Finding Peace on the Slow Road to Change: 5 Steps to Live By

Finding Peace on the Slow Road to Change: 5 Steps to Live By

“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan

Change is not always something that happens overnight. I’ve read the stories about those who quit their jobs on a whim and do their own thing. They start their own business or travel to a foreign country to live out their dreams. I love those stories. But that’s not my story. Sometimes change is slow.

Sometimes change takes patience and commitment to doing the same thing day in and day out. Sometimes change is a long, slow labor of love.

I’m a single dad to an eight-year-old girl. As romantic as it sounds, I can’t just quit my job, sell everything, and start fresh in a new city. I have to provide a stable home for my daughter. But that doesn’t mean I can’t work toward fulfilling a dream. I can. I am.

I’m a college instructor. I love my job. The hours are great. I get summers off. But there’s something I love more: writing. I’ve been writing songs and poetry for years, but in 2011, I discovered I could write books. I wrote my first, A Train Called Forgiveness, a fictional version about my own history as the child victim of a religious cult. I’ve since written a second book and I’ve started on a third. But sometimes change is slow.

My hope is to retire from teaching in five years and earn an income solely from writing. Here’s how I plan on getting there from here:

1. Accept slow change. 

Often we expect instant change, instant gratification. We see the rich and the famous and we wish we could live their lifestyles. What we don’t always see is how the fast road to fame and fortune can devastate individuals, relationships, and families. And often, those that are wealthy, worked their way, slowly, through a plethora of problems and change along the way.

2. Commitment is key. 

In order to make anything worthwhile come to pass, we have to stick with it. It took me about six months to write my first book. I wrote daily. It took another five months to rewrite. I chose to self-publish. I knew I’d have a long road ahead of me to build a platform. I work on it daily. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, but when I look closely, I see growth. But the moment I stop being committed to writing, would be the moment I turn my back on the change I’m seeking. Without commitment you’ll find yourself flailing.

3. The importance of patience. 

True change takes time. Whether it’s personal growth or building a new business, there’s no such thing as instant success. A flower doesn’t bloom overnight. The process goes on for weeks. Some cactuses only bloom for one day a year. As a younger man, I struggled with paranoia. It was an after-effect of being a child in a cult. I turned to alcohol and marijuana to try to cope. It took me nearly a decade to discover that I was only making things worse. I went back to college when I was thirty years old. It took another decade to find my true passion of writing. Three degrees and a Master’s thesis later, I learned that patience goes a long way.

4. Enjoy the ride. 

As a single dad I know I have to stay put for my daughter’s best interests. If you have to stay in one place, you might as well enjoy the ride. I’ve learned to spend my time doing the two things I love the most. During her waking hours, I spend my time being actively engaged with my daughter’s life and growth. Early mornings and after she’s in bed, I spend my time writing. I make sure to balance work with play. I make a point to spend two weekends per month relaxing and having fun. We all need to recharge our batteries along the way.

5. Don’t let ‘em get you down. 

Whenever we have a dream that dances on the outer edges of what the average person expects possible, there will be naysayers. Don’t listen to them. When I was a kid in a cult I was told I was weak and stupid, and that I’d never accomplish anything in life. I went on to college. Since beginning my writing journey, I’ve heard my share of negative comments about self-publishing and writing in general. People say things like, “Self-published books aren’t real books,” and “Writing a book will never pay off.” I disagree on both accounts. People that make comments like these often wish they had the courage to do what you’re doing. I repeat. Don’t listen.

* * *

In the end, it’s not the end result that matters as much as the journey itself. If you know what you want and you’re willing take the slow route to getting it, you’ll reach your highest potential along the way. With patience and persistence, each step of the journey is its own little success. Don’t stop. Take the slow road to lasting change and you’ll find happiness. I know I’m here, now, and that’s what really matters.

Questions: What slow changes are you making in your life? Where will they take you?

Photo by Kai Schreiber

Dan Erickson

Dan Erickson is a writer, musician, teacher, and single dad. He was the child victim of a cult, but has come to accept and forgive those who have harmed him. He has written two books, A Train Called Forgiveness, and At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy, and is currently working on the third book to his Cult Trilogy. Dan enjoys spending time walking and meditating in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about Dan’s writing and read excerpts and poetry @ http://www.danerickson.net

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42 Comments

  1. Dan,

    Thanks for your story. I think change is more about setting (and finding) your direction rather than getting there in one big leap. What you say about using you time is important – using it well so it aligns with what you value.

