we take any risks. We want to find a better job before we give up the old one, we want to know if there is a better partner and relationship out there for us before we make a decision about our current one, we want to know what our purpose in life is while we keep living the known, comfortable life we currently have.
I think there are many reasons to be cautious and play it safe. You might have a mortgage and a family to look after, you might be scared to end up alone or to end up regretting leaving a relationship, you might have risked it all before and lost. While they are all valid reasons that you need to consider, I also strongly believe that, if you really want change, you need to create space for it. You cannot expect to continue with your busy life the way you always have and somehow change will come, somehow the answers will find you.
New things can’t come into your life if there’s no room for it – especially those things you might not even know yet are possible and/or right for you.
Think of this example. You want to cook something you’ve never made before. So you go to the supermarket to get the ingredients. But instead of going with an empty trolley, yours is already completely packed with all the stuff you usually get. You go through the aisles and carefully stack your new ingredients on top. All looks good for a bit, until you take a sharp turn into isle 7 (where the wine is) and most of the new ingredients fall off because they are the ones added at the top (versus the old ones that are safely tucked away at the bottom of the trolley). The first time you might still pick up your new items off the floor and stack them on top again but the second time (when you take a sharp turn into the chocolate isle) they are coming off again and you can’t really be bother to pick them up again so you just leave the supermarket with your usual items. Here is the thing, if you had spent a bit of time taking things you no longer want or need (i.e. the ingredients for your old recipes) out of your trolley first, you would have had space for all the new items and you could be cooking that awesome new dish right now.
I know this seems like a bit or a random example, but think about it. When we try to bring change and new things into our busy lives, we’re essentially adding them on top of an already big pile of ‘stuff’ and because they are the newest ones, they are the first ones that become loose and fall off when life gets busy or something unexpected happens. It’s the old, well established habits, believes, activities and ways of doing that stick the longest – because they had the most time to grow roots.
And more so, if we only ever make very little (if any) room for new and change, we will, at the very best, be able to get a couple of specific things we want.
We will never be able to discover what else is out there that might be exactly what we need but we don’t know about it yet so we can’t go searching for it.
If someone would ask me to describe why these past five months have been so valuable in as few words as possible, I might say “Because I created space”.
I had a big spring clean of my life and I got rid of things like a permanent home, furniture and lots of other stuff. I took a risk by stepping back from my job and by leaving my friends for a longer period of time – not to mention leaving my home and everything that had been my life. By doing all of that, I created space for new, space for change. I had some ideas how I wanted to fill that space, I wanted to surf and kitesurf, I wanted to read and write more and I wanted to travel around New Zealand. But I also, on purpose, left a lot of empty space. Space that was just there for life to fill it with whatever might come my way.
I wanted to be open to the possibility that what I need will find me – if there is space for it.
So that’s what I did and that’s what happened. Six months ago I didn’t know what I wanted my life to be like today. I think a big part thought that by now, I would be back working in an office somewhere (because that’s what I had always done). But I was very careful to not make any commitments to anyone, including myself, about if and when I would be back and/or what I might do.
I had occasionally thought about writing a book for many years. But I was never really serious about it. I never had a clear topic or story in mind, I never even tried to come up with an outline or structure, I never pictured myself as an author. I was more thinking about how cool it would be to write a book one day rather than thinking about how I could actually do it. But creating space gave that idea an opportunity to flourish. It’s not something that happened overnight or suddenly one day. It happened very slowly, first through me writing more and remembering how much I love to write to inspire and then later by ideas and concepts forming in my head. Until one day, I could sit down and articulate what I wanted my book to be about and all the sudden the ideas and structure just flowed. I don’t know if the book will be any good. But that’s not the point. I absolutely love the writing process right now and I know I will never look at it as a waste of time, even if no one ever reads my book. I know in my heart that I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing right now and that something great will come out of it in some way. If I had continued my old life, I probably would have never seriously considered writing a book, let alone been in a position where I have a clear vision of the content and structure and the energy and inspiration to actually make it happen.
Another example is my work. Up until about three years ago, I was doing the normal full-time employee kind of jobs and I thought that’s just what it would be like. I didn’t really have any plans to be a freelancer or work for myself. But I got to a point where I knew I was ready for a new challenge and that it was time to leave the job I had at the time. I could have done what most people do, get a new job before resigning from the old one. But I wanted to know what my options are and I felt I could only do so if I could talk to people in my network about it. But that meant I had to tell my employer that I was leaving first (New Zealand is a small place, word would have gotten back to them in no time). So I did. I resigned without knowing what I would do next. The plan was to talk to people and maybe do some short-term projects until I found the next full-time job that’s right for me. I created space for the new job to come into my life. I started doing projects and working for different companies while looking for the next full-time gig. But as it turns out, I loved being a freelancer way more than I had ever loved any normal employee job I had. I never planned to work as a freelancer but turns out it’s pretty much the perfect work situation for me. I probably would have never figured that out if I hadn’t taken the risk to ‘get rid’ of my old job to create space for something new without really know what the new would be like.
I understand that many of you probably can’t or don’t want to give up your whole live and create space by living in a van for many months.
But it doesn’t need to be that big. You can create little bits of space for new things to come your way. You don’t have to change your whole life.
However, I would also say this: Little space = little change, big space = big change. Depending on how much change you want in your life, you might need to be prepared to give up more to create space for it. If you want to find a new hobby, giving up a current one (or putting it on hold) probably creates enough space. If you want to completely change career direction or your relationship situation, you might need to give up a bit more to create enough space. And if you want a complete change in lifestyle, you need to think bigger and create a bigger space.
Just consider this next time you feel like something in your life maybe isn’t really the right fit anymore and you wonder if there’s something better out there for you. I’ll probably never know for sure unless you create the space for it!
And one more thing, if you feel like you have plenty of space in your life, plenty of time where you have nothing to do, you just don’t know what to fill it with, then maybe it’s a certain believe or fear your need to give up in order to create space for something new.
Creating space is not just about time, it’s also about your mind, thoughts and headspace.
And maybe this approach is not for everyone. Maybe you, or others you know, have been able to achieve change and to bring new things into their lives in different ways, maybe event by just doing what they’ve always done. As always, this is just my thinking and my attempt to make you see things in a different way – even if it’s just for a few moments.
PS: Don’t go quit your job to create space for a winning lottery ticket to find its way to you. That’s not how this works :)