“All the world’s a stage…”
– William Shakespeare
Have you ever gone to a play and wondered how they changed the sets so quickly between scenes? The stagehands zip around, vague figures in the dark, and when the lights go up you’re suddenly in a new world.
If only moving or otherwise switching stage sets in our lives could be so easy!
Of course, the stagehands have the advantage of a well-defined plan, right down to the tiniest detail. Okay, this yellow lamp goes here, that teacup with the red lipstick on the rim goes there. Same plan and place every time.
I don’t know about you, but I have found most changes in life to be a little less clear cut.
Which can actually be a good thing.
It’s good to plan, and some people are superstars at it. And I for one love the satisfaction that comes from checking things off on my to-do list. But there are some perhaps unexpected skills that can make all the difference when it comes to bringing our next act to life:
Improvisation, resilience, and an aversion to “extreme tidiness.”
Let’s say you have a goal in mind…a picture of the stage you’d like to step onto.
Perhaps you’re planning a move to Hawaii. Or you have an idea for a side business you want to launch. Or your ideal right now may be to take a six-month sabbatical to travel, experience different cultures, recharge your batteries, and then return to your current job. Maybe blog about your journey.
So you set up your sabbatical checklist: Save money for travel. Check. Plan itinerary. Check. Get approval from work. Check. Set up a basic blog. Check. Buy comfortable shoes. Check.
And so on, until…
…you step off the plane in (let’s say) Prague, the first stop on your journey.
Two weeks later, after gratifying visits to the Museum of Decorative Arts, Letna Park, the Strahov Monastery, and the Lennon Wall (yes, that Lennon), you are sitting at a sidewalk café, writing up your last blog post before hitting the road again.
A woman at the next table asks what you are writing. A chat ensues. You learn that she is a senior editor at a publication with a major online presence. She invites you to meet with her the following week to discuss publishing your posts throughout your trip. Hmmm. Do you stick to your planned itinerary?
Or improvise, and learn more about this unexpected opportunity?
See what I mean?
When you apply an improvisational approach to researching a geographic move or a new business idea, or to any change you are considering, you may find that an alert openness to the unexpected will lead you to a better version of that change. Or to something even better.
Even the best-laid plans can’t prevent every bump in the road. There are ups and downs that go along with trying new things, and not everyone will agree with our choices. Being able to take things in stride and not getting hung up on outside “reviews” can help us stay focused and motivated.
That even goes, to a certain extent, for super-positive reviews, as wonderful and helpful as they are to receive. Positive reviews can also sway us towards a direction that is not true to ourselves. If we get heaps of praise at work and it feels good, we may stay at a job we don’t like longer than is good for us.
We can enjoy being appreciated.
But staying true to ourselves, rather than trying to create an identity around what brings praise, will bring us much more joy.
So be yourself!
By the way, that’s not to say we should ignore valid observations and helpful tips. Even the best stage actors need some direction and course correction. But they have also learned to trust their own instincts.
Last, but not least, taking good care of ourselves — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially — will naturally lead to increased strength and resilience. (Read my post Olympic Training for Change Makers here, for tips on how to get into “training” for change.)
Take good care of your magnificent authentic self!
An aversion to “extreme tidiness”
Those who have seen my desk may get a chuckle out of this one.
(What can I say, it’s work in progress!)
It’s good to have an organized desk and an organized life. (Anyone have any great tips?) Being organized, each in our own unique way, makes it possible to spend more time doing the things we love and less on trying to find our keys. I am always in search of ways to streamline and stay on top of the things that are most important to me.
But the “dark side” of organization is not moving forward with anything until we’ve dotted all the “I”s and crossed all the “T”s and tied it all up in a great big bow. Our inner critic can prevent us from doing anything at all by telling us our project or plan or product must be perfect before we release it into the world.
Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. Avoid them!
Share your unique self with the world!
As I write, I am surrounded by boxes. I am moving to my own new “stage set” in a week. My plan when I moved here was to live in this apartment for ten years. I just wanted to get settled in and not move for a decade, not deal with any more change after lots of personal upheaval. But three years in, through a series of twists and turns, I am making a move that fills me with joy.
We may have a vision of what we want our “stage” to look like…we may wish we could just get settled down into it and stop the change!
But that’s like telling life to come to a halt, and where would we be then?
Stuck. Craving change. Frustrated by dull routine.
Being open to what may come along, what may transpire, and being able to make different choices, even if they don’t meet the specifications of our stage set, takes us forward.
Go there. Be yourself. Have fun!