Why Most People Won’t Take Relocation From Fantasy to Reality
7 tips for taking action on your dreams
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” — Raymond Lindquist
Almost a year ago, on the first day of May in 2021, my fiancé and I made the big, bold, stressful move across the country, from Ontario to B.C., in a twenty foot truck full of our belongings, our car loaded onto the back, and our extremely patient cat in the cab of the truck with us.
It’s something we had talked about for years, half-jokingly. Only in the wake of the pandemic did we begin to seriously consider it. With the light at the end of the very dark pandemic tunnel barely peeking through, and as crazy of a thought relocating was in these endlessly uncertain times, we realized there truly is no perfectly convenient time to take action. With this realization it all began to unravel pretty fast.
We started seriously discussing the idea in the summer of 2020, told family and friends early fall, and by February of last year—holding our breath—we decided to pull the trigger, giving two months’ notice to our landlord, and really everyone that we knew.
Originally, we were trying to plan out every detail to perfection in advance, with our target moving day over a year away. But deep down we knew that the longer of a timeline we gave ourselves, the more time we had to sabotage our plans and allow fear to prevent us from going through with it.
Almost everyone we had talked to about our plans for relocation expressed some form of excitement, admiration or envy. One person even said that making a move like this has been a fantasy of his—the idea of a fresh start in a new place—followed by “…but this is where I live. It’s where I’ve always lived…” as if there simply is no other option. And that’s that, where the dream dies. He and his partner are planning on buying a home in the next year, in or around his hometown, despite admitting that he doesn’t really want to buy there.
So why do most people keep relocation in the realm of fantasy?
It’s not that we haven’t felt fear around this decision. We’ve felt fear. A lot of it. And we chose to do it anyway. Even after the move—or I should say, especially after the move—we’ve both had moments of thinking we’re absolutely crazy. These moments are often followed by a sense of calm when we get out of our own heads and look around at the environment that we chose: mountains, ocean, and so much more.
The comfort zone is a tricky thing. On one hand, humans love comfort and are essentially designed to seek it out and maintain it. On the other hand, pushing the boundaries of the comfort zone can help us grow to levels that break through the initial fear, often leading to immense joy, excitement and relief. Finding the courage to break through familiarity and comfort, however, can definitely be very hard.
As a kid, I was debilitatingly shy. While I would still describe myself as more introverted than extroverted, I no longer associate myself with “shy,” and neither do those who have known me most of my life. Over the years I’ve figured out some key strategies that have helped me continue to push past my comfort zone—socially, physically, financially, you name it.
Here are my tips for pushing past your comfort zone to discover new horizons:
After all, someone has to be the first to make bold change. Why not you?
1. Look at it as a game.
By this I mean to leverage your competitiveness and use it to your advantage. Imagine the type of person you’ll be when you “win” the challenge of pushing beyond your comfort zone. For example, because I was shy I used to dread public speaking, such as school presentations. But somewhere along the line, even though I would still get jittery, I transformed my fear into excitement towards the challenge at hand, and imagined how great I would feel once it was over and could take a big, deep breath. This mindset made me feel more confident and allowed me to have more fun with it. Also, if possible, always volunteer to present or speak first or second. Then you won’t psych yourself out by comparing yourself to how others performed. Plus you get it over with, like ripping off a bandaid. Which leads me to…
2. Avoid drawing out the process.
My partner and I started talking about our move as a fantasy. Then we talked about doing it in two years' time. Then we changed it to one year. Then ultimately it became two months. By drastically shortening our timeline, as scary and stressful as it was, we removed many opportunities for self-doubt and self-sabotage. Had we waited, that would have been two years that we could have procrastinated, changed our minds or had something get in the way. A lot can change in two years—job opportunities, family expansions, illness, financial loss—so we are allowing ourselves the opportunity to deal with anything that arises after we’ve made our big dream happen.
3. Stop worrying about what other people will think.
This one gets easier the older you get, and even then it’s challenging. It’s so normal to fear upsetting others or having people dislike you. But the chances of that happening are probably slim, and even then, what does that say about those people in your life? The people that truly love and support you unconditionally will be there for you no matter what. Even if they are shaken by your choices initially, they’ll come around. Allow others the time to process your choice and let it sink in. What’s most important is that you are happy with yourself and your choices. After all, you is ultimately who you’re stuck with in this life.
4. Allow yourself to be “selfish.”
I’ve had thoughts that perhaps moving away from family and friends is selfish, because it’s essentially forcing them to endure a great distance as well. For myself, as much as I love and care for my family—and believe me, I really do—I know that at the end of the day my life is short and it’s mine. Even though it stings for all of us at first, I know that my family and friends want me to be happy, even if it means being far away and putting in a little extra effort to stay connected. Plus, humans are pretty great at adapting to new and different circumstances. We’ll have video calls and visit each other as regularly as we can, making sure that we really make the face time count. Often a lot of the choices that we make to take care of ourselves above others can make us feel like we’re being selfish. But taking care of ourselves is extremely important. It helps us show up better for others.
5. Don’t keep yourself in a box.
We tend to label ourselves a certain way and stick with it, because even labels make up our comfort zone. As I said, I used to label myself as shy and I did so for years, however when other people also started labeling me that way, it really bugged me. I didn’t want to be associated with the label anymore, and I certainly didn’t want to have other people decide it for me. So I stopped referring to myself that way, and instead started seeing myself as more outgoing, approachable and vocal. Naturally my personality started to adapt to who I really wanted to be. A personality trait like shyness is learned based on our environment and past experiences, but traits like this can evolve and change if we change our mindset and our surroundings to suit our goals.
6. Use your word to hold yourself accountable.
Often when there’s something big and bold we want to do, we won’t do it because it stays in our head as a fantasy that we’re too afraid to even let out. But as soon as we vocalize our desires to even one other person, it suddenly makes it feel more real and attainable. Once others are aware of your goals and ideas, it’s simply one more reason to make them happen. The hardest part is making the commitment to change, and vocalizing your dreams is like a verbal commitment. Then the actual change comes pretty easily.
7. See yourself as a model for others, paving the way to bigger opportunities.
Like I said, many if not most people let fear prevent them from going outside of their comfort zone. If your dream is to relocate, start a business, leave a relationship, become an athlete, or whatever it may be, choose to see yourself as a model for others, inspiring them to push themselves too.
After all, someone has to be the first to make bold change. Why not you?