    Keep writing, keep the dream alive.

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Peter. Setting and finding direction is key to change. Sometimes it takes a long time to come to the point of understanding our true direction.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for that piece Dan. It turned out to be very timely. I’m going through a process at the moment and occasionally it seems like nothings ever going to change. So thanks for the pep talk. All the best.

    Eamonn

    Reply
    • What I’ve discovered is that if we look back at things and really study, we will find more change than we thought had happened in a given period of time. Ask yourself where you were a year ago compared to now. Or two years.

      Reply
  4. Hi Dan
    Thanks for sharing your story and highlighting that it’s okay if things take time. I’m struggling at the moment to find my direction. Every bit of my being is saying change is needed – I’m just not sure what that means yet. Best wishes to you and your daughter,
    Carol

    Reply
    • Thanks, Carol. Direction is tricky, because it can change. I’ve been writing music and songs for over 30 years. I never thought I’d be writing books five years ago. But I also think direction comes to those who seek.

      Reply
  5. Wow Dan! I’m a single Mum with an 8 year old girl and all the constraints and responsibilities that go along with that. I love to write – my little blog is my release. It is amazing how some manage cope when huge, unexpected change (like marriage breakdown) comes their way and emerge out the other end way better for it – nothing to lose but to just go for it I suppose? I have seen many who’s souls are destroyed by a job loss and others who embrace that as an opportunity to start thier own business or change to a new career – something they would not have taken a risk and left a stable job for normally. All the best with your goals.
    Shaz

    Reply
    • Thanks, Shaz, and my hats off to you for single parenting. I know it’s a challenge. My girl turns eight on Tuesday. She is one reason that I’m writing. I want her to know about my past, my challenges, and those things are written into my books. I also hope to leave her a legacy. Writing is an excellent outlet. Do you have some books in you?

      Reply
  6. What a great post. I’ve just read it out loud to two separate people and I’m sure I’ll read it again at least once today.

    We all want change, my 20 year old daughter wants it now. Me, her 40 year old mother, knows it sometimes takes years to get to where you want to be, but that if you do one new thing a week, that’s 52 whole new things! If you look at it that way, anything is possible.

    I look forward to reading more of your work.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Dee Dee. I hope to post here again later this year, but you can always check things out at my site http://www.danerickson.net. I know how it is with the younger ones wanting change, now! It takes a long time to grow the patience to accept slow, lasting change. I like your 52 weeks a year analogy. Do you have any specific goals for some of those weeks?

      Reply
  7. Thank you Dan for an inspirational post. I’m bookmarking it for future reference. I’m also working on my dream of making a career in photography…I have a lot to learn and a long way to go but I too am patiently working on it every week.

    Reply
    • I love photography and wish I had more time for it. I wish you the best on that journey. Do you have a site where you post your work?

      Reply
  8. Thank you for sharing your story, Dan. It’s always an “upper” to read about someone who’s making positive changes in their lives. What would you advise someone who had a VERY poor self-image, finally started making something of their life, lost their home, and now is forced to live AGAIN with the very people who ruined her self image? I feel I cannot even take that first, slow step until I get AWAY from these people. Every time I try to take a step, I’m stopped by nay-sayers who want to inflict guilt on me and are totally non-supportive and self-centered.

    Reply
    • That sounds like a tough situation, Erin. I think it would help if you had a least one outlet or confidant that you could turn to that would take the focus off of the negative vibes you feel from those around you.

      Reply
      • Thanks. I do paint, but, due to the “negative vibe”, I usually paint in the middle of the night, because I got tired of listening to my mom complain that she wished SHE had the talent, and the time to do something like that. Art has been the first thing in my life that I tried that actually WORKED. I feel sorry for my mother, but she’s subconsciously trying to hold me back from succeeding at anything, because of her own deep sorrow at seeing her OWN un-lived life. I have ONE person in the whole world. My fiance (practically a husband. we’ve been together for 8 years) is the only person-to-person contact I have. And now he’s here in hell WITH me.

