This Time It’s Different

This Time It's Different

A common question in my Inbox reads something like this:

“I really want to pursue [activity, trip, or transition that involves change], but right now I can’t because of [reason or roadblock].

I could spend the next [long period of time] preparing for the big change, but I worry if I wait, I may never do it.

Should I apply myself for years to improve my situation, or should I find a way to do it now?”

Details vary, of course—but I hear versions of this question several times a day.

I’m not in the business of telling people what to do, and this question is especially contextual: the right answer will always depend on the specific situation and person. Some people should probably wait it out, and others should probably quit waiting and start taking action—but here’s a general answer that may be helpful.

It seems that some people can indeed wait, saving and preparing for years, and then actually move forward with their goal. My favorite example in this regard is Jodi Ettenberg, who devoted years of her work as an attorney in New York to saving for a different life. Six years in, she left to travel… and hasn’t returned to the world of “real” work in the three years since.

Only you can answer the question of whether you could do the same. If you can, that’s great. I would suggest, however, that most of us are not like Jodi. Most of us find that life gets in the way. We find other reasons to delay or defer. This is why I tend to have an action bias. Whenever I have a choice, I want to choose forward motion.

When someone says “I have an idea to do something next year,” I think “Great! How about next month?

When someone says “I might do this one day,” I think “Great! Why not today?

This answer isn’t the same as just saying “Go for it!” Sometimes, “Go for it” is the wrong answer. I’ve just learned to choose action over inaction whenever possible.


Another way to think of it comes from something that Sir John Templeton said:

The most dangerous words in investing are ‘this time it’s different.’

What he meant was that investors tend to repeat common mistakes, failing to see that the results will be the same even if a few irrelevant circumstances have changed. This is why people continue to lose money and fail to learn from their mistakes.

These words—“this time it’s different”—are dangerous in more than just investing, because of our tendency to wrongly predict the future.

If you’re facing a dilemma of wait-it-out-or-do-it-now, ask yourself, “If I wait a year or two, what will really be different?” Only you can answer it, and the answer will determine your best plan of action.

You may be able to split the difference … but don’t count on it. Sooner or later, you’ll probably have to choose.

How about you—are you waiting it out or taking the leap?


Side note: I also hear a lot of questions from readers about traveling independently as a woman. Since I’m not a woman, I send them to Jodi—and also to Juno, Stephanie, Shannon, Joumana, Crystal, Janice, Tracey, Cailin, and Kelly.


Image: Nick

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  • Heather says:

    I am in the process of leaving my current company and starting out on my own. It took several years of planning, but I have an action plan I have been working since the beginning. Some times it’s better to plow thru the next item on your to do list, than look up and dream about the end result.

  • Matthew Bailey says:

    I agree. I once wanted to travel to Australia way back at 18 years old but kept waiting for a friend to join. 5 years later, I knew this wasnt going to happen so I booked the trip by myself… Havent looked back… Im a changed person because of it and now spend 3-6 months traveling alone each year. Its great!

  • Brasilicana says:

    I’m doing it now – bit by bit working on a project that should enable me to become completely location-independent. I try to move it forward by at least one action a day… and am about 3 months away from launch 🙂

    I try to view the sometimes-tedious work not as working towards a dream, but instead as PART of the dream – and every day I get closer.

  • Christy says:

    I’m waiting for my partner to be ready (by ready I mean paying off more debt), otherwise I would have quit my job a long time ago. Some people may think waiting for someone else is a bad decision, but for me it’s worth it to compromise because I will get to enjoy traveling with my partner. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the people we love. 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    I’m also in the process. I had a plan but now have chosen the forward motion instead of waiting (and waiting) and continuing to plan. I’ve been making excuses disguised as logical arguments for way too long.

