Embracing change: Why it's ok to take a step back or do something different

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Change can often be perceived as a negative thing. If you decide to quit your agency, people whisper and wonder what went so wrong. If you choose to stop being a freelancer and get a full-time job, it's seen as a step backwards. Or if you opt for a completely different career path, people believe you're lost and confused.

It's a British thing, perhaps. A sense of pride. We don't like to be seen as failures. We want to always feel like we're moving forward. And if you're a millennial, you've apparently got to deal with the crippling effects of perfectionism too. No wonder change is scary for many of us. But here's the thing. Change should be embraced. It's part of life. "Change is inevitable. Change is constant," said Benjamin Disraeli.

Have you been chewing over the idea of changing your life, your business, your career or all of the above? Frightened to take the leap? Worried about failure? Allow us to share some advice on why it's ok to embrace change. Because, as they say, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Face the fear and do it anyway

What are you afraid of? What's stopping you from making that change? Is it the worry that you'll make a mistake? Are you concerned about what others think? Think it's too late? Because often the biggest obstacle is you and your perspective.

First of all, does it really matter if you fail? Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world have failed more times than you can shake a stick at. Ask yourself this: what's the worst that could happen? Nine times out of 10, you realise that fear is the only thing that's holding you back. "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one," Elbert Hubbard said.

As for what others think, who cares! When we make changes to our lives, some people can react negatively and that's ok because it says more about them than you. You're either making them envious because you're doing something they haven't dared to do themselves or your decisions are questioning their very existence. Focus instead on what works for you and you alone.

And finally, if you think you can't change, for whatever reason, consider the wise words of Bikram Choudhury: "Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again."

Remember that change isn't final

If the worry of making the wrong decision is stopping you from making any change at all, remind yourself that change isn't final; you can change things again. So if you decide to do something and it doesn't work out, don't panic! It's ok. You can most likely go back or make further changes.

The point is... life doesn't stay in the same place. I love the saying, "Even if you stumble, you're still moving forward."

Don't rush into change, make a plan

Whilst it's tempting to jump straight into action and change things immediately, it's best to sleep on it and develop a plan. You need to have a strategy in mind. Start by breaking things down into manageable chunks.

For example, if you want to go freelance, you can start by vowing to save an "emergency fund" each month, so you've got a safety net in place. And then you can do all the fun stuff like choosing a business name and designing a logo. Use Trello to put together a task list. You'll feel less overwhelmed if you have a realistic, achievable plan.

If change isn't happening, take some time out

If you're struggling to figure out next steps, keep yourself busy to give your mind a rest. Do something repetitive like housework or exercise – something that allows you to embrace mindfulness and completely switch off. Go on holiday, if you can. Before you know it, the answers will magically appear.

Be willing to step back before you move forward

Sometimes, you can't get to that next level unless you're prepared to accept a change in circumstance, salary or status. You might have to level down before you level up, so to speak.

My father left a well-paid career in marketing to follow his dreams and become a teacher. He skipped a full-time salary for two years as he went back to university to get his PhD. It was tough. But it was the best thing he ever did.

With my own career, I was offered a full-time position at a temporary sales job right after university. I was waiting for the right journalism opportunity to come up and earning money in the meantime. Well, it just so happened I also got an offer at my local radio station. The latter paid £8,000 less a year but it was what I wanted to do for a living. I figured that the salary might not be ideal but in the long-term, my career choice would pay off. And it really did.

Don't forget to look after yourself

When we're going through change, it's easy to neglect ourselves. We don't go to the gym. We eat unhealthy convenience foods. We might drink more alcohol to cope. Change can be stressful, granted. But you need to remember to look after yourself. You should aim to feel well-rested, healthy and full of energy.

Drinking booze and eating crap will lead to a lack of decent sleep, which will only exacerbate the situation, leaving you emotional – not a good place to be when you're trying to make rational decisions to change your life.

Embrace change before it forces you to

More often than not, we have no control over change. It happens without our input. When we get an inkling that change is coming, we have two options: we either wait to see what happens or we take control of the situation ourselves. You have to use your discretion to decide which route is best.

Above all, be brave. Because as Walt Disney said: "All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them." And you're braver than you think and capable of facing any challenge, if you put your mind to it. Good luck!