As we approach the end of 2020 – and let’s be honest, the back of it can’t come soon enough – many of us will be taking stock of the year that everything changed.

Freedoms that earlier generations fought and died for, freedoms that are widely considered to be the foundational stones upon which our society is built – and that many of us have long taken for granted – were curtailed under the relentless advance of an enemy that few of us had even heard of this time last year: COVID-19.

2020 has taught us a lot, and it has powerfully reinforced a universal truth – the inevitability of change.

For many, change represents the unknown, the uncertain, and the uncontrollable. In short, it represents fear. For others change represents the new – excitement, opportunity and adventure.

Like much in life, it is our mindset that largely determines our experience of change.

Our mindset determines how we respond to the unexpected changes that life thrusts upon us without the courtesy of knocking on our door. Divorce, illness, bereavement, redundancy – all are examples of ‘plot twists’ in our stories that have the power to fundamentally alter the courses of our lives, forever. Our mindset also determines how likely we are to instigate change, our willingness to take the bold strides towards an unknown future that promises much but guarantees little.

Many of us are content to live within our comfort zone, safely socially distanced within our own bubble, unwilling to step towards the boundary of what is known and familiar. This can be true even when we may think we long for change.

But, as 2020 has also shown us, people have an amazing capacity to adapt to and accept even the most trying of circumstances.

Many of us ‘settle’ with what has become our norm. We accept the relationship that stifles our personality and shrinks our circle of friends. We stick in the job that fills us with dread each Monday morning, that snuffs out the spark of our creativity and ignores our talents, but that affords us two weeks away once a year.

We play the part that others expect of us, rather than stepping out from the shadows backstage and embodying the role that we were born to play.

When things could be so much better, why do we settle for less? Because when anticipating the unknown, we can let our fears overcome our hopes. We let ‘what if change makes things worse‘ drown out the voice that tells us that we deserve better. And so thoughts of change and intent to change never translate into the only thing that will bring about change – decisive, and consistent, action.

How can we give ourselves the best opportunity to not only accept change, but to embrace and learn from it? How do we make sure that we grow through what we go through?

One of the first things we can do is accept that, whatever happens, for good or for bad, it is but a chapter in the wider story of our life. It’s but a chapter, and it won’t last forever. How do I know that? Well, because change! As sure as night follows day, sooner or later things will change.

Extending the story analogy, we can also ask ourselves what we would like the final page of our life story to say. Our answer will guide our steps through our changing scenes and not allow the slings and arrows of life to divert us from our ultimate destination, regardless of the detours along the way.

As with most challenges that we face in life, self-knowledge and awareness makes for a strong and reliable ally. A good understanding of our attributes, our characteristics, our needs and desires, can direct us and can give us confidence in the choices that we make, and the resources that we have at our disposal. It also enables us to identify where we may need help and support from others. The better we know ‘the leading actor’ in our story, the better equipped we are to write our best life. Remember – you wouldn’t put Rocky in a romcom!

As we look forward to 2021 and face the challenge of building a new post-covid society, let us embrace the opportunity to first define, and then design, the life that we want to live.

Why settle for your life when you can get busy creating it?

PS. Change is Matthew’s unique new online personal development programme that uses the power of your own personal story to help you to: discover what is holding you back from living your best life, gain insight and clarity on the changes that will bring you greater success and happiness and identify the steps that will lead you to a more fulfilling life. You can sign up for free introduction to Change and a special discount offer here:

Matthew Williams is an author, blogger, speaker and coach. He lives in the North East of England with his two young children. He is passionate about positive change and turning life’s challenges into lessons for creating a better future. He hopes that by writing about his own experiences he will be able to inspire others to make positive changes in their lives. His first book, Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating and Depression, is available now.

Image courtesy of Verne Ho.