Why Waiting to Change Your Life Can Be Dangerous

waiting to change

There are days that your life will change forever, in an instant, never to be the same again.

You don’t know it is coming. You haven’t prepared for it. It just happens to you.

I had one of those days a couple of years ago.

I was facilitating a meeting for a group of Self Employed Women. As we were having lunch my phone rang and my husband’s name flashed up on the screen.

“That’s strange” I thought. He never phones me if he knows I am running a business meeting.

But when I answered it wasn’t my husband’s voice at the end of the line. It was a paramedic.

“ I am calling to let you know that your husband has been in a serious car crash.”

I can’t put into words how getting that sort of call feels.

“Is he OK” I managed to blurt out.

“He is trapped in the car. The fire brigade are working on getting him out and we have doctors with him.”

“But is he OK” I insisted.

“He is conscious and the doctors are with him right now” is all she would say.

But I already knew it was serious. First of all, I knew if it wasn’t serious he would have called me himself. And secondly, they don’t call doctors out to the scene unless it is serious.

I got to the hospital as quickly as I could. It was a whole agonising hour waiting before the ambulance finally arrived. The reason I was there so long before the ambulance was that the car was so badly smashed up that they had to cut the roof off to get him out.

That hour was, without doubt, the worst hour of my life. Not knowing what state he was in was torture.

I usually have a very positive mindset but in that moment it deserted me. My mind ran riot about the possibilities – are his injuries life threatening? Am I going to have to go home and tell a little boy his daddy isn’t coming home?

All our dreams for the family life we had planned together were in the balance.

After what felt like an eternity, a doctor came to speak to me.

“Your husband is going to be OK. He has a number of broken ribs and is having some difficulty breathing, his legs and stomach are badly battered but he will be OK.”

The nurse then took me through to see him. The feelings of relief were like a tidal wave.

He was in a bad way. But knowing over time he would make a full recovery was a massive relief.

Considering the severity of the crash, he was lucky to be alive. And we both knew it.

My husband and I had been designing the life we wanted for many years prior to this accident. But this awful experience made us realise we had become complacent. We had started to drift a bit instead of making the next changes that would move us forward.

It was a massive wake up call to get back on the case and make the next changes in our design life plans.

So many people want to change something in their life, but put it off. Maybe because of fear, maybe because of concern of what others might think, maybe because of self doubt or a whole host of other reasons.

But letting those things hold you back is dangerous.

Dangerous because it is easy to take your plans for life for granted and think you have plenty of time to make them happen. But the reality is that you don’t know when something will suddenly happen that will rob you of the opportunity to have the life you want with the people you want.

Don’t wait for a wake up call. They don’t always have the happy ending that ours did.

If there is something that you want to change in your life, don’t let obstacles hold you back. Even if you don’t know how, commit to finding a way. Because if you keep on waiting, you are gambling that you will have the time and the opportunity to make it all happen at some time in the future.

And that is a hell of a gamble to take with your one and only life.

And even if you never have a nasty wake up call, keep this in mind:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Do you have any tips or suggestions that have helped you to get unstuck and create change in your life? Or have you had an experience that has helped you to create change, even if you found it hard?

Please share you views and experiences in the comments below so that we can all learn from each other.

Photo by birterohden

51 thoughts on “Why Waiting to Change Your Life Can Be Dangerous”

  1. I had an experience that changed my life in an instant as well. 5 years ago, my girlfriend was diagnosed with a 4cm tumor in her brain. She was a healthy vibrant woman.The surgeon gave her 24 months to live. Her sisters, 4 of them, ran to her side and I was no longer part of the picture, which I understood. Blood is thicker than water and her life was in peril. I walked out of the hospital and quickly realized how short, unpredictable and frail life is. I quickly decided that I had to pull up my dreams and desires and move on them NOW. I started doing stand up comedy, yes, stand up comedy. I had never been on stage for anything, except mandatory school plays. I had no idea what I was doing or why, but I knew I had to do it.

    It has saved my life. I have new friends and a renewed lease on life and looking back, it was the smartest decision I ever made in my life.

    I am 56 years old and every time I get on stage I think of her. She died 22 months after the initial diagnosis.

    Advice..? Go for what ever is in the back of your mind and scares the crap out of you.

    It’s the only way to live.

    1. Wow Brian, what a powerful story. A great reminder and example that it is possible to find opportunity and a new possibility in the most challenging of circumstances. Hats off to you for going for it.

    2. Great advice, Brian. We let so many frivolous excuses stand in the way of our “scary” dreams. Death certainly puts fear of being on stage, or any other “what if I fail?” idea, in perspective. Congratulations on holding on to that for five years! Most of us seize the moment for literally just a few moments.

