Someone, I don’t remember who is was, mentioned that this is a time to “pivot” and now you hear and read about that word everywhere. What exactly does it mean to pivot, and can you do this gracefully and without spraining your ankle? Let’s explore this as I share my recent life experiences as a case study.
Spring slid into summer, even though the calendar said otherwise. The rules had all changed. The sticky hot days melted into humid evenings and swimming pools and beaches were still off limits. We were now involved in the process of living through a pandemic and I believe almost everyone knew they would have to make changes, or at least shifts in the ways they were thinking, acting, and believing in order to survive and to save others’ lives.
I thought back to 2005, the year I decided I needed a new life. I had not heard the word pivot at this time, except in relation to sports, where in basketball a player executes a movement in which the player holding the ball may move in any direction with one foot, while keeping the other (the pivot foot) in contact with the floor. Or in dance, where a performer’s body rotates about its vertical axis without traveling. The performer may be supported by one or both feet, which swivel in place during the pivot turn. Whereas I was not familiar with the word pivot as it related to life or business, I did understand the word and the concept of change.
Pivot Gracefully by Embracing Change
Whether you thrive in new situations or you try to avoid them at all costs, you must try to get comfortable with the concept of change — because it’s not going away any time soon. Better yet, you should get to a point where you understand HOW to change your life gracefully and strategically.
By definition, change means the act or instance of making or becoming different. If you’re thinking, “That seems pretty hard to define,” you’re right. By its very nature, change is hard to characterize because change is always changing. That’s mind-blowing, right? This is exactly why so many people fear change — it’s the unknown, and most humans aren’t comfortable with the unknown.
In the context of your life, change is broken down into different stages. It isn’t instantaneous, nor is it experienced the same way for every person, so to understand what it means to you, let’s look at the five stages of experiencing change:
1. Precontemplation — In the first stage of changing or pivoting your life, you’re in denial. You don’t think you need to make a change, or you’re not really prepared to make one yet.
2. Contemplation — This stage is when you decide something needs to change. You may not necessarily be ready for the change, but you know something needs to be different. More times than not, the contemplation stage is when you realize you will need to take on this challenge on your own.
3. Preparation — At this point, you’ve not only acknowledged that you want to make a change, but you’ve also decided that you will. You may not have a game plan for how you will make these changes, but you are committed to the pivot.
4. Action — This is the exciting stage when you’re starting to put things into high gear. You’re making changes and taking action to ensure that your life is pivoting. You’re on the path to success!
5. Maintenance — This stage is often underappreciated, but it’s critical to the success of your new lifestyle. In order to keep things afloat, you need to keep up with the changes you’ve implemented in your life. You may experience some setbacks, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you keep tracking with your goals and the changes you’ve implemented in your life.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by looking at these stages, don’t worry. Everything has a process in life, and change is no different. Making a pivot in your life doesn’t mean you need to follow a strict process. The stages above are simply listed so that you understand that you shouldn’t expect a significant life pivot to happen immediately. You’ll be able to relate to these steps and better understand what your mind is going through as you pivot your life. Think of yourself as a basketball player, pivoting gracefully in order to achieve the goal of making baskets, playing defense and offense and ultimately winning the game.
I went through all five stages of change in 2005 when I came to the realization that my life was not serving me very well, or at least not well enough to continue going down the path I was on at that time. I was a classroom teacher in the inner city of Los Angeles, while in my spare time I worked as a real estate broker and residential appraiser. It was during the spring of that year (do all changes stem from thoughts we have during the springtime?) that I made the conscious decision to go after a new way of living that would allow me to leave my old life behind.
Change is omnipresent — everything and everyone is always changing. We can’t keep track of changes, which makes us nervous because it means we’re consistently operating within the unknown. I’ll let you in on a secret (that you probably already know): Humans don’t like the unknown. In addition to that, here are a few other reasons why we struggle with change:
1. It’s Risky
Let’s face it — when we change something up, we don’t know what to expect. The outcome could either be better than our starting point or worse. That’s a big risk! Think about people who change their hairstyles all the time. They’re taking a risk that they may not love their new ‘do, but on the flip side, there’s a good chance they’ll find the perfect look by testing out something different. The risk element can be scary, but we shouldn’t view it as an obstacle — just something that we can work on.
2. We Lack Purpose
It’s one thing to make a change; it’s another to have a purposeful quest towards a life pivot. If you set out to make a change, that’s exactly what you’ll do. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll maintain or enjoy it. On the other hand, if you start with a “why,” your change will have purpose and strategy — which, in the long run, leads to adherence and commitment.
3. The Changes are Unrealistic
A classic example is New Year’s Resolutions. The first week of January, the gyms are crowded, people are significantly friendlier, and everyone is on their A-game at work. But after a few short weeks, everything is back to normal. In this case (and many other cases), people have a hard time implementing changes because they’re setting up unrealistic expectations for themselves. If you want your life changes to stick, keep them realistic, measurable, and purposeful.
