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When a Leap of Faith Is the Best Way Forward

Change your life for the better by making an informed choice to move ahead.

Key points

  • Sometimes our circumstances are no longer fulfilling, or we find we have needs that are no longer being met.
  • In these cases, a leap of faith can be an effective way to make a major life change.
  • But leaps of faith aren't blind: Draw strength from the sources of support in your life (e.g., friends, family) and your vision for the future.

I recently took a leap of faith, the latest in a series of such leaps that have carried my little raft onward along life’s river.

I knew for a long time that I wasn’t happy in the life I was leading in my old hometown in Connecticut, where I returned in 2007 after nearly 30 years “away,” as New Englanders put it. I certainly loved the largely rural area’s natural beauty and historic charm. But I didn’t like that I had to drive more than 15 miles to find the kind of coffeehouse I learned in my former “city life” to love, a place to hang out for hours while reading the news or working on a piece of writing.

I also didn’t like feeling isolated and lonely—as I felt there even before the pandemic forced yet more isolation upon all of us. My loneliness wasn’t only a matter of being alone for far more time than I was already used to as a writer who knows how to fill his alone time. Instead, it was from the feeling that even my friends didn’t seem to know how to show interest in me or the things that matter to me. I got very tired of feeling shut down regularly as if my only value as a friend was to listen without the expectation that I would be listened to—let alone be heard.

Fortunately, I came to understand that the main reason life had brought me back to Connecticut was to fulfill my lifelong prayer of being able to help care for my late mom in her old age. I feel profoundly grateful to have had that opportunity, though it was certainly challenging at times to be Mom’s chief advocate and caregiver. Her death in October 2019, only a few months before the pandemic began, was one of the most severe blows I have ever endured. Bereavement made my loneliness even more intense.

Nearly a year and a half after Mom’s passing, I decided to use the ending of my apartment lease as the push I needed to propel me on to the next chapter of my life—whatever it was going to be. Conversations with good friends, family members, and my therapist led me to the conclusion that relocating to Atlanta would make a lot of sense, offer more professional and social opportunities, and even increase my happiness. I would be a short distance away from my two sisters and most of their families. I already had a few friends in Atlanta, and I could reclaim the things about city life I had missed—including the city’s abundance of coffeehouses.

Varun Gaba on Unsplash
Even leaps of faith should not be blind.
Source: Varun Gaba on Unsplash

What is a leap of faith?

In a Psychology Today blog post, sport and parenting psychologist Jim Taylor, author of How to Survive and Thrive When Bad Things Happen: 9 Steps to Cultivating an Opportunity Mindset in a Crisis, writes, “The leap of faith begins with the conviction that you don't want to go down the path that your current life has been taking you any longer, that your life just isn’t working for you any longer.”

The leap is appealing when you already have faith that you can change your life. As Taylor explains, “The leap of faith involves having a basic belief in yourself and a fundamental trust in the vision of who, what, and where you want to be in the future.”

It’s about believing that good things will happen if you choose to change your life. But it’s also important to remember that, as Taylor says, “some misgivings are a normal part of the process.” It wouldn’t be a leap of faith, after all, if you could be 100 percent certain everything will work out exactly as you want.

Don’t rely on blind faith in making your leap.

Taylor emphasizes that it’s important to “understand that this leap of faith is not blind faith.” You can marshal your knowledge and skills to change your life and to realize your vision of the better life you want for yourself. And there is no need to go it alone. Instead, draw upon family, friends, and other supports to bolster your efforts.

To increase the chances that things will work out—and to keep you from excess anxiety and catastrophizing about “what if’s” that are highly likely never to occur—it’s important to practice what I call “visioning.” You do it by simply picturing in your mind, in delightful detail, what your new life will look like, and how wonderful it will be. Says Taylor, “The leap of faith will then initiate a positive upward spiral that will transform your leap of faith into a growing confidence that you can and will change your life for the better.”

Our leaps of faith begin with the belief that we will not be satisfied and enjoy the life we want if we simply accept our current circumstances. No one wants to look back at their life with regret for things they did—or didn’t do. That’s why sometimes our belief that things can be better than they are requires us to trust our instincts, have faith in ourselves, lean on loved ones, gather as much information as possible to guide us—and then step forward with boldness and confidence. This is how to ensure that your leap of faith will land you on both feet, safely on the ground, farther along toward the life you really want.

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