  2. I am sorry to hear you and your husband had to go through such a tough experience. (Take good care of yourself — this kind of trauma can influence your health even after quite some time)

    And I like it that you used the occasion to move forward in life.

    My tip for getting unstuck and to bring change is to relax and just do it for the fun of it. IMHO too many people are obsessed with results and not paying enough attention to the process.


    1. Great point. Fun is often a casualty of creating change, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As you point out, sometimes lightening up and relaxing into change can reap lots of benefits on many levels.

    2. Great tip, Akemi! Being slightly over-rational with a tendency to worry about tangible results I`m struggling with exactly this point at the moment! but EVERYTHING is telling me to let go, so I guess my worries can`t stand a chance anymore!

      Thank you and thanks to Ali and thechangeblog for inspiring me!

  3. Powerful story. Just had the same wake up call in January when Bruce fell back in his chair and was non responsive, not breathing, no heart beat. Life is too short – it’s not a dress rehearsal . . . live your dream NOW. It’s our message that we will continue to shout as long as we have breath. (Bruce is fine – doctors can’t explain what or why this happened)

  4. VERY same here, i was all but bullet proof until leaving the end of a lengthy 3 hour work meeting and I was the go to project manager and VP Sales / HR and even Ops manager at times I was in charge of making it all work. All happen. The final move had my signature on it. As I sat on the washroom toilet and pushed trying to rush and get out to lunch I felt a pain unlike when i tore my knees ligaments , worse , ten times worse pain than a sciatic nerve blow up. Death was inevitable. I truly began counting down my seconds. No time for prayer or a telephone call to loved ones. I stumbled out of the washroom pants barely buttoned, shirt sloppy, the lights were bright, sunshine hurt my eyes, mega migraine , the only thing and person I could keep repeating was the story of my cousins wife who passed from a lethal aneurysm and told my boss this. Get me to a ER now. If I die these are my symptoms. Must be a stroke or aneurysm? It felt as if someone had impaled my face with a large knife , sinus area was tender. Eyes were sore. my head was about to explode. I had not been drinking nor abused any illicit substances and this was 100 times a bad hangover I had during my younger years. Beyond pain. After a day in the ER and CT scans, MRI, blood work , all came back normal and clean ! The doc told me my body was 10 years younger inside. No ideas. The IV meds they gave me brought down the pain after 4 hours to a level where I was able to lay still and not groan in pain. I went home and as soon as I awoke the next morning I was sick, could not sip a drop of water, vomit and then BOOM. Back to square one. This cycle repeated 3 days. Then I spent 2 full weeks in my bedroom with shutters down living on ginger ale, could not swallow a pill. Needed something that had instant release pain relief or I was going to end it myself. Now they think it was a trigeminal nerve pain, call them suicide migraines, look it up. The pain is documented to be several times worse than child birth. I was in this state 2 full weeks. I never returned to work. This was 3 yrs ago. and 4 months today. This changed everything.

  5. We never know when disaster or awesomeness will occur. I am glad your husband is well. One way my husband and I try to live is One Day at a Time. Today is the only day we have so we try to make it special, purposeful and full of passion. We perform at our best and endeavor to keep our word and live with an loving heart, open and receptive mind and a grateful spirit. It really helps us enjoy life

  6. Ali, thank you for sharing that personal story! A very scary moment indeed. The life changing event that pushed me over the edge was inspirational dissatisfaction. I knew I wanted to do more, and I knew I could do more. I also knew that if I didn’t make a change, it would affect my spirit and my desire to grow. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be on the road less traveled, but the majority of the time, I enjoy where the journey leads me and what it teaches me.

  7. Hi Ali, thank you for sharing the story about you and your husband. I was in a similar car accident at age 17 – down to the roof being cut off the car. I was in the hospital almost 6 weeks, but I was too young to have that life-changing moment.

    That came in 2006 when I took an antibiotic that wreaked havoc on my nervous system. I was in pain for almost 2 years. That’s when CJ and I took back our lives. We resigned our public teaching jobs which were killing us, started our own business, and now we walk 5 miles a day and live a life we love. No more wishing our days away.

    The time to start doing everything you want is now. I’m glad you said it!!!

