Make a decision that no one sees coming and I can guarantee there will be an excessive amount of scrutiny about the choices you have made. When I resigned two and a half years ago so that our family could move south, our decision (to move) sent shock waves throughout my entire social network. My staff was shocked. My Board of Directors was stunned. Extended family members and friends were completely caught off guard and as soon as people got over the initial shock of the announcement, the phone calls, emails and the questions started coming:
“What are you doing?”
“What if everything goes wrong?”
“Have you completely lost your mind?!”
“How are you so calm?”
I had no problem answering the questions. People wanted to know why my wife and I made such a life altering decision. But after talking with so many friends and relatives about the changes that were happening in our lives, I came to the conclusion that the questions are more for the person asking than for the person being asked.
Understanding why we do the things we set out to accomplish in life is a fundamental quest for inner peace. We are taught that we grow up and explore the world around us during our formative years and when the time comes, we settle down, start a career and raise a family. And then we all live happily ever after!
That is the natural progression; we are born, we explore, we settle, we live, we retire and we expire. Why would I ever want to buck that system?! What personal reasons could I have for wanting to change that completely exciting natural order to the human experience?!
Here it is in a nutshell: Massachusetts was a very successful chapter in my life. It was an exhilarating period that had been filled with many highs and many lows. In the fourteen years I spent in the Commonwealth, I learned more than I thought I ever would, I was happy, and I was successful.
I moved because I wanted new challenges. I wanted to be a healthier person. I wanted to spend more time with my wife and children. I wanted to explore the world. I wanted to grow as a human being and accomplish new and exciting things. I wanted to achieve personal satisfaction without any regrets.
People thought Stephanie and I were (or still are) absolutely crazy. But we knew the risks that we faced and we had many sleepless nights as we plotted our future. We knew we were moving in the middle of the second economic downturn of the decade and we knew what eight to ten percent unemployment meant; more competition! But we also knew that we were at a crossroads in our lives, it was “now or never!”
We are all at risk of having our lives drastically change in a heartbeat. Life has no guarantees. There are expectations but there are no promises. Everything could change tomorrow and I have no control over it. But imagine waking up one morning and the whole world made sense. You understood what you had to do but it required you to make a radical change in your life. Would you make the change knowing that there are no guarantees?
It takes courage. It takes a lot of self exploration and it takes time. I know what is important to me. I know what I want out of my life. Prior to our move, Stephanie and I single-handedly took care of her mother until the day she passed. It was a tough time in our lives but we learned so much about ourselves as people. We also realized how fragile life can be and how those things that we thought were quintessentially important to attain really weren’t all that important in the first place.
And that is why I was so calm when we decided to move seven hundred miles away to a place where we didn’t know a single person. It didn’t happen overnight. My wife and I had time to think about, reflect upon and make decisions about the course of our future. Most importantly, we had time to pray and ask God for guidance. We weighed every choice, every option and every scenario and then, we did it again. Finally, we found peace in our conclusion.
Which brings me back to my original point; the questions are more important for those who are asking than for those of us who are being asked. It is hard to see the natural progression of life and not want to make changes in the world around us. Happily ever after only exists in fairy tales.
Real life like true happiness requires thought, contemplation, calculated risk, hard work and a little luck. The fruits of our labor can be great or small depending on the circumstances. Asking the questions, “Why? What am I doing? What if everything goes wrong? Have I completely lost my mind? And am I still calm?” will provide insight and understanding. They become a guide for where we have been and where we are going. But more importantly, they help to answer the hardest question we all ask of ourselves at some point in our life; what do I want to do next?