        Reply
  9. Always love to read your stuff, Dan! I cannot recall a single significant change that happened to me over night, so this resonates BIG with me. From writing to guitar playing to our business to teaching to our marriage, they have taken years to shape. I can see where horrible incidents may cause significant change over night with greater frequency than desirable ones, but that is just a wild thought.

    Our blog is a slow and really fun process filled with a lot of work and laughter. No idea where it is taking us, but it will be good.

    Reply
    • Thanks, CJ. It’s interesting how many of us perceive that change comes to others quickly, but when we really look at our own path, it’s a slow road, and that’s likely for the best. One thing I love about blogging is the experimental nature that allows for trial and error. I agree that it’s really fun. Keep it up.

      Reply
  10. Dan, each point is so important, but what really made it all come together for me was your personal story. You are living your dream with your daughter. Even though you can’t move, you are still loving your life.

    I think my exercise routine is one example of slow growth (really, really slow in the beginning!). Until I got serious and committed to daily exercise, my desultory attempts were not getting me very far. Now, it is a habit to walk five miles a day. Period. It took me five years to build up from three to four to five, but I am loathe to miss a day. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Wow! Five miles a day! That is great. I exercise, but my commitment to it tends to waver. I do love to walk, bike, and hike, though. Thanks for commenting and stick with your routine.

      Reply
  11. Hi, Dan. Thank you so much for writing this post. This was just what I needed to hear. I am taking care of my father who has Alzheimer so I can’t leave just like that.

    (Although I do have my share of people looking down on me for doing so and wonder why I just doesn’t put him in a home and take off. There aren’t any room available and if it were I still wouldn’t have put him there. The conditions are horrible.)

    I am dreaming of being an entrepreneur who builds up places again, to be a crisesconsultant for businesses in difficult economic countries and to start my own type of businesses. I also love to write and take photos. I have been doing so for all my life and I did have a dream once to combine those two and start charities with the money.
    (An owl- fundation, one to christian gays, an education fund for homeless, an entertainment fund for elderly. I believe I still have the copy of a book and the new draft of it somewhere.)

    I am writing this to thank you because the last two years I worked my but off (sorry the expression) to make my dreams a reality. It didn’t work and I hit a wall. I lost all motivation and self-confidence. The same with hope and the joy. Now I am going to see if I can shake the dust of the dreams again and see what I can do.

    Reply
    • It sounds like you have some very good ideas, dreams, and reasons for accomplishing them. I feel like I hit a wall every other day, but I think the key is to keep doing a little each day even when you feel like there’s a wall and sooner or later you’ll get past that wall.

      As for caring for you father, I think you are doing the honorable and admirable thing. – dan

      Reply
  12. Great post, Dan. I’m with you, perseverance is the key and it is the satisfaction of enduring that brings about gratification. I also like the fact that you have a plan, I believe that’s key as well. Having read your first two books, I’d say, brother. you’re on your way!

    Reply
  13. Thanks for stopping by, Floyd. Yes, I have a plan, and perseverance is key, but getting back to writing my third book is going to take some time and hard work. I’ll have to slow down on the blogging end of things soon. My hope is that I’m also working in tandem with a higher plan.

    Reply
  14. Hi Dan
    Thats a great post you made here! It toally resonates with me. I don’t have a kid but I do have a job and simply put I can’t just live my work to pursue my girlfriend (who lives abroad now) and my dream.
    BUT every day, little by little, I’m working my way towards my dream, puttin an hour or two into my parallel project (the blog I’m linking above) and slowing seeing the growth.
    Slow change is kind of frustrating, cause you start dreaming of your new life, and you want it to happen now already… the path is so long, and I do get discouraged some days…
    But I also know that every day commitment (and faith in yourself) is the key to any change. Especially “life change”.
    So thank you… for writing this. Reading these words always help in times of doubt, and I just wanted to say thanks Dan :) Good luck for your writings and your dream – btw I more or less have the same in mind : leave my job in 5 years).
    Loved that phrase btw: Some cactuses only bloom for one day a year.
    Nicolas.

