What Living in 3 Countries and 2 Continents Taught Me About How to Change Your Life

Lighthouse at Puerto Banús © Karin Pinter

As someone who’s lived in seven cities in three countries across two continents, you might say that change is my best friend. However, I never really thought of leaving my hometown… until I did.

It wasn’t one big thing in particular that defined my initial decision, but an accumulation of life circumstances and sensations that led me to leave the life and place that I knew so well, and go somewhere hugely unknown for me.

It’s from what I learned after taking this first leap that I began to realise what really goes on in our minds with regards to personal change, and how we sometimes block ourselves.

All of this stemmed from my desire to grow and explore the outer world, which essentially became a deep exploration of my inner world. Since then, every relocation has included some measure of conscious choice and circumstantial needs; some more comfortable than others, based on the things I accepted or the things I resisted.

I learned that every move has been a reflection of some part of me.

Sometimes change sneaks up on us, sometimes we consciously choose it, and sometimes, sometimes we try to avoid it, and sometimes we hope it will just magically happen without putting in any effort.

If we try to avoid change, it usually gets louder the more we hide from it. Once we learn to accept that change exists for our personal or professional growth and we learn to navigate it, we’ll experience more satisfaction in all areas of our lives. This will bring us closer to what we seek, which may even actually be closer than we thought.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that change becomes easier over time, because every situation is different and includes its own set of people, decisions and actions. That said, exercising it does make the overall process of change easier, because you gain more adaptability and depth of understanding.

You may have lived in the same town your entire life, or done like I did. Either way, what matters is whether you’re evolving or staying stuck. How happy you really are with your life will show you ‘where’ you are in this regard (even your body will give you signs). It will also depend how open you are to this thing called ‘change’ in order to achieve the life you wish for.

You see, it’s easy to talk about wanting change in our lives, yet there is more to it than just wishing it into existence.

You can try to sit around waiting for things to fall from the sky without doing some sort of work to move you in their direction, but it probably won’t happen that way. It can happen, however, if you’re working on yourself and acting in alignment with what you seek. This is when life can surprise you sitting around apparently “doing nothing.”

What does it take, though?

There are essentially 5 pillars to making change happen in your life, and most of them are not action-basedRemember, we are human beings, not human doings, yet so many people have it the other way around.

Many people get stuck at the first pillar of change because they get overwhelmed by the rest and don’t make the time to sit still in the first place to listen to their heart. However, it’s all about breaking things down into achievable steps.

The 5 pillars of change:

  1. Awareness; the first step is when you wake up to the notion that something in your life is ‘off’ and needs to be different. It’s often sparked by this simple, yet powerful question, “What if… ?” (fill in with your thoughts of possibility)
  2. Conscious choice; having come to this awareness, do you choose to stay as or where you are, or do you dare to strive for something different? Here you’ll sift through your values, some of which may need fine tuning.
  3. Decision: make the change (clue: you generally gain positive emotional momentum when you focus more on what you want than what you don’t). Here you’ll work on, and with, your beliefs.
  4. Learn how to change with tools, resources, and help. Here you’ll work on, and with, your attitude. This is working from the inside out, to help you create the ideal circumstances and environment for success.
  5. Align your actions to be the change. Here you’ll work the muscle of behaviour by integrating your energy, values, beliefs and attitudes. Become friends with adaptability, because you’ll need it in order to break free from your mental cage.

Getting started might seem a bit tough at times, but once you’ve taken that first step, things begin to open up. However, you need to be patient with yourself, and if patience has never been ‘your thing’, you’re going to have to learn to get comfortable with it.

To have what we wish for, we need to put in some amount of quality time, energy, thought and action.

All of these need to be positively aligned to achieve our desired outcome. I say positively, because if you’re working on something but your underlying belief is that you can’t have it, you’ll be working against yourself and your desired outcome.

Also, hard work is for martyrs. We don’t need more martyrs, we need more people creating from a place of heartfelt, playful consciousness, because life is supposed to be fun.

How to apply these facets of change in a real life scenario

Moving countries isn’t as typical in most people’s lives as changing relationships, so we’ll go with the latter scenario because it affects so many people, and it still has a lot to do with taking leaps of faith and changing our personal world.

Imagine you’re in a relationship. For a time, it was everything to you. Yet over time and even after trying to make it work, you’ve come to the realisation that you’re not happy in your relationship. This is the consciousness part of change.

Now, you start to weigh out the pros and cons of staying or leaving. If you step out of the relationship, you will at the very least no longer be in that unhappy situation, even if you don’t know how or when you will eventually meet someone else to be with. However, if you stay, you’ll become miserable; this will have a negative impact on your health, attitude and overall life performance. This is the choice part.

After sifting and sorting, you understand that it’s time to step out of that relationship. This involves a lot of internal dialogue to give yourself the strength to act on the decision part of change.

Next, you need to figure out how to tell your partner, the actions needed to step out of the relationship and the ones to move forward with your life. This is the learning part where you develop the emotional intelligence, communication skills and abilities to start making the shift happen. This is where professional help often comes in handy to act as a support to offer a safe space, knowledge and tools to manage these changes.

Once you’ve got that theory integrated, you need to live it by working on yourself to be the person who attracts what you’re seeking. Not just take action externally, but also become the person who is able to step into a new world that you’ll be creating for yourself, based on what you’ve learned. This is the aligned action part.

For many people, stepping out of a relationship — especially a long term one — can seem almost impossible. Especially with all the mind chatter, fears of rejection or negative repercussion, “What will people say / how will my partner react?”, logistics, children if they have them, and so many other things to take into account. But one needs to weigh out the consequences of staying with the consequences of leaving.

For example, leaving a relationship where there are children involved — even though the separation will hurt in the beginning — will potentially help those children learn what it means to be in a happy and fulfilling relationship when each or either of their parents has that, instead of growing up with two parents who really don’t want to be together (and potentially repeating that pattern themselves as adults, because that is what they ‘learned’).

In such a case, even though you may be leaving a relationship with someone else, you’ll actually be developing a better relationship with yourself. Also, it’s okay and very healthy to be by yourself for some time. This is very important to remember, because you are always the first person you will spend the rest of your life with, no matter who else may be in it. Knowing yourself helps you connect better with other people.

We need to be happy and aligned with ourselves first, so we can truly be happy someone else (who is also hopefully happy and aligned with themselves).

Whether it’s a relationship, career move, relocation or any other type of life decision, change is always present. Any such change means we are essentially changing our inner and outer world, even if we stay in the same town.

The question for you is; are you following your heart and moving towards what you really want, or expecting it to appear out of the blue?

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
John Augustus Shedd — Salt from My Attic (1928)