By Paul T

I want to talk about something that, on the surface, might seem negative but in actual fact is a very positive catalyst for change.

I think the biggest, most positive and most challenging changes that I have made in my life have all started with a gradually increasing sense of dissatisfaction. A sort of low hum of restlessness and/or anxiety. A sense that things aren’t right and that something needs to change.

When I think back to the times that I have felt dissatisfied my first response has generally been to try to numb the feeling – by playing video games (a personal favourite), eating comfort food, watching TV, drinking alcohol, going on trips, hanging out with friends to avoid time alone, etc. Because it feels unpleasant the natural inclination is to avoid it. The thing is, the feeling doesn’t go away. In my experience it usually starts out quietly, almost imperceptibly. And then it gets louder and eventually it enters the conscious mind. Once it enters the conscious mind and the source of the dissatisfaction becomes apparent, there is an opportunity to make change.

After years of working as a bartender at a university grad club I was feeling unfulfilled and restless. I finally picked up on the cycle – I would make friends with a group of grad students and then over time they would graduate and move on to bigger and better things. In the meantime, I was stuck in a rut. The desire to leave and move on to bigger and better things grew. I decided that I wanted to move to Toronto figuring there would be more opportunity for growth there. But it was a terrifying prospect. I had only lived in Kingston on my own at that point and worried that the big city would eat me up and spit me out. Instead of moving, I took on a part time job working on an organic farm. That helped a bit but it still wasn’t enough. The dissatisfaction grew. I realized that moving to Toronto was something that I had to do. Whatever the price.

When I finally worked up the guts to make the jump I was terrified – I didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t know where I would work. It was the dissatisfaction that I felt that eventually outweighed my misgivings. What started as a slow burning restlessness/anxiety ended up giving  me the courage and energy to face my fear, disrupt my path and make the move to Toronto.

I feel that dissatisfaction is a gift. It draws our attention to things that need to be dealt with in our lives. It’s a call to action. It forces us to wake up out of the slumber of our respective routines and gives us the opportunity to take a look at what we are doing and honestly assess whether or not we are happy.

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2 Responses to Dissatisfaction

  1. Alicia says:

    Paul I agree with you 100%. My dissatisfaction has grown so large that numbing it with food and tv and ‘stuff’ just doesn’t work anymore. The problem is that my dissatisfaction tells me what I’m not happy with but it doesn’t tell me what I need. Now I’m on a path of trying to make that change but I’m not sure what to change to.

  2. JL says:

    Paul – I love this post. I find it true to many things that I’m experiencing.
    Alicia – I hear ya. “What to change to” is also sth I’ve been struggling with.

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