  • Peggy McPartland says:

    Chris, this post is exactly what I needed right at this time. I’m in the process of making a huge leap (selling my house to travel indefinitely and start a business) and have just recently found myself questioning the wisdom of it (again!). But really there’s no more planning that needs to be done, I’ve just got to continue with the forward momentum. So thanks! I’m not going to wait it out… I’m taking the leap! 🙂

  • Leticia says:

    I relate a lot to the story of Jodi. I spent 15 years as Executive in two major multinationals. Since 2009, I left this life and I inventing a new one.
    I am still living on my reserve, but already experimenting some (small) revenue from living my dream: writing, helping people to find their own path, using my superpowers as “idea organizer”. Promoting speeches, workshops. Helping people in ways I could never imagine.
    I am happier than ever and, at the same time, I am scared in a way I have never been.
    Life taste good in its uncertainty and mystery.
    I am grateful.

  • Kent says:

    The best decision we’ve made (so far) in our relationship is to stop deferring REAL life.

    Doing in the short term what we had originally planned to do in the long term has opened up doors that we didn’t know existed.

    Mastermind your “dream” life and start executing it now. Step by step.

  • John says:

    I was riding to a fishing show with my good friend, Allan, and we were talking when he mentioned the idea of going back to school to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. “The problem,” he said, “is that I can only go to school at night and that will take fours years and by then I’ll be 50 years old!” I gave him an answer I learned from Dear Abby of all places which was “Yes, but if you don’t go back to school in four years you will still be 50 years old.” Allan paused and said “John, I’m really going to have to hurt you for that one!”

  • Diana Douglas says:

    It took me a long time to figure out what it was I wanted to do–write novels. Then it took a while to get good enough to feel like I was publishable. Now that there’s nothing to hold me back, I’m moving forward, but it did take time and planning. There are a lot of people who leap without looking, and it turns out great. I doubt I’ll ever be one of them. However you go about it, the important thing is to just do it.

  • Matthew Stewart says:

    If you always do what you always done,
    You’ll always get what you always got.

    If you make a least some change today you’re on the path.

  • Kanwal Sarai says:

    I’ve taken the leap, which is what I suggest people do. “Just do it” otherwise a year from now you won’t be any further.

  • Heather M says:

    I’m in the waiting/planning stage but I have an exact date and that is helping put the pressure on getting ready to work solo and makes sure I don’t waste money on things that won’t be helpful.
    I’m finding blogs like miss minimalist and make something 365 have really helpful ideas for making gradual progress.

  • Michael says:

    I’m mid-leap. The question probably deserves a longer answer, but I’m mid-leap, dammit – there are things I have to do.

  • Juli says:

    I few months back I was just barely making it in flight school and making this never ending list of things I would be doing if I didn’t have flight school holding me back. I was miserable, by the way, me being a pilot only works in theory. Either way, I flunked out, and was about to go back to actual school when I suddenly realized that I was in the perfect position to *make it different*.

    So I did.

    Now I’m sitting in a hostel in a city that I’ve never been to (but is still in my own country. We’re leaving next year for a European vacation), I’ve made a bucket list and I’m marking things off because, you know what, this time it was different.

    The irony in this all is that now that I’ve had a finding myself moment I’m going to back to college and major in something I can’t make money doing but have always wanted to know more about. But this time… it’s different.

  • Kat says:

    Waiting it out. The take-action bias is for people without young children. I’m a single, FT parent. Before reproducing, I used to be one of those people who said, “Yeah, just do it, what’s the worst that could happen? You can make time for your dreams, right?”

    But I can’t argue with time, which is what I need to pursue my art. Raising a child is a full-time job, but no matter how well I do it, it does not put food on the table. In addition to using my free time to make ends meet, I can’t just please myself — I’m simply not free.

    Even if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t be free. I have a four-year-old who depends on me for his physical and emotional survival, and I have to consider what is best for him, not just myself.

    I know a lot of people my age who have chosen not to have children. They know that there’s a good chance their dreams would have to be put on hold while tiny lives require their immediate attention.

