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.