Often, when I’m working with my clients or course members, the concepts we explore together take on a brand new meaning given what’s going on in my own life. Such was the case this summer. In June, I underwent a massive change in my life, including selling our house of 16 years where we raised our children, moving (in the span of only one month) from a country-like small suburban town in Connecticut to a bustling, diverse city with 122,000+ residents, dealing with relationship shifts, letting go of so much from the past, and much more. The changes have rippled through every part of my life, and impacted literally everything about my identity and activities.
This was a voluntary, conscious move and plan for me, yet it’s still rocked my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. When we go through something this big (like a move, a change in relationship status, a serious illness, a loss, a firing) – whether it’s a voluntary choice or a move that’s has been foisted on us – we shift and morph.
The question is, “Are you growing stronger and happier through this change, or breaking yourself against it?”
I’ve found that if we’re extremely mindful and conscious about how we’re thinking, feeling, and addressing the challenges and changes, our life can improve dramatically because of it. Even those changes that we considered devastating and horribly negative can yield true blessings and amazing opportunities and developments that were not possible had the change not occurred.
Below are 5 ways that life-altering change boosts people’s power, happiness and fulfillment, if they approach it with life-affirming mindsets and actions:
#1: You are able to see your own brilliance and the strength of your capabilities in a radically new light
When we stay unhappily stuck in one place for many years, we forget what we’re capable of – how strong, resilient, creative and resourceful we can be. We can go underground and suppress who we really are. We become highly influenced by the people around us, including their beliefs, actions, values and mindsets.
Have you ever found yourself living or working for years amongst people you simply don’t align with, or even respect and like? That experience – of being isolated and alone in your environment — can be crushing, yet millions are living it every day, whether in relationships that fail to fulfill them, or work that falls very short of what they want to do in the world.
When you take brave, bold action to leave behind a culture or environment that doesn’t fit, you’re finally free to soar and become who you want to be, consciously and with deliberate intention.
#2: You overcome challenges you believed you never could
I remember that towards the end of my corporate life, I was green with envy of consultants I knew who ran fabulous, lucrative practices and businesses of their own. I fantasized frequently about having my own business, and being free of the misery I experienced in my corporate roles.
But deep down, I just didn’t feel smart, strong, or capable enough to make the leap. But when the tragedies of 9/11 occurred and I was laid off, I took this chance and said, “Enough! I’ve had it with this unfulfilling career that isn’t me. I’m going to create something that IS me that I’ll be proud and happy to engage with.” And I did it.
I stayed stuck and sick for many years because I never believed I was capable enough to thrive in my own venture. Now I know how wrong I was.
Change can help us see that we are stronger and more competent and capable than we believed. And it’s a thrilling revelation. (By the way, if you’re green with envy of someone else, that’s a warning sign that change is called for in your life.)
#3: You see clearly who your real friends are
When we undergo huge change, we often need some patient, powerful support and help from friends and loved ones to stay afloat and regain our footing. I’ve seen in my own life that some people whom I thought were close, enduring friends actually weren’t. They were only “fair-weather friends” who were attracted to friendship with me because of certain things I gave them, but weren’t there for me when the going got tough in my life. And I saw the opposite too – amazing friends and allies who would do anything for me in my time of need, offering beautiful help, love and support.
Seeing who your real friends are in life is a powerful gift. Take that gift and run with it. Don’t keep people in your life who are “friends” only because of what they can take from you.
#4: You learn to deal with people’s negativity, judgments and projections in a more powerful, life-affirming way
In my coaching work, I see brave women every day making huge changes in their lives, and when they do, they often face harsh, critical judgments from their “friends,” family and colleagues. Many of the folks I work with long to take a leap away from their unhappy corporate lives, and start their own compelling new venture, but their “friends” say things like:
“You’re crazy to give up your 9 to 5 job and great benefits in this market!”
“Are you sure you have what it takes to succeed in this new direction? So many fail at it.”
“Why do you want to rock the boat and try this? Can’t you be happy with what you have?”
I remember when I decided to leave corporate life behind and earn my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, one woman in the grocery store said “Why do you feel you need to do THAT?” And even my financial consultant (whom I quickly fired) said, “You’ll never make any money doing that.”
Making big change threatens other human beings. We want to stay in the familiar, even if that familiar territory is killing our souls. And I’ve seen that when someone leaves their unhappy life or job behind, many of the folks around them become even more dissatisfied and angry because they’re watching someone else escape the pain and they long for that. (Here’s a helpful look at why we resist change and the factors that influence resistance).
Embracing change in an empowering way and following your own, authentic path helps you build stronger boundaries, communicate more boldly, follow your own heart and mind, and deal more effectively with all the naysayers, judgers and detractors.
#5: You become much more nimble and open to change in the future
Finally, making bold, exciting change is like exercising a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger and more flexible it becomes. While not changing can feel easier and more comfortable, I’ve seen that this “comfort” can actually lead to mind-numbing unhappiness, dissatisfaction, hopelessness, victimization, fear, and utter resistance to growth. It can keep us in situations, relationships and environments that hurt us, but we’re simply too afraid to make the changes we need to in order to live the lives we long for.
But there are ways to make change more easily. The best strategy I’ve found is to first become extremely clear about the new life situation you want, and make sure it’s not about just running away from your pain. Take some time to explore it deeply and thoroughly in your mind. Journal about why this new direction will be more satisfying, and what types of help, support and information you need to make this change happen.
Then surround yourself with amazing people who are in “harmonious sympathy” with your desires and goals, who believe in the future vision of you before it’s hatched. Let them serve as your support team and accountability buddies, to help you navigate and stay the course of change, and buoy you with deep love and encouragement when the road to change gets a bit bumpy, which it will.
Once you make the dramatic positive change you’re dreaming of, life will look completely new, fresh and open. And greater access to happiness, power and bravery will be yours.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.