    *I* can wait, though. I am a patient person — definitely more of a tortoise than a hare! Now that my child is 4, I’m working more like 16 hour days, instead of 20.

  • Liz278 says:

    A year ago, I left my marriage. It was an extremely scary time, because a lot of people (quite possibly rightly) thought I was making a stupid decision. This is still a scary time. But last year, with no one but me, I realized I had to do something radical to be able to build a life I could really be proud of, not one I just kept getting carried along in the wake of. So I went back to school, and am halfway through my paralegal program, still working full time. I’ve had my doubts and plenty of fears, but I’m so glad I made the decision to use forward motion instead of excuses. Whatever happens, I made a choice to go forward and be brave.

  • Jenni Bennett says:

    Simply reading this post has ignited my fire to launch the business I’ve been sitting on for years. I keep saying “if I had $X, I would quit my full time job and pour myself into preparing and launching my business.” I am dying to choose action, but right now more of me is holding myself back than pushing me forward.

  • Annika says:

    Context truly is everything but 9 times out of 10, those ‘reasons’ we cite for not moving ahead with our big idea are not actually practical conclusions, but just a whole lot of fear and self doubt.

    “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” – Steven Pressfield

  • Natalie says:

    Taking the leap. For the past two years I have been leaping from one rock, to the next…almost literally when I relocated to Honolulu, HI from LA to continue working on our website with my business partner. Since we have been here, we have missed the mainland tremendously. We have also found that people don’t move as fast here as we need them to. And at this juncture, we crave being around creative, fast thinkers…We thought we were going to stay till January, but since the last two days have found it more financially sane to do it now. We are taking the leap and leaving mid-next month. Since the decision was made, everything is easily moving in to place. Leap!

  • Greg says:

    I’m edging up to the leap; two leaps actually.

    One here and the other here. It’s exciting to be taking steps, but there is still a lot of drafting and testing work to do on these sites.

    Well done to everyone here who has made a decision, either to leap or to wait.

  • Janna says:

    I find it most useful to TAKE ACTION NOW, even if that means micro action, small baby steps that get me little by little closer to my goals and dreams.
    Setting a deadline for the BIG ACTION I want to take definitely helps put things in perspective.

    Even if you’re in a situation you’re not too happy with, it’s important that we still find a way to live our dreams now, even if we don’t make major changes just yet. I just got back from travelling & living abroad for a year and am now working full-time in finance.

    That means love your present situation – take some necessary downtime, enjoy the good parts about life in the USA, be rooted for awhile, surrounded by friends and family that we missed while away, follow healthy habits like fitness & nutrition, get a steady paycheck and stash most of it away.

    So yes, I agree with action. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Live your dreams in small ways now, take small actions to move towards your bigger dreams, and set a deadline for when you’ll just go with it, no matter what.

    Otherwise you run the risk of never actually enjoying where you are now, and always looking to the next thing (I’m in danger of this myself).

  • Delores says:

    Last year I was really screwed over at work. I had planned to retire in three more years but felt I could no longer work for people I don’t respect who also don’t respect me. But I can’t afford to quit; I’m a teacher. There’s only one district. So over the summer I got my real estate license, something I had always considered doing. I’m working two jobs but the energy of something new keeps me going. I hope to establish myself enough to at least cut back next year and definitely quit no later than the following year. The clincher: I do like the work I do and now that I am back at school it would have been very easy to pretend it might be ok. So acting on what I wanted to do next kept forward momentum and gives me hope on days when I’m overworked.

  • Delores says:

    @Kat, the reason I can work two jobs and not have a life this year is only because my kids are now out of the house. I also did things a lot different when I needed to be available to them.