    Reply
    • Sounds like you’re keeping the faith in your dream and yourself. Just stick with it through the slow days and you can make it.

      Reply
  15. Great post…Thank you so much for being yourself in the world. It is not easy……..We all do expect instant gratification, not sure why. Is it our culture, television? I am way past raising a child, look backwards at what I did right and what I might have done better. Every day I get up thankful for a good life and make plans for the future…

    Reply
    • I think TV, media, technology does have a lot to do with the desire for instant gratification. It can be tough to take the slow route, but in reality, that’s what most of us will do.

      Reply
  16. This is very enlightening. People always want to bring us down at whatever we do. Learning to cope with where one is presently is really a source of lasting happiness. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Yes, the here and now have tremendous power.

      Reply
  17. I think your point about enjoying the ride is incredibly wise. We so often focus on where we want to go that we devalue the present.

    Reply
    • That’s true, Loren, and I struggle with that myself at times as much as the next person. There are days when I feel like nothing is happening. But really there are things happening. It’s all in how we view the world and the journey we’re on.

      Reply
  18. Hi Dan,

    I love reading this, thank you for echoing my thoughts! I’m taking the slow route towards weight loss. I’m not anywhere near obese, but I’m overweight. Sometimes I get too hard on myself when I don’t see results, especially if I’ve poured all my energy on working out and dieting. I got stronger, but the weight loss has been doing really slow in progress. The 5 steps you mentioned are spot on! Exactly what I needed to hear to get that extra push.

    Reply
    • I’m glad you found the post helpful, Maria. I’m no expert on weight loss, but I have worked on my own weight from time to time. I’m about 10-15 pounds over now, and need to do it again. I’ve never really used a diet, but have always worked on overall lifestyle changes. The tough part is sticking with those changes. Just keep with it a little at a time and you’ll reach your goal.

      Reply
  19. Thanks for sharing your story Dan. I think it will be so helpful to the many people who are in a situation like you are, like I was. Sometimes the slow train is the best option and as long we we’re willing to be patient and take small steps forward consistently we can reach our dreams. Write on!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Brian. Consistence and persistence are two ingredients that go a long way.

      Reply
  20. Hi Dan, Thanks for sharing your story. It’s true that we have to be patient and enjoy the journey. I always wanted to write a book and it’s taking me a while to gather all the information for the book. It will be a three year project so thanks for keeping me motivated. Best of luck in your journey!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Veronica. Just remember to do a little each day toward your goal and you’ll get there.

      Reply
  21. Hi Dan,

    Thank you so much for the article, it came at a timely moment in which I was not feeling like I was making “success” happen fast enough in my life.

    I’m one that will at times get impatient with slow progress in many areas. You made me think of others that I’ve seen that were the quick to riches, and quick success supposedly, and often there is more to the story, not always ethical. I too love the quick overnight success stories and they are the ones to often celebrated, when it’s the single mom or dad, such as yourself that sacrifices things like sleep, to chase after their dreams, and even when the odds seem stacked against them, they keep coming back. Thank you for your example and no doubt you are your daughter’s hero. In the end, not a whole lot of things that one can hope for, or want to be other than their family’s hero.

    Reply
    • Yes, and I think that we are true to ourselves, our community, and a higher calling, as well as family, when we take the slow road and focus on a variety duties. Thanks for sharing and your kind words, Kory.

      Reply
  22. Hi Dan: Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that change should be a process, one that allows us time to make process through a change in direction. Change that happens too quickly or abrupt can be very unsettling. A lot of us go through the subtle change, as we need the time to adjust to a new life. I wish you all the best in your new life.

    Reply
  23. I can definitely relate to this post! I worked a full-time job while building my own business, then a part-time job, and now, finally, I have transitioned to running my business full-time. It took a lot of patience and time, but it has been so worth it.

    Good luck with your writing journey!

    Reply
  24. There is a panchtantra story ( children’s tale in sanskrit )that narrates that a tortoise won a race over a hare as the former kept going at his slow pace but the hare, too proud to compete with an awfully slow moving creature , dozed off on the way, thinking that he would cover the distance in no time. The hare did not make it. Perseverance and consistency wins the day, as you have wisely mentioned, Dan.

    Reply

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