    1. Hi Tammy, wonderful to hear how you and CJ turned your lives around after your awful experience. Love the language you use – “took back our lives.” Great stuff. Taking personal responsibility such a vital ingerdient of creating change

  8. Hi Ali,

    Your story is very inspirational. I too had this moment 2years ago when I was diagnosed with melanoma a day after the birth of my baby. I was very scared and worried I would not be there to see him grow up. I had big surgery to remove it and was lucky not to need more treatment. I have regular check ups and after a couple of months when the doctor was happy that I had a good chance it might not return I began to think about my life and what I really wanted for me and my children. But now I am stuck not knowing how to make the changes so we can live a happy, meaningful life. I am so grateful to still be alive to raise my children but the depression I have struggled with on and off over the years is returning because I don’t know what to do.

    1. Carrie, wanting to make change but feeling like you don’t how is very common. When any of us start off on the path of doing something new that requires making change of some sort we don’t know how. The “how” unfolds as we start to take action, experiment and explore.

      I have always found it useful in those situations to just look for the first step. Maybe it is reaching out for help to someone with experience of the change you want to make, maybe it is doing a bit of research, maybe it is brainstorming ideas with someone you trust.

      Then look for the next step, then the next step and so on.

      Sometimes we get stuck because we feel we need to how we will do everything before we start. In those situations I always find this mantra which I learnt from a lady called Pamela Slim helpful “I don’t know how but I will find a way.”

      I also really like this quote from Martin Luther King too -> “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

    2. I don`t know if it might help, but I was in a similar situation and found the book The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller extremely useful to learn how to unfold our hidden creative power by accepting depression and overcoming it. The thought that depression might actually be a good and powerful symptom from our subconscious to tell us we are ignoring some tough but important feeling helped me learn how to listen to myself in a deeper way, and slowly my true desires and dreams are resurfacing. :)

  9. Ali,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I facilitate a number of groups in my line of work, and I often stress that where we are at today is a consequence of the choices we have made in the past, and where we are going to be tomorrow is a consequence of the choices we will make in the future.

    At times people in my group challenge my statements, telling me about traumatic experiences that were beyond their control, and how those experiences changed their lives. Inevitably, through the group discussion it always comes back to choices; specifically in the case of traumatic experiences, the way we choose to deal with those experiences.

    For some, the wake up call is necessary for the changes they need to undertake to become happier, healthier people. These experiences cause a dissonance, or conflict, in their minds and how they view the world, resulting in a change the way they choose to live their lives.

    It is the blessed few that have developed the ability to self-reflect (another choice) and make conscious choices that are more reflective of who they are and who they want to be without experiencing something traumatic in their lives.

    Very thought provoking post. Thanks!


    1. Hi Chris, glad you found the post thought provoking. As I mentioned above to Jack, I like to live and work by the mantra “You can’t always choose what happens to you but you can always choose how you respond.”

      For me it is all about taking personal responsibility – even in the situations that I haven’t chosen.

      I am totally with you on what you say about where we are today being a consequence of our choices and responses to situations. As you point out, some people can find that hard to accept. It is a great reminder that awareness is a powerful friend.

    1. Lisa, that Twain quote has been one of my absolute faves since I decided to escape the corporate world 12 years ago. I have always found it has given me strength when I am making change in my life or business.

      It reminds me that I would rather give something a shot, even if it doesn’t work out than spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been.

  10. Nicely told, Ali. While reading your story and wondering why so many people don’t pursue changes that they want, I wondered if it’s because the changes seem too big, too fast. I’m always working on some changes in my life, which makes them come in smaller steps and last over a longer time. It makes change a regular part of my life. On the professional side, for example, I’m always working on a “10% percent project.” It could be something very distinct from my regular job. It is always something that excites me. Plus, once or twice, the 10% project morphed into my full-time direction. I know that some changes require a full commitment and cannot be handled as easily in little pieces over time. But many changes, like getting more fit, work best over time and in small steps. The nibbling approach to change might make it less scary for some. I hope that your day goes great!

    1. I agree – breaking a big change or goal down into small manageable steps makes it feel a load easier and helps keep motivation going too. Having said that, I think sometimes we need to be willing to take a leap from time to time.

  11. A powerful story, thanks. I think we need to be mindful of how fragile and temporary life is as well as what a tremendous gift it is. Let’s not let our time trickle trhough our fingers.

  12. I really have loved this article. Last year in October my boyfriend got shot….and it hit me, all we have is now. I kept putting off our plans telling him we were young and had all the time. And at 27, he was dead. The funniest thing is i came back to the same dead end job which i have always wanted to change. And now it hits me, i also can go at anytime and i should make the best of now. So will follow your advice and Mark Twain’s :)

  13. Hi Ali, I entirely agree and relate with the sentiments of your post, and the comments do highlight how so often it takes a traumatic event to cause change. My personal philosophy on change is that we should always be aiming to make the life ahead of us better than what has gone before.
    That said we do prevaricate and avoid big changes because of their downsides and sometimes because of the emotional hang–up of letting go.
    That’s when I find a simplified “Time Line” approach works so very well. Imagining your self 2 years ahead in the alternative situations of no change and change, reflecting back on how insurmountable those change elements “actually were,” and comparing the happiness factor of the two.

