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Break-ups, career moves and kids - the science of making a BIG change

Moments of crisis or contentment – managing life changes can be done.

Y'all ready for this?
Y'all ready for this?
Image: Shutterstock/Anna Grigorjeva

This article is part of our Change Generation project, supported by KBC. To read more click here.

CHANGE CAN BE thrust on you through an unexpected job offer, the chance to move country or the break-up of a relationship.

You can also be motivated into making that big change yourself through any number of factors like stress, lack of challenge or the need for greater rewards.

Change Management expert at Cullinane Consulting, Jean Cullinane, told theJournal.ie there are some things to consider before making a big change in your life.

Picture yourself in the new situation – what would it really be like? What aspects of it would you enjoy? What would you find challenging? What are the likely short and long term implications of making the change? Who can help?

Come up with a plan

If you are instigating change through your own choice, Cullinane says you can help ensure its success through planning:

I think that success is something you can plan for, even before you make the change.  For example, if you are changing your career or establishing a new business, think in advance about the difference between average and brilliant performance and in true US presidential style, make a plan for your first 100 days and beyond.

Go with your gut

There are time when you have to accept that you do not have a crystal ball and there is no way to be 100% sure that you are making the right decision, says Cullinane, and you just have to go with your gut:

Be aware that you may never have all the information that you need – sometimes you may simply have to trust your gut feeling. Get independent advice if you need it and then ACT, because nothing actually happens until you take the first step.

Just do it!

She also says sometimes ‘risking it’ is the best thing you can do:

In my work as a HR consultant I have observed that those who successfully master change typically demonstrate willingness to take risks and seize opportunities, the commitment and professionalism to follow through on their plans and the integrity to strike a balance between what is best for them and for others directly involved.

Here, some Journal Media employees share how they coped with the big changes they made to their lives:

Taking a punt on the dream job

“I had always wanted to work as a journalist but couldn’t seem to find a way in. While I was covering someone’s maternity leave in a shop, I applied for a H Dip in journalism, despite knowing the start date clashed with my contract dates. I ended up getting a place on the course and having to tell my boss I was leaving my contract early to go move cities for a totally new career.

I was terrified about leaving her in the lurch but looking back I can’t imagine what I’d have done if I’d turned the offer of the course down. It finally turned my life in the direction I’d been hoping it would go.

Going from coupledom to singledom

“Breaking up with a long-term partner is never easy but it does throw you on a new path, for better or worse. When I came out of a major relationship, it meant I also had to consider new living arrangements. Friends told me to go into a house-share so I wouldn’t be lonely but actually, I decided to go and live on my own for the first time in my life.

It WAS lonely sometimes but I relearned so much about myself, my likes and dislikes, and I really needed to do that after five years of being ‘half’ of an entity.

“I came out the other end with a great deal more self-confidence and not needing to be with someone until the right person, for me, came along. Which they did.”

Knowing when to walk away

“My biggest life change was chucking in a good but unsatisfying job to go travelling for six months, chewing through what could’ve been a decent chunk of a home deposit in the process. I moved countries and it’s the best thing I ever did.”

Indulging that wanderlust

“I went travelling a year after I graduated which was against the advice of my lecturers (and parents) who thought it was better to get on the career ladder as soon as possible.

I spent two years in Australia working in random jobs that I would never have done this side of the water (farming, barwork, worked in an ice cream shop #thedream lol).

“It sounds cliché but the life skills that i developed while travelling enabled me to make the right career move when I returned home and I am probably in the same position if not better than most of the people i graduated with who never ended up travelling (but wanted to).”

SURPRISE! You’re a parent

“The biggest change for me was when my son was born three years ago. I’d been with my partner for 14 years but we’d never really considered children up to that point.

When he was born, it made me realise how little I lived in the moment, spending far too much time working or on my phone.

“Now I enjoy life for what it is, millions of everyday moments with people I love that I wouldn’t swap for the world.”

The prodigal child returns

“The biggest change for me when I decided to move back to Ireland after living in the States for 12 years. (I think so many people living abroad are always struggling with that should I stay or should I go thing.)

“I decided I’d come home for a year to give it a try but really thought I’d end up back in the States. Within a few months I met a fella and got pregnant way too quickly but it’s all worked out and now we’re married for 16 years with four kids.”

Taking that scary job

“I finished my final exams in college and three days later was set to go to New York for a summer internship. About eight weeks in, the editor-in-chief called me into the office and asked how she could get me to stay. I’ll never forget sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park in blistering Manhattan summer heat to call home to break the news to my mother – with the caveat that it might not work out if the US wanted to boot me out anyway.

“After eight frantic weeks of immigration law, finding a new flat and worrying that I had no insurance or flight home (if they refused my application), the decision arrived. I ended up moving through the company from intern to assistant editor over the next two years – and making friends along the way so there’s always a couch available to me in NYC.

“Probably the next biggest change then was moving back home to Ireland mid-recession… but that’s another story.”

From child to carer

“Possibly the biggest life change was a psychological shift from being someone’s child to being someone’s carer.

It was made harder by the fact that the parent who fell ill was a difficult person to deal with and there was a temptation to walk away from it all.

“It was 18 months of balancing a job, a personal life and the care of a person who had no-one else to rely on. Now that they have passed away, knowing that they passed away with dignity and peace more than makes up for the strain of that time.”

QUIZ: Are you ready to settle (down)?>

Advice for your 20s from those who’ve been there>

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