The pivot I made at that time was risky. My mother was still alive then and needed emotional and financial support from me, her only child. What if I quit my teaching job and gave away my real estate clients, only to discover that I was unable to replace my income?
Humans like stability. In fact, we crave it. The reason we struggle with change is that it’s a neurological imperative to be kept safe. Our primal brain is wired to crave safety and security to help us survive. When we start to step out of our comfort zone, we hear a little voice in our head telling us it’s too risky. We can’t do it. What if we fail? So, as you begin to make changes, even small ones, expect and accept that there will be self-doubt and fear come up. It’s just your brain trying to keep you safe.
No matter how open to risk you are or how much you crave spontaneity, you — like everyone else — feel most comfortable with stability.
But my determination to create a better, more satisfying, and healthier (physically and emotionally) life for myself outweighed my desire for stability. Keeping the status quo was what got me to the place I was at back then, so I was more than ready to fully commit to a new life, even though I had no idea what that would look like. I weighed the risk, decided to jump in with full commitment and purpose, and started my journey to a new life. Yes, I was able to pivot gracefully and made history in the process.
Here are some reasons why change is important and impactful…
1. Personal Growth
Just like flowers need water to grow, you need change to grow. With change comes learning and personal growth opportunities that will challenge you as a person for the better. You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone in the best way possible.
Do you know that feeling you get when you overcome an obstacle, and you are over-the-moon happy with yourself? That’s a healthy dose of confidence that you will get when you pivot your life. You’ll be able to look back on all the challenges you overcame and the great things you did, and you’ll celebrate. That confidence is priceless, and it is inevitable with life pivots and transitions — especially when you tackle it all on your own.
Motivation is contagious. It starts with one small win, and soon enough, you can’t get enough of it. In the context of changes in life, motivation will come much easier to you because you will know what you’re looking for. You’ll have more aim, and you’ll be so much more excited about potential pivots in your life. It starts with a big one, and lucky for you, you’re already halfway there!
Resilience is a big deal, and for many, it’s highly underrated. Being resilient means you won’t back down or give up when life gets hard. And as you know, life isn’t always easy. Being able to weather the storms that change brings, you’ll naturally become stronger. This is an article I published on Understanding Resilience and Mental Toughness you may enjoy.
We’ve talked about the harsh aspects of change or pivots in life, but there’s a whole world of confusion that exists in the realm of transitions. Making changes in your life is exhilarating. There are new people to meet, new places to go, healthy habits to develop, and things to learn about yourself.
6. Opens the Right Doors (and Closes the Wrong Ones)
More often than not, you decide to make a change because something isn’t going the way you want it to. In a way, you’re trying to close a door that doesn’t seem like the right one for you. When you embrace change, you commit yourself to closing all the wrong doors until you finally open the right one. We can’t guarantee that it’ll happen on the first try, but rest assured, you will definitely be able to move on in your life when you’re committed to making changes.
7. Gives You a Story
Have you ever been asked, “What’s your story?” and had a hard time answering it? That may be because you’ve hit a stopping point, and you are no longer a fan of your story. Your story is uniquely yours and it should be exciting, happy, and… YOU. The decision to pivot your life is a chance to rewrite your story. You’re in the driver’s seat here, so when you get nervous about taking a chance and mixing things up; remember that you are the writer of your own story.
Like an athlete who stretches every day, your mental bandwidth will stretch as you put yourself up to the challenge of tackling new changes. You’ll become more adaptable because you will recognize that change is constant, and life is fluid. We can’t just hope that things will always be the same and that things will always be comfortable. Instead, we’ll learn how to be flexible when things take an unexpected turn, which will help you at work, in relationships, and on a personal level.
9. Learn Your Strengths
In addition to becoming more confident, you’ll also learn a lot more about your strengths and weaknesses. Pivoting your life takes a tremendous amount of introspection, and in those periods of self-reflection and learning, you’ll realize your strengths on a new level.
Any time you get sucked into a routine, you become wrapped up in your own bubble. You may forget what’s going on in the world or what it’s like to go through a hardship. This lack of compassion often goes hand in hand with a mundane, routine lifestyle. Making a change does the opposite. It gives you an appreciation for challenges and triumphs, and it reconnects you to the human experience — the good, bad, and the ugly of it. In the long run, this compassion will help you and those around you.
We write our story with every breath we take and action we deploy. Be ready to pivot your way into a new life that awaits you. Follow what I have shared here as your motivation and strategy and you will be able to also say that you’re pivoting gracefully without spraining your ankle.
I’m Connie Ragen Green, pivoting my way through a myriad of life experiences, occasionally stubbing my toe but not ever spraining an ankle. Please join me for this incredible journey of authorship, entrepreneurship, and self-actualization.