I walked through the door of the room. “Fuck”, I thought. “What the hell am I doing here?”
I was in my local community centre. White walls and pinboards and posters and cheap, plastic chairs.
I realised pretty quickly that I wasn’t at all dressed for the occasion: Black skinny jeans, Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt (the same one, in fact, that I am wearing in the photo above) and biker boots with a silver buckle on the back. Twenty-five women stared back at me. Not a single one of them was under the age of 65. Purple rinses and pearls and cardigans and slip-on shoes. And then me. Shit.
“Come in! Grab a chair! You must be Liz?”
I nodded and followed the gesture of one of the women to take a seat amongst everyone. I smiled an awkward smile and eyed the door. I wanted to run. I was there for the 8pm-sharp barbershop harmony rehearsal. I’d seen the advert pinned to a lamppost three days earlier. I didn’t even totally know what a barbershop harmony was. But I knew I liked singing and just recently, I’d been on a quest to get to know myself a little more.
8 years we’d been together. And I was reeling from the split.
It had been my decision – and yet being the one who’d ended it had done nothing to soften the blow. I was sleepwalking through my days, picking up the pieces of the wreck we’d both created as 8 years became zero. I didn’t know what to do.
“Figure out what you want from your life.” A friend advised. “Get to know yourself again.”
“How the fuck do I do that?”
“Just go do things. Anything!”
And so I did. First up: The barbershop harmony chorus (it didn’t last long). Next up: A 5K race. And then a 10K race and weekly therapy sessions with Sue. Later, I joined a band and started a blog which eventually became this website. I joined Twitter and invited the people I talked to on there for a beer in real life. I read, vicariously, mountains of self-development books. I wanted to understand myself better; to know why I did the things that I did and thought the things that I thought. I also started to wonder why the people around me did the things that they did and thought the things that they thought. An 8-week introduction to counseling course ensued which led to years of study and then woah! brakes on, counseling isn’t quite for me. Shit. What next? Coaching? Yes. God, yes. (Cue more studying).
Change. Us humans, we’re programmed to change.
And yet often, it’s the thing we resist the most. Change frightens us. We cling. To people and things and thoughts and routines and habits. It’s the only way we feel safe. We gently rock ourselves to sleep-walk through our days with the same coffee at the same time, ordered from the same coffee shop, and sitting in the same seat of the same carriage of the same train we take to the office from Monday through Friday.
And it can all fall down. At any moment.
A death. A near-death. A redundancy. An accident. A concerning shadow on an MRI scan.
It often takes something utterly life-altering to make us stop. To course correct. To question: “Is this what I really want from my life? Is. This. It?”
For me, it took a breakup (and the subsequent down-on-my-knees breakdown) to really ask myself that question. To begin to realise that to live my life, I was going to have to try new things to figure out who the hell I was and what I wanted. And if it meant sitting on a chair surrounded by women with blue rinses in their hair, trying to cover up the giant skull on my t-shirt while harmonising to ‘The sun has got his hat on’, then I damn well would.
And yet should it really have had to take something life-altering for me to get to know myself and change the course of my life?
Nope. And now, as a coach, I see people day-after-day, making incredible changes in their lives through nothing more than knowing that they want to change. Nothing had to fall down for them to get to that point. They’d simply had enough of the sleep-walking and the clinging and resisting. And here’s the thing about change: It comes about as a result of lots of tiny acts, of small steps that seem totally insignificant. As insignificant as going to my local community centre that day and singing for an hour with other human beings – for no other reason than a knowing that something had to change, to shift – for me to feel happier.
It awoke something in me that I did not at the time recognise, which was this: Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Our comfort zone is a safe place, but nothing grows there.
Is it time for you to get out of yours?
ps: If you’d like to get out of your comfort zone – without having to join a barbershop harmony chorus – and really figure out what you want from your life, my 6-week Group Coaching via Skype, might just be for you.
To find out more and to let me know you’re interested, click here.