    1. Hi Bob, I like your philosophy. My own philosophy is to design life based on my core values and my own definition of success and take action to turn that into reality. Over the years that the life, work and relationships you really want don’t happen by accident.

  14. Live is difficult anyway. We might as well do the things that will be difficult to meet our goals and what we want in life. Sometimes the difficult part is starting the process of change, and then the next difficult part is maintaining the change. A change is a lifestyle change. When we do begin the process of change, it will be difficult but after a while the task for a change become easier and our confidence level starts to increase. There will be set backs but that’s part of the process but if we continue moving forward then change is inevitable we will be see progress as we look back.


    1. Hi Eugene, creating change certainly does bring about all sorts of practical and emotional challenges. That is why I think it is so important to keep reminding ourselves of the benefits and pleasures of how things will be once we have navigating the change process.

  15. Very true, Ali. We should never wait for a wake up call to make our lives better because wake up calls can be tragic and can make your quest to make a great life even more difficult. In my case, I got my wake up call when I was in Japan, supposedly just reaching a goal that I’ve been putting all my efforts on for years. I felt like my life ended right there. I hadn’t pictured out what’s next after that goal. It was then that I realized I was looking at life and goals the wrong way, and that I should make a change with the way I was living. It took more than a year, but I was able to find my true goal in life and I’m now making that happen with a renewed vigor for life.

    1. Great point Jorge – making sure we are working on goals that are the right ones for us is very important. I think that is why it is so important to get clear on core values, create a definition of success and have a clear and compelling vision of what ideal looks like.

  16. Ali, it’s stories like yours that remind me how short and unpredictable life is. I’ve found that fear is a HUGE motivating factor for not wanting to change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what could be. Fear of failure. You name it… One of the things I’ve been focusing on is an attitude of “do it anyway.” That way I’m accepting the emotion (fear), allowing it to move through me, and taking action on creating the life I’ve always wanted.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Aisha, fear is definately a huge factor that can really take a grip and stop people from making change.

      In those situations I have always found it useful to ask “what needs to be in place for it to feel safe for me to move forward despite the fear?”

      I have found that focussing on taking action that will manage the fear really helps to reduce the fear and keep focus on making the change hapen.

  17. I found this blog via a search for “waiting for my life to change”. It is not fear that is stopping us (husband and myself) it is RESOURCES. Money money money. Every job appied to or for will not go forward. Frustration and depression are corrosive to my soul. I do not have a handicap of any sort neither does my husband. The situation we are in now regarding the environment we live in looks hopeless, very dim, surrounded on all sides..like a box we cannot get out of. I would never blame God or forsake my faith but this kind of inscrutible “demand of patience” is ridiculous. I am pretty cranky. I wonder if this blog is for me. Please reply!

    1. Hi Paulette,

      I felt I needed to respond to your comment. I don’t know the details of you and your husband’s situation. First of all, you have all the RESOURCES, and it is within you. By the fact that you’re still alive and having gone through difficult times, tells me that you have a life time of accumulated experiences. It is time for you to tap into your own inner RESOURCES to bring about changes within you. Instead of looking at the situation as a hopeless event, start looking at it as a life changing event. Click on this link below, I hope this helps. Eugene


    2. Hi Paulette,
      Sorry to hear you are having such a tough time. Creating change in our lives can be a very tough and challenging process. I wish you and your husband well as you navigate the challenges you currently face to create a new and different reality for yourselves.

  18. Great article Ali! Change is inevitable but sometimes we humans learn the hard way how to embrace change. Fortunately, I haven’t had such a tragic moment like you did with your husband’s crash, however, several years ago I was going through a very heavy relationship breakup. I was devastated and was on an emotional roller-coaster for a couple months. Without going into details, at the time I hated myself, the world and my ex partner. I thought I would never get out of that emotional sinkhole. Yet, as time passed I came to realize that that relationship was my greatest source of pain and my greatest teacher. I thought me a lot. And, what’s most important it launched me onto an entirely different path in life. I am now in a very beautiful relationship, I am doing the work I love and I even moved countries. So in hindsight, even though I’d known for years that that relationship was not good for me and I resisted change, life itself pushed me to make those big changes, and I am happy I did!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is so true that we often resist change even when we know we need to embrace it. Great to hear that you have moved forward and creating what sounds like a much better situation for yourself.

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