Finding Peace on the Slow Road to Change: 5 Steps to Live By
“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan
Change is not always something that happens overnight. I’ve read the stories about those who quit their jobs on a whim and do their own thing. They start their own business or travel to a foreign country to live out their dreams. I love those stories. But that’s not my story. Sometimes change is slow.
Sometimes change takes patience and commitment to doing the same thing day in and day out. Sometimes change is a long, slow labor of love.
I’m a single dad to an eight-year-old girl. As romantic as it sounds, I can’t just quit my job, sell everything, and start fresh in a new city. I have to provide a stable home for my daughter. But that doesn’t mean I can’t work toward fulfilling a dream. I can. I am.
I’m a college instructor. I love my job. The hours are great. I get summers off. But there’s something I love more: writing. I’ve been writing songs and poetry for years, but in 2011, I discovered I could write books. I wrote my first, A Train Called Forgiveness, a fictional version about my own history as the child victim of a religious cult. I’ve since written a second book and I’ve started on a third. But sometimes change is slow.
My hope is to retire from teaching in five years and earn an income solely from writing. Here’s how I plan on getting there from here:
1. Accept slow change.
Often we expect instant change, instant gratification. We see the rich and the famous and we wish we could live their lifestyles. What we don’t always see is how the fast road to fame and fortune can devastate individuals, relationships, and families. And often, those that are wealthy, worked their way, slowly, through a plethora of problems and change along the way.
2. Commitment is key.
In order to make anything worthwhile come to pass, we have to stick with it. It took me about six months to write my first book. I wrote daily. It took another five months to rewrite. I chose to self-publish. I knew I’d have a long road ahead of me to build a platform. I work on it daily. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, but when I look closely, I see growth. But the moment I stop being committed to writing, would be the moment I turn my back on the change I’m seeking. Without commitment you’ll find yourself flailing.
3. The importance of patience.
True change takes time. Whether it’s personal growth or building a new business, there’s no such thing as instant success. A flower doesn’t bloom overnight. The process goes on for weeks. Some cactuses only bloom for one day a year. As a younger man, I struggled with paranoia. It was an after-effect of being a child in a cult. I turned to alcohol and marijuana to try to cope. It took me nearly a decade to discover that I was only making things worse. I went back to college when I was thirty years old. It took another decade to find my true passion of writing. Three degrees and a Master’s thesis later, I learned that patience goes a long way.
4. Enjoy the ride.
As a single dad I know I have to stay put for my daughter’s best interests. If you have to stay in one place, you might as well enjoy the ride. I’ve learned to spend my time doing the two things I love the most. During her waking hours, I spend my time being actively engaged with my daughter’s life and growth. Early mornings and after she’s in bed, I spend my time writing. I make sure to balance work with play. I make a point to spend two weekends per month relaxing and having fun. We all need to recharge our batteries along the way.
5. Don’t let ‘em get you down.
Whenever we have a dream that dances on the outer edges of what the average person expects possible, there will be naysayers. Don’t listen to them. When I was a kid in a cult I was told I was weak and stupid, and that I’d never accomplish anything in life. I went on to college. Since beginning my writing journey, I’ve heard my share of negative comments about self-publishing and writing in general. People say things like, “Self-published books aren’t real books,” and “Writing a book will never pay off.” I disagree on both accounts. People that make comments like these often wish they had the courage to do what you’re doing. I repeat. Don’t listen.
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In the end, it’s not the end result that matters as much as the journey itself. If you know what you want and you’re willing take the slow route to getting it, you’ll reach your highest potential along the way. With patience and persistence, each step of the journey is its own little success. Don’t stop. Take the slow road to lasting change and you’ll find happiness. I know I’m here, now, and that’s what really matters.
Questions: What slow changes are you making in your life? Where will they take you?
Photo by Kai Schreiber