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What I've Learnt About Change

The last 12 months have felt at times both excruciatingly slow and all at once too fast, with everything changing and yet, in the depths of each lockdown, nothing changing. Despite these months being relentless they’ve allowed time for reflection and during February we’ve been talking all about change at The Hustle House. So, I’ve looked back at experiences where big changes thrust me in a new direction and one in particular has stuck with me.

I was sobbing over my auditing books, studying for my 2nd year Chartered Accountancy exams. Ironically, I did not want to be an accountant. In fact, for most of the time during my Accounting & Finance degree, I knew I didn’t want to be one, yet I followed the herd and did what I thought was best for a “good” career. Don’t get me wrong, the accountants I know have had incredible careers but deep down I knew it wasn’t for me. Yet even after finishing a 3-year degree and then going into further study, I couldn’t make the shift. Why was I still pursing something I inherently didn’t want to do? I think part of it was pride - I didn’t want to be seen as a failure - part of it was the fear of the unknown - if I didn’t do this, then what (I come from a family of accountants) - but a big part of it was simply my fear of change and steering off a path I knew and consciously or not created for myself.

I remember so clearly willing myself to make the change away from accountancy while also attempting to study. It was a conflicting battle in my mind. I longed for a crystal ball to project into the future to see what the best decision would be. Should I keep going? Would I regret it if I quit? What would I be doing instead? Where would I be?

Eventually through the tears I concluded that my fear actually stemmed from going through change rather than the change itself. I had had enough.

I quit the next day and stopped training to be an accountant. It wasn’t all fanfares and congratulations at first and there was an immediate, “oh wait, what have I done?”. But I remember my Mum saying, “do what will make you happy and don’t worry about the rest of it”. So, I made the change.

A month or so later, I found myself moving my life from Dublin to London with no plan. Literally, no plan. I was going all in on ‘change’ and making big decisions, and I’ve come to realise over the years that there really is no right or wrong decision, there is just the decision and whatever change that brings is meant to happen – you’ll either grow or learn from it.

The funny thing with change, big or small, is it’s actually happening to us whether we choose it or not, all the time. If we were to box up every change we’ve had in our lives to date,

Amazon wouldn’t be able to fulfil it! Change is in fact a guarantee and a constant. Sometimes it’s obvious and easy to manage and other times it’s not, we resist it all costs and make excuses to avoid any change.

That summer’s day back in 2010 felt like a very pivotal point in my life. I knew I was choosing to make the change, but although that might seem easier to deal with than a change happening to you, I still sometimes got lost down the rabbit hole of “what’ if’s”, imagining myself as Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors: what will the consequences of my decisions be and how will this change influence where I end up?

Of course, now I couldn’t imagine being on any other path. 11 years later I’m still in London, happily married and running my own business (which is far from the world of accountancy). I do sometimes wonder where the Fiona who went on to be an accountant might be, but something tells me she wouldn’t be worlds apart from where I am now.

So, if you take anything from my story, it’s don’t fear change or at least, don’t fear it for as long as I did. The thought process is always far worse than the change itself. You’ve survived, grown, and learned from every change you’ve encountered to date so if you’ve got a change you know you need to make, do it. In the words of Susan Jeffers’ famous book: feel the fear and do it anyway. Take the first step; the rest will inevitably work itself out and change always has a funny way of leading us to just where we need to be.

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