  • Christy says:

    At age 24 I fell in love with a fellow kayaker. I was a teacher and he was a nurse. We had transferable skills and no debt. We sold all of our belongings except the camping, kayaking, and biking equipment which we packed in a truck. We spent three months traveling all over the Western United States. We traveled until we ran out of money and then started working again. None of my friends or family supported my decision and 20 years later I still consider it one of the best choices I ever made in my life. With that decision I learned how to live life on my terms and discovered that I did not need the approval of those around me. Over the years I have learned the courage and forward motion are parallel processes. You do not need one before the other – they can take place at the same time.

  • Meghan Johnson says:

    Taking the leap, after quitting my job. I’m off to travel and volunteer for the next year. First stop, Peru!

    I’d thought about postponing another year or two, just to have a slighter larger cash cushion before taking the plunge, but ultimately realized I was just waiting out of fear, not necessity.

  • Brandon says:

    I, too, have an action bias, Chris. I was just having a conversation with a dear friend earlier this evening as we reflected back on the last year and half. It’s actually amazing to look back on it now. A profound shift occurred for me last Summer when I answered an inspired call to action, and an entirely new direction has opened up in my life that I would never have expected.

    So yeah, I’m a fan of the leap for sure.

  • Darcy says:

    I also have two young children and am the bread winner for them. They come first so I wouldn’t ever just leap without having an alternate stream of income to afford their schooling, living expenses and health insurance. I am taking small steps towards being able to live abroad and starting a business. My kids provide inspiration to keep moving forward towards my goals. I want to be able to spend more time with them. I want them to have a world perspective. And, I want them to know that work doesn’t have to be a 8-5 job if they don’t want it to be. As a reminder to take continuous action I keep this quote taped to my monitor “success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” ~Robert Collier. Slowly but surely it will happen.

  • Chris Walter says:

    YES! I just left this past Saturday. Traded in my wedding photography job for a motorcycle and a camera.

    I have been following your site for years now and it’s literally taken years of inspiration from ppl like you for me to find myself here.

    Thank you!!!

  • Robin Brown Davis says:

    The other day I was checking out at the grocery store and I got a chuckle when I saw an old man walk in using a cane and wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt. I stopped mid chuck when I realized that “old guy: was probably less than 10 years older than I. It was then it sunk in….that times a wastin’. I’d better get my ass in gear. Kids are off at college, our business is close to being self sufficient, and I’ve got some lost time to make up. I’d be happy to start with the states. Do some road repping.

  • Al says:

    My younger self took so many risks and basically “lived life”. I traveled and worked some of the craziest and most dangerous jobs. I’m so proud of those moments, more than anything in my life (so far). They are all so unique to me. Then in my later 20’s the feeling of real life came tumbling down and this feeling made me get a real job…an office job. I needed to get paid and paid well…I thought. I was in the middle of this big plan for years and of course a few years down the track my days were not fulfilling and being financially set is not what it is all cracked up to be. What am I waiting for…to die?! So, I thought what better time than now. Eight years later my former self has come back to me. I said “see ya” to a great stressful job and left everything I know in the working world to do what I have always wanted. Maybe the plan and the money comes with the change. Only one way to find out…Jump and love every second of it! FYI: I don’t have a lot of money, I just know that it is better on the other side.

  • Heather says:

    This is a great topic, Chris. I’ve taken the leap, and I’m writing you from my boat in France!

    Throughout the past ten years my husband and I worked to balance immediate change vs lifetime change. We lived as if we were ready to make the leap, keeping expenses and responsibilities low while living well below our means and putting money in the bank. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do, but knew that the conventional life wasn’t for us.

    I agree with some previous commenters that constant motion forward (big or small steps) is a great mantra. Each choice my husband and I made not to purchase a new car, to pack a lunch or to forgo cable TV moved us toward our goal. As the years went by, our life looked less and less traditional (ten weeks average of vacation per year) and extended travel got easier.

    When the opportunity came along to purchase a boat that fit our budget and lifestyle, we jumped! My life is now on a radically different path than most of my peers, and I’m loving it!

