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I recently read an article titled, “Feel Stuck? Use the Rule of 5 Little Things to Start Being More Productive, Focused, and Happier.”
The article quotes legendary, 15-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist Joe Satriani, who was unhappy with one of his songs but didn’t have a clue how to fix it. Then he got this amazing tip from his producer, Jim Scott, who told him to pick five things that bothered him about the song that they could fix and see if that made it any better. Satriani did just that and the rest is history.
In the article, Satriani says, “Often, you’ll find those little fixes totally change your perception of the whole.”
Since my tragedy in December 2020, I’d been wanting to make the move down south where a significant number of my extended family lives. While I’d thought about the move for a while, the life-changing events of 2020 solidified my intent to finally move away from a city where I’d lived a significant part of my life.
But wanting to do something is seldom as easy as doing it. Oddly enough, this time there was no tug-of-war between the heart and brain. Both emotionally and intellectually, making the shift to a city where I would be surrounded by family was the right thing to do. But despite yearning to make the move, I found myself in the middle of a deep sense of apathy. I knew I should take tangible steps to make the move but neither my body nor mind was doing anything to work toward it.
As much as I thought I had no deep sense of connection to my current place of living, when it came to making the move, something inside me was holding me back. On one side, I wanted to move so that I could get away from a place where there were too many memories that refused to let me go. But the same memories that connect me to the people I lost in December 2020 were not allowing me to actually leave and move on with my life.
As I was vacillating between “I absolutely should” to “Maybe I shouldn’t,” I read this article. As much of a skeptic as I am with these types of articles, I thought maybe I should take a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? I don’t move and stay where I am. But what if it worked? Maybe it would get me out of the apathetic funk I find myself in, right?
So I did it. I took five small steps to make the move from where I’ve lived for more than a decade to a brand-new home, 5,000 miles away.
Step 1: Informed people in the new city about my decision.
I started small. I called my extended family members and gently explored the idea of shifting close to where they live. I wasn’t sure how my idea would be received, and given how gutted I’d been with the less-than-nice behavior from my immediate family, I guess I was more than nervous to hear what the extended family thought.
“Roopa, we all have been yearning for you to make this move. But we knew you have so many memories of where you are and we did not know how to bring this up. But now that you do want to shift, come…ASAP!” This was pretty much the gist of every single conversation I had.
A part of me is still stunned. Stunned at how every single one of those I called enthusiastically implored me to make the big shift close to them, tout suite.
The five-step rule to making a brand-new beginning was off to a banger of a start. I could not wait for the next step.
Step 2: Informed people in the existing city of my decision.
This one did not go as well as I’d hoped. Deep down, I was gratified at how much the few people I would potentially leave behind (all friends, none family) said they would be gutted that I was leaving. It made me feel loved and wanted and accepted. And when I explained why the move was necessary for my mental health, they understood.
While they still cautioned me about leaving behind “what I knew” to go to a place that was brand new to me (despite the many, many family members I have there), they understood my need to connect with the elders in my family who are still around and forge new bonds with the next generation of family members.
Step 2 was a big check!
Step 3: Made a flying visit to the new city and stayed with those who might become my new friends/neighbors.
Wanting to make the move and having the support of those who care is one thing. But wondering and worrying endlessly about whether the new city will be a good fit for me was something else.
That was, until one of my extended family members made a simple suggestion: “Get on a plane and come visit us for a few days. Walk around the neighborhood, travel around the city. See how it feels.”
And given that I work from home, that’s exactly what I did.
One fine evening, I booked my tickets and flew down the next morning to the city where I hope to make my new home. I stayed with my first cousin for a week. I connected with family and new friends and the city. I realized that living there would not be easy. It’s a lot more traditional compared to the part of the country that I’ve always lived in. But the connections I made with my extended family, at this stage in my life, felt essential, and I knew that I would learn to adjust to the more conservative lifestyle of this new city.
Step 3 solidified my plans.
Step 4: Allowed myself to take it all in.
After I came back from my week-long trip to the new city, I allowed myself to just breathe. As someone who has traveled alone to well over 40 countries all over the world, this trip was one of the toughest that I had to make. But I’m so glad I made it because it changed my life forever.
Taking the trip took the vague idea that had been simmering inside of me for such a long time (from even before the big tragedy of December 2020) and solidified it into a concrete plan of action. The conflicts about whether it was the right or wrong thing to do went away.
Basically, things got real. And I knew there were only two ways for me to go forward: either I take the plunge and make the move to a new city, or I quit wavering and being apathetic and make my peace with where I am now.
I went with the first option.
Step 5: Made a leap-of-faith decision
My final step in the five-rule process was to take the plunge, boldly.
And I did.
I called a real estate agent in the new city and gave him my requirements to buy a new place and asked him to look around for a place for me. Phew! This was a huge step for me. And I’m thrilled to say that once I took the call, things have gotten so much easier.
I still haven’t found an apartment in the new city yet, but I’ve flown down three times to look at options. And I’m confident I will find a place in the next few months.
When I think back to where I was even three months ago and where I am today, there is such a monumental shift in who I was versus who I am now. I’ve never been happier or more at peace. And I know that moving is the best decision for me.
And I’m glad that I adopted the five-rule plan by taking four small steps and one big step to get to where I need to be.
This exercise really helped me. I hope it helps you too. Please share with me if you’re stuck in your life over a decision and maybe we can help find those five steps that can get you started.