10 Ways to Chase a New Direction in Your Life

Since graduating from high school, I have spent the last fourteen years on the “right track” for my big transition into adulthood.

I moved out, went to college, found a good job, and bought a house. I did everything I was expected to do. I worked long hours, chasing promotions and raises I didn’t care about. I dutifully planted myself in front of the television in the rare moments I was home, and filled my existence with all the normal stuff of modern life—debt, clutter and stress.

I just wanted my parents to be proud of me. So I chased what I had been told success looked like. Instead of finding what I was searching for, I discovered a constant stream of excess—too much work, too much stress, too much stuff—and I was drowning in it.

In the stillness of the night, blanketed by the never-ending comfort of darkness, I would begin to dream about the life I wanted to live. One filled with joy and peacefulness where I was doing work that mattered to me, pouring my energy into those I loved, and had the space to just breathe—pretty much the complete opposite of my current existence.

But instead of chasing the life I dreamed of, I kept chasing the one I didn’t want. I was scared of changing direction, scared of challenging what I had been taught to desire in life, and even more terrified by the idea of actually getting to live the life I dreamed about.

What life are you chasing?

When I started thinking about the changes that would need to happen in order for me to transition from one life to the other, the fears within me started to multiply. I thought about things like:

  • How do I go about changing?
  • What if I can’t do it?
  • What if I don’t like the things I thought I did?
  • How can I support myself and do this?
  • Am I too far along in life to even entertain the idea of changing it?
  • How can I just walk away from the “security” I have now?

The mere idea of change can be one of the scariest realities we face. When you are standing on the cusp, you have to dig deep within yourself to find ways to overcome the fear, doubt and worry. There is no one solution that works for everyone. It will be a lot of trial and error as you find your way along, but the more actions you take the more the confidence you gain.

You aren’t going to start out with all the right answers, or even a complete picture of where you want to end up. But I suspect, in the stillness of the night, that voice speaks to you loud and clear about the life you know you want to be living.

Here are 10 ways to help you start chasing a new direction:

1. Get clear about what you want. A boat that wanders aimlessly never reaches the shore. You need to have some direction to help guide you along the way. Some people start out with a complete picture, while others identify one or two things they want to change right now. Either way, you need to get clear about where you are going.

2. Start small. A danger zone exists when you get clear about where you want to be. You start to feel excited about the life you want to live, and then you try to change everything at once. You get exhausted, and you give up. Don’t set yourself up for falling back into your old life. Start with the smallest action you can take today and just do that.

3. Focus on what not how. If you continually focus on how you are going to accomplish massive transitions in your life, you will never begin taking those small actions. When you think about how, your mind can come up with all sorts of scenarios where you don’t reach the goal. This is not what you need to focus on. None of this matters today. Worrying about a future that will most likely never come to pass is a waste of both your time and energy.

Put your focus where it matters most—what do you want for your life? Once you focus on the what, and start taking those small actions, the how will take care of itself.

4. Don’t think about how long it has been this way. I spent fourteen years working on my professional career, before I left it behind to write and run my own business. I spent twenty-three years overweight before I lost that first pound. Now I spend every day writing and running my own business. And to date, I have lost over 108 pounds.

It does not matter how long things have been this way in your life, today is the day that you can start to change. It just takes your unwavering commitment and one small action. Then repeat this step again tomorrow.

5. Create accountability for yourself. You cannot do this alone. (Trust me, I thought I could too!) You need people who know and support your efforts to keep you on track in this process. You need accountability that tomorrow you are going to keep pushing forward. You need people you can rely on when the going gets tough (because it will, that’s just life). You need someone to help you see things in a different way, to call you out on your excuses, and to keep you going when you’d rather give up.

Build yourself a support system, and let those who would question or undermine your efforts go along their way.

6. Don’t give in to the negative self-talk. My brain has this amazing talent wherein no matter what I do, it can point out all the ways in which I have failed. It tries desperately to convince me that I shouldn’t keep going; that it just wants me to be safe.

Phooey! That inner dialogue is what is keeping you stuck in the first place. You are in control of your mind, not the other way around. Choose to look at things in a different perspective. Choose to keep your options open and your dreams alive. When the negative discussion starts, choose to be stronger than your thoughts.

