Lowering the Price of a Transition

Why do so many transitions have annoyingly high price tags? Why can’t we just transition with ease whenever we want?

Imagine the opposite for a moment. Suppose that major transitions could always be made with grace and ease, and none required a price to be paid. Suppose you could make big changes whenever you wanted. Switch jobs. Switch cities. Switch relationships. Switch anything at the push of a button.

If transitions could be undertaken at little or no cost, it stands to reason that people would transition more often. There’d be less opportunity to delve deeply into stable experiences because reality wouldn’t be as stable. People and circumstances would shift around much more, so reality would be in a perpetual state of flux. It wouldn’t stay still.

This would rob us of the opportunity to experience the benefits of a more stable reality. We wouldn’t experience as much contrast because as soon as things began to get a little unpleasant, we’d immediately shift to something more pleasant. We’d miss out on those prolonged deep dives into unpleasant situations.

Why should this matter? Why should reality want us to remain stuck now and then? What’s the point? Is it sadistically trying to punish us?

Suppose this was by design. Imagine that we’re living in a simulator that was programmed to function this way. Why would the programmer code it like this?

One powerful reason is that the more we experience the darker side of life, the more we appreciate the lighter side. Scarcity helps us appreciate abundance. Loneliness helps us appreciate togetherness. Sickness helps us appreciate health.

Is it possible that when you stop appreciating the good things in life, you invite their opposites? Is it possible that when you stop appreciating abundance, you attract more scarcity? Or when you stop appreciating good health, that’s when you’re more likely to get sick? Or when you stop appreciating your relationship, that’s when you’re headed for a breakup? In each case the purpose could be that experiencing the darker side renews and restores your appreciation for the lighter side.

If there’s any truth to this, might it also be possible that this reality makes the transitions harder when we aren’t yet ready to transition? Perhaps the price we’d have to pay to transition seems high for a reason. On the one hand, a high price serves as a bit of a barrier, so we’ll have to keep experiencing the unpleasant situation for a while longer. On the other hand, the price also serves as a constant reminder that transition is possible; it may seem out of reach at the moment, but the possibility still dangles before us.

Now when we find ourselves stuck in such a situation, we could accept the price and resolve to pay it. That may require pursuing a long and difficult path though, which can be discouraging. So is there anything we can do to effectively lower the price and make the transition easier?

Yes, there is. We could appreciate the value that the unpleasant situation adds to our lives. Appreciate the scarcity. Appreciate the loneliness. Appreciate the sickness.

During the first five years of running my computer games business, I pursued success, but my efforts didn’t pan out. I sank into debt year after year and eventually went bankrupt. I don’t regret the debt or the bankruptcy, but I regret the stress I created by resisting my financial situation at the time. I regret the experiences I told myself I couldn’t have because I was so deep in debt. I regret that I failed to appreciate many of the little things because I was worried about money – or the lack thereof. I used to run along the beach regularly and not pay enough attention to the beauty all around me – which was free to enjoy – because I was concerned about money.

Going bankrupt really wasn’t that bad. It’s basically a lot of paperwork. The process actually relieves stress once you surrender to it. As part of going bankrupt, you have to document every possession you own. As I went through this process, compiling a list of my every possession and estimating its fair market value, I felt grateful for what I still had. I still had my clothes. I still had a car. I still had my furniture… well, some of it. I didn’t appreciate those possessions as much before the bankruptcy. Afterwards I began appreciating them a lot more.

I actually felt relieved after the bankruptcy. I felt relieved to finally be on the other side of the collapse instead of constantly resisting and fighting it. I felt grateful for the fresh chance to try again. I still had to move to a cheaper place to live. I had to sell many possessions. I had to downgrade my lifestyle. But after all of that, I felt mostly gratitude. The experience didn’t actually kill me. I wasn’t kicked off the planet.

Spending five years of my life resisting reality was enough for me. After that I decided to cultivate a new relationship with life, one that incorporated gratitude, appreciation, and playfulness. I learned to appreciate a long walk in the moonlight. I appreciated the opportunity to use a computer to express my creativity. I appreciated having friends and family to help me when I needed it. I appreciated smiles and hugs.

I’ve observed over the decades since then that life seems to repeatedly reward me for this attitude. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a simulator that’s programmed to reward such thoughts, feelings, and behaviors… and to discourage me from doing the opposite for too long.

Appreciate what you experience, and you’ll be given more to appreciate. Worry about what you’re experiencing, and you’ll be given more to worry about.

Moreover, I learned to say thank you for life’s various problems and challenges too. It was easy to appreciate the bankruptcy because of how it woke me up and sent me down a better path. So with that as a powerful reference experience, I learned to bring a similar mindset to other challenges. Sometimes this was difficult to do, and sometimes I was overly stubborn. But eventually I could see that my resistance wasn’t helping and was in fact only making things worse, and I reminded myself to shift back to gratitude and appreciation again and again.

This sense of appreciation turned everything around. My business began doing well, and every year since then has been pretty abundant. This current year has barely begun, and due to the recent Stature course launch, we’re already past $100K in revenue for 2020. I appreciate that too, just as I learned to appreciate my bankruptcy, and just as I can appreciate a nice walk in the moonlight. In fact, after I publish this, my wife and I are going out for a long moonlit walk together. We’ll appreciate spending time together and enjoying the cool night air.

There have been times where I’ve experienced a short dip towards scarcity, but I don’t perceive those dips as threatening. I accept them as reminders of how much this reality seems to value appreciation. I’ve learned that I can quickly steer back to abundance by remembering to appreciate the heck out of every little part of life, including appreciating the role of scarcity itself.

This is also how you reduce the price of a transition. You reduce the price by extracting every gram of appreciation you can from the experience. As long as you fail to appreciate your current reality, you’re actually holding it stable. When you begin to appreciate the heck out of a seemingly undesirable situation – when you can say a genuine, heartfelt “thank you” for the valuable lessons within that situation – then you can progress. Then life lowers the price of transitioning and makes it easier for you to shift over to new experiences, such as the flow of abundance.

If you’re bored at work, remember to appreciate small acts of fun. Appreciate laughter. Appreciate good coffee. (Except if your workplace serves bad coffee… then maybe pick up some hipster coffee on the way and appreciate that instead. But still notice that bad coffee helps you appreciate good coffee even more!)

If you feel like your current relationship is lifeless, then appreciate what little life there is. Appreciate the good memories. Appreciate a fleeting touch. Appreciate the love you once had. Can you still say “thank you” to your partner for the role they’ve played in your life? If you can’t say it directly, then say it indirectly. Write it down privately somewhere. No one else has to know.

Such mindset shifts lower the price of transitions. When you extract the lessons from seemingly unpleasant situations, and when you can genuinely thank life for these experiences, life tends to drastically lower the transitional barrier, so you can finally move through your transition with relative ease and lightness.

Receive Steve's new articles by email.

Read Lowering the Price of a Transition by Steve Pavlina