    It’s great to see so many people taking chances on their lives in order to pursue their own path — whether big or small. I’ve really enjoyed everybody’s comments!

  • Ariane says:

    I finished my planning this week-end actually :-).

    Two years ago at age 40 I began to take massage courses and this year I took the two firsts Reiki Usui initiations. I noticed that to be able to have even a small number of clients I have to be part of a professional association (so that the medical insurance pays for the massage or reiki session). So I decided to take the leap and go for it, even if I know I will not be able to make a living out of it. I work 90% so the remaining 10% will be saved for this activity (which makes me feel alive and useful VS the office job).

    The planning takes me to February 2013, at which date I would be able to ask for prof association membership(all obligatory courses done).

    Then a year after I have planned a travel I have been wanting to do for at least ten years : Go to India. This will be December 2014 : massage course and meditation retreat in Kerala (plus a few days for some sightseeing).

    I keep my fingers crossed so that nothing will get in between my plans.

  • Jennifer Campbell says:

    You’re absolutely right – the answer depends on the individual’s situation. When I was around 20, I moved to the Bahamas because that’s where I felt I was supposed to be.

    Now that I’m in my 40’s, there are things I’d like to change. However, this time I have children I am responsible for and so just jumping is not the best option right now.

    But I can make smaller moves that will, in time, get me on the path I choose. So that’s what I’m doing.

    Best of luck to everyone trying to follow their dreams!

  • Joanna says:

    Great topic — and I think how a person deals with this depends a lot on their personality. Some folks get an idea and like to do research, read, and follow a step-by-step plan to get it started. Others get an idea and jump right in, glossing over obstacles/problems as they go. I see good and bad in both methods: the researcher can get bogged down in details and never get his project going; while the go-getter fails because he has not anticipated important details that may lead to insurmountable roadblocks. I like to research, but I break my project down into do-able blocks. I always try to complete a do-able block of tasks so that even while I’m researching, I still feel as though I’m accomplishing something. For the go-getter type, perhaps it would help to employ someone who is the detail person. And by employ, I don’t mean a paid position necessarily, but a supportive person who is detail-oriented and will help you take care of those tasks that may be tedious, but are necessary for success. Thanks for a great topic and giving my brain cells a jumpstart for the day.

  • Sheila Crosby says:

    Action is great, but so is focus. I used to try to take action on lots of projects at once, and nothing got finished. Now I keep taking baby steps on one or two projects at once, and things do happen.

  • Gavin says:

    Great post Chris – I discovered your site a couple of months ago and it’s really inspired me to get off my butt and take action. Appreciate all your help!

  • Jo says:

    For us, with a small child and lots of student loan debt, it made sense to plan. We paid off the debt before we had our little guy, and my husband quit his job about 2 years ago. I am quitting my job in 3 weeks. We’ll live in a tiny house in Cape Town that we’ve paid for, and keep our expenses low and learn to be as available as possible to whatever comes our way.

  • Karen Divine says:

    I am almost sixty, hard to believe of course since I have teenagers at home who keep me connected…I have ALWAYS moved forward, always chosen the path I wanted and always maintained that life is a short journey and unless you step into your fears and doubts and see that they are simply mind made events, you won’t move forward. I read Krishnamurti’s book on fear at a very young age and it changed my life forever. Just do it, as Nike says. And p.s., after forty years of doing photography out of love and art, I have been nominated as “Discovery of the Year” at IPA Awards in NYC in Oct…funny, huh? LOVING IT.

  • Ken says:

    Long time reader, first time poster here but this really struck home. I’ve been freelancing for three years and still found myself stuck. Not living the dream and taking full advantage of what freelancing is all about…freedom. Change is about taking action. In our case it is simply going from “one day we’ll do this” to “what is really stopping us?” The answer to the second is simply the fear of “what if.” Time to step out of fear…time to take bold steps of action. Roadblocks and obstacles will always be before us in one way or another. They build character. 🙂

  • Juno says:

    Thanks for suggesting me on your article Chris! Yes, I recently choose to be ‘a career breaker’. And enjoying every second of it. There are lots of barriers before the departure, but really, the process just right before the airplane is the hardest. And rest of it? It will be just natural!