7. Open yourself to possibility. If you close yourself off to the world, you are going to miss a lot of amazing things. Part of this process is allowing those past pains, those old mindsets and preconceived notions go. You need to create a sort of blank slate within yourself to begin reconstructing how you see the world.

8. Be willing to let things go. One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself in this process is freedom. By releasing the burden of your stuff, you will find that there is plenty of time and space to create the life you want to live.

Clearing out the physical clutter in your personal space is a great place to start. Take it 15 minutes at a time, room by room. Start with small actions and get the momentum building. This doesn’t just apply to our physical possessions, but our emotional ones as well. Focus on the number of commitments you have in your life, the things you feel that you have to do. Start thinking about all the stuff in your life, and what you can do to begin clearing it away.

9. Take care of yourself first. In the never-ending race we have created out of our lives, the first person we always neglect is ourselves. You can’t wait for the world to quiet down before you start focusing on your own well-being. Keeping such a frantic pace only leaves you exhausted and not of much use to the people depending on you. To be of great service to others, you must first take care of yourself.

10. Stop and reflect along the way. When you start implementing the first nine points on this list, you may find yourself caught in the momentum of change. Time passes quickly in our lives, and as we grow and change so too does our vision of the life we want to live. Make sure that you take time to simply reflect on what you have accomplished, where you are at right now, and where you are headed—then plan some small action steps for tomorrow.

Stephanie Wetzel is a writer and entrepreneur on a mission to help women overcome their weight and create the life they want to live. She has lost over 100 pounds by changing her habits, mindsets, and lifestyle. She believes in the power of commitment over diets, and blogs about it on Trading Pounds. You can also keep up with her on Twitter.

  • Chetan

    Hello Stephanie ! Thanks for sharing cool article about change. I liked point no
    1,2,4,6,9 more.

    Chetan

    • Clueless

      I have a good idea on what to do when I’ve found direction, but I don’t know how to start. I have no idea in the slightest what direction to go in. I’ve spent the last 9 years in a marriage that was struggling but fulfilling and he left me. I have a daughter and was up until now a stay at home mom who home-schools. I have cushion for a bit and support but I feel lost… How does one find direction?

  • http://www.tradingpounds.com Stephanie Wetzel | Trading Pounds

    Chetan – Thanks for commenting! So glad that you enjoyed the article and found some great information in there.

    I am so very excited to have been selected to contribute to Pick the Brain today!

    Steph

  • http://www.liveboldandbloom.com Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

    Hi Steph,
    Fantastic article — beautifully written. You have accomplished so much, and I love your blog. Thank you for sharing this great information.

  • http://Mazzastick.com Justin

    I think it is a rite of passage or something to begin your early adulthood being what others think you should be. It is much better, but not easier to make your own path in life.

    I got to get on board with # 9.

  • http://www.frugalbeautiful.com Ruby

    Even as I make the process to living “my own” life, I find that I struggle with the points you’ve made, like #6. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to pat ourselves on the back when we are comparing ourselves to people established within our field, but there is no standard measure for success for people who are doing their own thing and crafting a new path- yet at times, when we try to create a measure to see “where we’re at” we’re often very critical!

    People don’t become overnight successes (some do) but each journey is so personal…I think we can “have it all” in terms of happiness without having to have/be/do all, all the time!

    Reading this post was a little boost which I needed today- so thanks! I think I should give myself some credit for the progress I’ve made and be joyful that I’m at least on a path to where I want to be even if I’m not there yet. :)

  • http://www.jaimeanderson.com Jaime Anderson

    Excellent post. It’s all about the journey, not the speed.

  • http://www.tradingpounds.com Stephanie Wetzel | Trading Pounds

    @Barrie – Thank you so much for your kind words and continued encouragement!

    @Justin – You’re right in that a lot of us start out this way into our adulthood transition. The question I keep asking is “Do we have to?” What if we chose to teach our kids another way? I think that would make all the difference.

    And yes, you need to get on board with #9! It may be the hardest to accomplish, but it is really, really important. Thank you so much for your added comments to this post!

    @Ruby – I understand completely because #6 has been very difficult for me as well. There is just this blindness when it comes to acknowledging what I have accomplished. The best things that have worked for me are to 1) set clearly defined goals / tasks so there is no mistaking when they have been accomplished and 2) build yourself an amazing support system in friends and family. Tell them what you are trying to do, and keep them informed. When they start rewarding your accomplishments, you know that you need to acknowledge them too! Thanks for commenting and best of luck to you!

