Susan wanted to go back to school after her twins had left for college to get her law degree. She wasn’t worried about being the oldest one in her class. She wasn’t worried about keeping up with the studies. She wasn’t even worried about taking the LSAT. Here’s what worried her:
“Who will take care of my dogs if I go back to work full-time? They’re used to having me home all day.”
This talented, vibrant woman was willing to put the imaginary wishes of her dogs three or four years from now, before her own desire to become a lawyer. Something else had to be going on!
A little digging showed that the dogs were just a convenient excuse. What she was really worried about was upsetting the carefully crafted balance she and her husband had stuck in their married life. He was the breadwinner; she was the homemaker. If she did something different, she wasn’t sure how he would respond. What if he left her? What if the friendships she’d cemented over PTA bake sales and field trips and Little League games couldn’t weather the change from stay-at-home mom to career woman? What if she lost everything she’d built her life upon?
Susan was afraid of success. Actually, it wasn’t fear of the goal itself, but of the byproducts of achieving her goal. The domino effect of making one change in her life – going back to school – might be more than she could handle.
If you find yourself not doubting your abilities, but feeling anxious about pursuing your goal because you’re not sure what will happen if you do, you may be like Susan. And it is a legitimate concern. Change often begets more change – more than we bargain for. But there are ways to prepare for it.
Talk to the people closest to you. Share your fears about the changes in your relationship that might happen as a result of pursuing your goal. You may be surprised to find that they don’t care one whit whether you’re dressed in blue jeans or a three-piece suit; they just want to know they’ll see you at Bunco once a month.
Be honest about your concerns. Don’t misplace your anxiety about your marriage onto your dogs – or your kids.
Realize that change usually happens in increments. Yes, going back to school will be a radical change, but the subsequent adjustments in relationships will be more gradual. You will have time to talk about them and discuss them.
Work with a coach or other expert. Coaches are trained in managing change, and will be able to help you predict some of the other secondary adjustments that may result.
Yes, things will change. But not all change is bad; in fact, you may find that your life in every area ends up better than you had ever hoped it would be. And that the dogs don’t miss you all that much anyway.
The next time we’ll discuss: Reason #10 You Don’t Think You Can.