  • Jennifer says:

    Your email this morning on taking a leap is exactly what I need to hear. I’ve been writing a children’s travel series (w/ a fictional character visiting different cities) for 10 years now…writing/revising/rewriting and just need to take the leap and send it to the publishers. I’m held back because I want to make sure that this project gets placed in the right hands who can see its potential beyond just a book series and be able to support a marketing campaign that includes (activity books, toys, maps, backpacks, etc). I believe so much in this series and for some reason haven’t leaped. I think I’m just about there but it is like standing on a tall cliff overlooking a sea of water, and even though I think I’ll soar above, I still have to loose the ground underneath me first. Thanks for the little push this morning that brought me a bit closer!!

  • Bethany Bernard says:

    I received your book, the Art of Non-Comformity, over the summer. At first I thought the ideas in it were cool and that “one day” I would love to travel the world. I never imagined that your book would be one of the things pushing me to finally make a decision to go see the world. About a month ago I decided to go on a year long missions trip in January called the World Race. It consists of going to eleven countries! Part of me is terrified and the other part is excited. But I can totally relate with this blog. I have told many of my friends about my new adventure and they reply with, “Man I would love to do that, if only I didn’t have a boyfriend, car, job, bills, etc.” And my thoughts are why not now!

  • Betty Street says:

    Just the other day, I saw a piece of art that said “You can’t cross the ocean by staring at the water.”

  • Jeremy says:

    I agree with most of the comments. It is better to be proactive and way the plus or minuses especially when you are taking a big step but remeber sometimes you need to take that forward leap of faith to keep progressing.

  • Jodi says:

    Thanks for the kind mention, Chris. People write to ask about when they ought to leave too, and I always say that for me it was a matter of worst case scenarios, and having one to fall back on that made sense for me. I saved for years in part because I wanted the freedom to travel without working at the same time, at least for a bit. I wanted to savour the world without the obligations that got me there. But I also wanted to position myself in a place where, if things didn’t go as planned, my “worst case” wouldn’t be so bad at all. That meant having a few years of lawyering under my belt and the skills to use them later, if needs be.

    To each his/her own, the most important part being an open mind to the infinite possibilities life can hold if only you look ahead.

  • kathryn robbins says:

    the most dangerous words in ROMANCE are “this time it’s different”

  • Christian says:

    I think it’s a question of committing. If all you are waiting for is the right time to commit, it’s not going to happen. But once you’re all in … You’ll know, because you can’t stand to wait.

    That’s when you realize that you can always do more than wait: save money, start a project blog, buy what you need, sell what you don’t, learn what you can … Make some sacrifices. Take another step.

    If you have a truly epic project in mind – like crossing the North Pole, building a bridge across Gibraltar or sailing around the world – you don’t want to do it without a lot of preparation (and probably a lot of necessary waiting), but you can still do something every day to bring it closer.

  • D says:

    I’m looking to drastically switch industries- I currently work as an environmental scientist, but I am looking to switch to something more on the culinary side. I am waiting it out till I can start classes, so most likely I will be waiting till January. I’m okay with that though, I really want to think it through this time. As much as I love geology, that is not what I should have majored in. This time I want to be very, very sure about the career I am trying to restart.

  • wendy says:

    I am definitely leaping. It would be easy to wait till I had more certifications, more experience, more confidence. That does not solve the growing problem now. In 2011, over 300 suicides have happened in Army personnel returning from war. On my 10 year yoga teaching anniversary (10/1/11), I am launching The Whole Warrior Project with a free ebook. It has 2 versions, one for military and one for everyone else, that addresses trauma healing and coping strategies. For every $2 donation received, a dvd will be provided to active combat personnel with the ebook, audiobook version, and 3 meditation mp3’s.

