Growing up, my mom had a magnet on her fridge that said “If you’re on the wrong path, God allows U-turns.” I’m not really religious anymore, but the sentiment has stuck with me. In some of the darker moments of my life I’ve felt backed into a corner, absolutely incapable of being anything other than the person. Before I left my corporate job, I used to have this sick feeling of being stuck on a treadmill doomed to never stop running.
Inertia applies to life just as much as any other object set in motion. It takes an outside force to knock us in a new direction. Sometimes that force is thrust upon us. For me it was illness. For some people it’s the loss of a loved one. Sometimes it’s something happy like meeting the love of your life. But the kind of force that moves us in a new direction knocks us on our ass.
At least, that’s the easier way. When something or someone comes along and forces us to adapt for survival, we don’t have a choice in the matter. But the truth is, the decision to change, to apply that same kind of knock you off your feet force to your life is available any time you truly decide to start over. It’s not easy. It doesn’t have the inevitability of another type of change. It requires digging your heels in and not wavering. If you believe in your ability to do this – I do – then it’s never too late to start over.
The decision is the easy part. The walking forward to the new direction is the hard part. Take it from someone who started over after she got the dream job with her college degree only to wake up miserable, comfort is the biggest enemy in starting over. Even if you’re miserable right now, staying as you are is always easier than changing. Here’s some steps to help make the transition a little easier to digest:
Know thyself. If you haven’t asked yourself why you are unhappy yet, now is the time to do so. You’re not unhappy because you’re job sucks. You’re unhappy because what you need out of a job (sense of purpose, friendship, support, financial security, etc.) isn’t being provided for you. You aren’t tired of being fat. You’re tired of not fitting into your clothes, or not being able to keep up with your kids, or feeling run down at the end of the day, etc. Understand your motives before you look for a solution.
Clearly state what you want. I want to be a professional actress, but the sugar coated way of saying that is “I want to work a creative job.” NO. Don’t sugar coat. Give yourself a laser focused goal. I want to weigh x pounds or run x miles (always take into consideration your body type and doctor’s advice for health-related goals). I want to open up a dog shelter (not I want to work around animals). Don’t give up before you’ve ever started – be honest about what it is you want out of life.
Break it down now. For me, the goal is acting. The steps are auditions, acting and dance classes, networking, losing weight, eventually moving to LA. I’ve broken these down into segmented chunks so that I don’t get overwhelmed by the nebulous idea of “acting.” You want to open your own business? Start with what, then for whom, then take that business class you’ve been wanting to take, then draw up a plan, etc. Whatever your next goal is, break it down into pieces so that you can start racking up wins.
Take the first step. I’ve written before that your life can’t change unless you do. Deciding to actively pursue the life you want instead of dismissing your desires is a huge change to your outlook on the world. So do it. Do it and see that the world won’t crumble. Do it and know that you’re allowed to want happiness. Do it and see that you aren’t broken, you’re just lost in a life created for someone else. Do it and tell me how great it feels.
I hope you find some motivation in here to really start taking your heart seriously. It took me a long time to admit that I was important enough to fight for, but I want you to know that your happiness is a BIG deal. It’s worth the hard fought battles that come with starting over. It’s worth discomfort and not knowing what’s coming next. The world does not require your unhappiness because you made your way down this path. If you’re stuck in a relationship that doesn’t lift you up, unfulfilled by your career, unhappy with your health, unhappy with yourself – those things and so many more are fixable. Believe in yourself as much as I do. You have the power to change your life.