    @Jaime – You are so right about that. I am guilty of so much impatience in my life. That is until I finally stopped and asked myself what exactly I was racing so quickly towards. Thank you so much for you comment! Glad you enjoyed the post.

    @PicktheBrain! – Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your wonderful community of readers today. I hope to contribute again soon!

    And thank you to everyone who read, tweeted and shared this post. I wish all of you the best in chasing the life YOU want to live!

  • http://www.thedirectionofdreams Karen van Huizen

    Excellent post Stephanie,
    It is amazing how many people don’t have life direction or are wanting to find their passion. You have provided some excellent tips for people to get started and you come from the heart which will inspire others to follow your lead. I know what it is like to live the “what I think I’m supposed to” rather than how I really want to live MY life. Living the life you dream really is really easy. I encourage others to take on your tips and live their own dreams and passions.
    Karen van Huizen
    http://www.thedirectionofdreams.com

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  • Dhiren Dubey

    Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for beautiful post it has given me much more insight towards my problems and the skills to solve it #2 ,3 9

  • Ed

    Thanks.  I will start in the morning by getting up at 10am and going for a walk.  Only joking 7am, and I will do this for a week and stop eating junk food.  This is the first step.  However, I am having serious trouble about getting direction.  Once I have direction I think I will beable to focus on making things happen.  My problem is I dont have direction.  I have lost the passion for my work as a Project Manger and have moved from one city to the next around Australia and now I am in Bali and I dont know where to go next or what to do?  I have managed to get my life down to one suitcase and a bag of golf clubs and it has been like that for 6 years.  Lots of hotels but no happiness.  What to do next?  Write a book, sell t-shirts on the internet, think up of the next big idea, dissapear into the wild????  I like your article and I will take action as a result.  Where it leads….who knows……but as old blue eyes would say “Thats Life”………

  • Emily

    Great to read this.. Thank you so much :) Have you any pics of yourself before and after???

  • http://www.facebook.com/nabil.el.aissaouii Nabil El Aissaoui

    chokraaaan 

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  • Clueless

    I have a good idea on what to do when I’ve found direction, but I don’t
    know how to start. I have no idea in the slightest what direction to go
    in. I’ve spent the last 9 years in a marriage that was struggling but
    fulfilling and he left me. I have a daughter and was up until now a
    stay at home mom who home-schools. I have cushion for a bit and support
    but I feel lost… How does one find direction?

  • Carolina

    what happens when you don’t even know what you want in life and where to go, i’m 25 years old and all my life the only thing i know how to do is how to study and now I don’t even have passion for that, the past 4 years i’ve been looking for the job that is ment to be for me, but i can’t find the one that fullfills my expectations so now I don’t have any relevant experience to do what i think that i want to do, however, your article is pretty good and somehow it has managed to make me rethink what really I want to do and where i really want to go

    • Inquirer

      You never know when you stumble upon what you’ve been looking for. Some people just look at the world and pick something and are happy with that choice. Others need to look inside and create something that doesn’t yet exist in this world. While some just take whatever comes their way. In the end, I think you’re only going to care about the attitude you carried through your journey. I’m only thirty, or already thirty, it’s how I choose to look at it, but I think the most important thing to me right now is how I choose to face this life.

  • Kei

    I have to say that I am so impressed to read about someone that gets me and do not know me. I sent this to my printer, I will blow it up and it’s going to my wall. I look forward to change too. This has helped a lot and I thank you for sharing.

    I googled “I need life direction” just because I was feeling so down, and your article came up. I needed it. THANK YOU.

  • Jill

    My life could be almost identicle to yours in many ways. Keep up the superb work.

  • Devon

    I love reading articles on this subject… But most prove to be vague and repetitive.
    With that being said, your article is, by far, the best I have ever read. Your article is thorough and made me feel like I CAN DO IT! Thank you so much or reaching deep within to help others. Job well done. Please keep up the great work :)

  • Inquirer

    Good. Great. Amazing. Well done!

  • Larry Darrell

    Excellent. Thank you Stephanie! I especially love your #1. Sometimes it takes chasing what you don’t want for a while before you can really get clear about what you DO want…