When major changes happen in life, whether they are changes we wished for and chose or changes that came unexpectedly and outside our control, they come with a combination of loss and gain.
When we choose the change, we tend to focus on the gain. When we don’t, we think more about the loss.
I suppose this is only natural. When unexpected change happens to us, we were probably not really wanting anything to be different. When we choose change, we usually do so because we’re unhappy or dissatisfied with some situation; we presumably perceive the new situation as better or we wouldn’t have chosen it.
But I have a theory. My theory is that we are at least as likely, if not more likely, to end up happier when change happens to us than when we choose change.
We go willingly forward into change we choose with high expectations that making this choice will have a long-term, positive effect on how happy we are. But, as my husband says, “you’re still you.” We can move, change jobs, buy cars, take classes, earn degrees, have children, start a new hobby, but we still take ourselves with us. The joy in the new change fades and we are right back where we started.
That is not to say we cannot change and grow. Only that making changes in our life situation rarely results in us becoming happier people unless those changes are preceded by a lot of soul searching to figure out what exactly we’re really dissatisfied with.
On the flip side, when an unexpected change comes along (assuming, of course, the unexpected change wasn’t anonymously receiving the winning lottery ticket), we have the opportunity to rally our courage, face the unknown, and rise to the occasion.
We don’t go into these changes with the expectation that we’re going to be happier. We go into them with a sense of mourning and loss and the determination to get through somehow. There is only an upside. Plus, it’s the scary, out of control life events that motivate us to do the kind of soul searching required to make lasting change.
I think of all the times that someone has said, “it was the best thing that ever happened to me” about something that was initially perceived as awful. I try to think of an example of any change I have chosen in my life situation that resulted in me saying that. So far, every one of them comes with caveats.
For example, we decided to move last month. Not exactly true to our nomadic intentions, we moved about 500 yards. I’m not sorry we moved–it’s quieter, the neighbors are great, and we now have 2 bathrooms (that’s a big plus!)–but there are still some downsides. For one, I miss the sunsets and sunrises from the roof. Perhaps it’s more because the weather has been so gray lately, but I really want to see the sun soon.