A while back, I met up with an acquaintance. I liked talking to her -- she's funny, happy to help others and she hosts great parties.
But she’s been working in the same job for several years now. It's an entry-level position that doesn't have much opportunity, if any, to move up within the company. Many of her colleagues are recent grads that stay for a year or two before moving onto something else.
When I asked her how her job was going, she replied that things were fine. She's happy with where she is and doesn't have plans for anything different. As she says, her job is stable and pays the rent. Recently though, she confessed that it's easy for her to stay complacent in her life. While she resists the idea of change or new things in general, she also feels that she's stuck in a rut and doesn't really have much to look forward to.
The Bezos regret minimization framework.
Founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos says that he was working at a high-paying finance position in New York when he came up with the idea for Amazon. When deciding whether to leave his job to create a start-up, his decision became very easy when he used what he calls the “regret minimization framework".
Using the framework, he imagines himself at age 80, a time when he wants to have looked back at his life and lived with as few regrets as possible. By picturing this scenario, Bezos said that he knew that if he didn’t leave his job to work on his startup idea, he would regret it, even if it resulted in failure.
The next thing he knew, Bezos was driving from New York to Seattle, writing a business plan for his new company as he traveled across the country to start a new life.
Though it might be comfortable to stay in one spot for the time-being, most of us end up regretting the things we don’t do, as opposed to whether or not we succeeded. We face these decisions all the time, from our everyday choices to major turning events in our lives.
For instance, I decided that I needed to exercise more often to stay healthy. Even though I had envisioned myself jogging outside, I just couldn’t get myself to do anything about it. I would tell myself that it could always just wait until later.
Eventually, I started to notice the excuses I would come up with. I would tell myself that the weather was too hot, or I was too tired. It came to a point where I realized I was just waiting for a perfect situation to present itself.
As I caught myself in this self-talk, I realized that I was staying complacent in a situation that I didn't really want to be in. I realized then that if I wanted something done, I needed to plan for it.
How to implement change.
First of all, it’s important to know where you are in your progress. As I said in my piece on what escape from North Korea can teach us about change, sometimes change starts with being inspired by something or someone unique in your life.
Then, recognize what you have and what you want to work on. Even if you're not where you want to be, there are many things to be grateful for -- whether it’s good health, relationships or even just being able to enjoy a nice day outside.
Be specific in knowing what you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to exercise, travel more or learn a new skill. Once you recognize this, you can map out the steps you need to take.
Do something that scares you, something that is out of your usual pattern. Whether it’s sending an email to someone you don’t know, or pulling out a map and planning where you want to travel.
When I first started getting out and doing some exercise, I felt uncomfortable. I was worried about how I looked and feeling tired.
But at the same time, I was happy. Happy that I was doing something that I wanted to, even if I had to get adjusted to the process. It scared me, and that’s a good thing.
Because sometimes you need to be "weird" in order to achieve anything. Personal growth means taking risks. Inevitably, it means accepting that pain, discomfort and rejection are just a part of the process.
Being content isn’t simply about being staying in one spot. It’s also enjoying the process you take to reach other places, with all the bumps along the way.