    It’s scary when the gut yells, “GO!!!” and the mind says, “WAIT!” but I know from years of experience if I follow my gut, it’s always right.

  • Tara says:

    I have been on a 5 year preparation plan that is now 10 months away from d-day… I have a precise date now after doing my final planning this past weekend. It’s still really scary but I am psyching myself up for the final leap.

  • jonr says:

    Inspiration is perishable.

  • Tony says:

    Sometimes you have to throw yourself into the fire or else nothing will get done. In a few months I’m quitting my job without having a finished plan in place. If I wait to have the perfect plan nothing will ever happen.

    So I rather just dive in. Truth is, the worst that can happen, especially in this country, isn’t that bad.

  • John Sherry says:

    I’ve jumped and flown – left my home town of over 40 years to find a new home, a real love, and completeness. Don’t know where that is but you have to head for somewhere, right? Because if it’s not where you are it’s not ever going to show up. So you have to show up some place else!!

  • Adam says:

    Great post Chris. I’m doing a bit of both. I’m waiting a few more months in my current job due to a potential opportunity of meeting a long-term goal (my boss just announced his retirement). However, I’ve also started a small business with my son to support our love of lacrosse. I feel confident that the coming months will present some clear direction but I have plans in mind if things don’t materialize as planned at work within the next 6 months.


  • Juan Cruz Jr says:

    Four months ago I decided that I was going to start a blog. I had been telling myself for months before that I was going to do it. I finally said, “that’s it I am going to do it”. I felt ready. I made up my mind. And I just did it. I’ve been blogging now for a couple of months and I am glad I took the plunge. There is saying that goes, if it must be done, do it now!

  • Kate says:

    Waiting it out. For me it’s a good bet. I came from having zero foundation going through a lot of ups and downs being homeless at one point and now working a full time job with great benefits, though it’s not my end goal I want to run my own business and of course have the freedom to someday travel and I know I can do it because I’ve already bided my time and went from nothing to something. The fact is I never over expected and I never rushed and it works for me.

  • Michelle D'Avella says:

    I think the reality is that most people aren’t likely to make the change they want because it’s always a future thought. If you really want something then do it. That doesn’t mean it needs to be drastic or life changing in that instant, but there are often steps we can take to get to where we want to be. Then again, drastic change can lead to some of the best life experiences.

  • tyronebcookin says:

    Definitely take the ‘moving forward’ approach…even if I wait, I wait in action. Take steps or THE step towards everything in view that you want or need to do.

    Inaction, or no action, is moving backwards because TIME moves forward.

  • Farnoosh says:

    I think most of my “waiting” to get out of hell, I mean corporate world, was because I had no idea this other world, our world here now, could exist. I think it’s fine to tell others to hurry up and not wait, but it’s also good to have compassion about the fears and anxieties and the LACK of knowledge and awareness for things that we take for granted. So while I do think some people wait far too long, I do believe some do it for reasons that are scaring them to pieces, and if I or someone could only help them see their world differently and see their amazing opportunities, then they would indeed be willing to do it sooner. A balance between compassion and gentle push. And never easy to know that balance but well worth exploring it.

  • Niel Malan says:

    Oh, this is a difficult question right now. Have I leapt, or am I waiting? I returned to University to pursue my PhD full time, forgoing several years’ income. But at the moment I’m jumping through hoops, not pursuing my dream of being a eco-capitalist.

  • Nick says:

    In the book Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert talks about how we derive happiness from delayed gratification. Putting off an exciting event or great meal actually more enjoyable a lot of the time than the actual event.

    Perhaps getting things done now is difficult due to this desire to delay.

    The plan to do something is much easier than actually doing it because it requires no work. Thinking about doing it derives some pleasure without the pain.

  • Shannon O'Donnell says:

    Thank you for the mention Chris, actually buying my plane ticket when the idea struck me, instead of listening to my fears and waiting for the “perfect timing” for the the trip is one of the main reasons I actually left the first time. 🙂

  • Barbara says:

    Last December, I did just what this post is talking about. During one week’s time, I decided to quit my miserable job and move to Spain for a semester to study Spanish. I knew no one in Spain but had always wanted to study Spanish abroad. I didn’t know what I would do when I returned from my adventure but I knew that I had to go and that I would regret not going. Taking this risk was a big adventure but the pay off was amazing. I was able to return to my “normal” life renewed, refreshed, and ready to take on another adventure.

  • Marshall Jones Jr. says:

    I’m doing both. I’m living in Seoul, South Korea, which is still a huge step for me and in and of itself is pretty exciting. Still, it’s ultimately a stepping stone to what I’d like to do next year. . . and then the year after that. I’m a fan of that kind of action: if I’m going to wait, I try to do something exciting in the meantime.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  • RH says:

    I recently returned to school, admitting, registering and seeking financial aid one week prior to classes starting. I decided I did not want to be a legal secretary for another 25 years! I should finish my paralegal certification in just over a year and my employment options will increase. My husband thought I was a bit crazy. But from reading these posts, I had to just ‘jump’!

  • Ivan Bickett says:

    This is the first post I’ve read at the AONC. I like this! For years I’ve been the, “Let’s plan this out. Let’s make sure I think of EVERY POSSIBLE scenario that MIGHT come this way. If it’s not perfect, WAIT UNTIL IT IS.” guy.

    See… I’ve wanted my own business since 1997. And since 1997 I’ve come up with one reason after another as to why this business won’t work and that business won’t work.

    In hind site it basically boils down to fear.

    Now, however, it is different. I’ve taken my dream and am steadily turning it into reality. Now, I’M ALL ABOUT TAKING ONE SMALL STEP AFTER ANOTHER to get where I want in life. Now, I’M MAKING IT HAPPEN IN SPITE OF MY FEAR AND NOT HAVING EVERYTHING PERFECT. Come October 7th, I’m full time self employed!

    Too many of us use VERY LOGICAL REASONS, ie EXCUSES, to NEVER go after what we want.

    Great post!

    Now stop reading and GO DO SOMETHING!


  • Lola says:

    This post definitely resonated as I too waited (12+ years as a GIS consultant and application developer) before finally resigning in 2009 and living more of the life I know I’m supposed to be living.

    When I get questions from people asking about pursuing their dreams/passions, I usually advice them to go the baby-step route; making sure they’re not abandoning any responsibilities that need to be addressed before diving head first.

    I also always tell them to turn off Internet noise (other blog posts, articles about leaving it all, etc) which may force them to jump sooner than they’re ready to.

  • Swanil says:

    I completely agree! I just spent the last 3 months planning my first trip to Europe with one friend and then another (both of whom have unceremoniously ditched me!)

    In any case inspired by this post I’m planning a trip this time to Colombia. 😀

  • Jenny says:

    Really, I think the answer is both.
    People always say, “Do it now!”
    But I have so many projects and ideas, that “Do it now!” to all of them would leave me frazzled, with nothing concrete finished. So rather than abandon all the ideas, I just pick some to do now and bide my time on the rest for later. Maybe I’ll never get to later, but I certainly won’t accomplish anything but spinning my wheels by trying to do everything NOW.

    I moved abroad and I’ve spent a year teaching English. I’m an expat.
    I have so many possibles for ‘next’ laid out, it’s daunting.
    But I accomplished one of the big things I wanted to do in life – to teach in Thailand for a year. Even with the current floods and school being closed, I’ve already met that goal.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, some goals are time based, in that, you can start them today, but it’ll still take awhile to finish them. So it’s good to set the time to start, so you can hopefully finish – but to remember, as you’ve often said, it’s also about the journey.

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