We all make changes for different reasons, whether it’s a change in job, our home, our health, etc. For me, the transformation has been caused by both a huge universal force and an internal awakening that was just as jarring. After charging forward in my career for more than fifteen years, moving at a pretty insane pace, I started to realize that I didn’t have answers to some major questions, like, “Why?” and “What next? ” For some reason, the questions kept coming, and for some reason, I decided to pause and consider my answers. The result has been quite a shift for me. I’m not just talking a change of hairstyle (though that’s happened) or a decision to eat healthier (though that has been part of it too). A neighbor has said that I am “reinventing myself” and I gotta be honest - I’m not sure where or when it will end. But while I’m in the middle of it all, I thought I would share lessons I’ve learned to date. For anyone toying with the idea of making life changes, these tips might be helpful.
LESSON 1 – YOU CAN’T JUST ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS – YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO SEEK OUT THE ANSWERS
Listen, you can ask the tough questions all day long, but until you actually dig for the answers, you’ll get nowhere. And nothing will change. And you’ll wake up in a year (or 5 or 10) and still have the same questions, and the same life. It took several times of facing myself before I was actually willing to listen to the answers. A great Yogi, Gabriel Halpern, told me in a workshop once that I should “stop doing; stop talking; stop breathing.” In other words, sit and listen – listen so deeply that you don’t hear/see/feel anything around you, including your breath. Sometimes you have to step away so you can hear what you have to say. To be honest, I still haven’t done it enough.
LESSON 2 – ONCE THE TRAIN LEAVES THE STATION, YOU’RE ON BOARD WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!
Similar to Lesson 1, it’s one thing to commit to change; it’s another to live through it! Once I had started making changes in my life, I remember reading a horoscope one Sunday night that said, “Monday will be your Independence Day.” Holy cow did I freak out! “No!” I exclaimed to myself. “No!” I said to that horoscope and I turned out the light to go to sleep. I’m pretty sure I willed myself to feel my horoscope was wrong that entire night so that Monday morning nothing would happen – but every phone call made me nervous, and I was fearful of each email and conversation. By Thursday, I knew – you can’t commit to making changes and then not be open to allowing those changes to happen. You have to be winning to let go of the reins and see what happens. As I mentioned, I have no idea where all this will lead, but slowly I have become more open to what comes my way. I have to be confident that it will all work out. How cool that I might have an opportunity to do new things!
LESSON 3 – LASTING CHANGES ARE MORE THAN SKIN DEEP
To make transformations stick, you need to make lifestyle changes that support them. Consider all the facets. I have grown my hair. I use home-made beauty products (shampoo and face wash). I’ve also changed my eating habits. (I am now pescatarian), which has caused shifts in family meals; eating out or at events has also changed and I have to plan for it. I’m on my mat six days a week. No, it’s not seven. I’ve given myself permission to not have to be there every day if I have other things or need a break. But I know full well that my morning movement and breathwork are detrimental to my overall wellness. I even use my full name, Kimberly, instead of Kim. (I’ve always liked Kimberly better but I just told others to use Kim because I thought I was asking too much of them to say three syllables– one was less burdensome, and therefore I would be too.) This last one may not necessarily be a lifestyle shift, but it supports an identity that is about who I am and not who I think others want me to be.
LESSON 4 – YOU ARE MORE ADAPTIVE THAN YOU REALIZE
As I started making changes, there were some things I worried would leave a gaping hole in me if I stopped doing them. I thought I would miss them and therefore be unhappy. One of the big things for me was travel. I traveled at least twice a month. And when I would lapse for more than two weeks, I would feel the need to stare longingly at planes going by overhead (I live near O’Hare) and would check all my airline apps to make sure flights were scheduled soon. I haven’t flown in over a month and won’t again until mid-September. And it turns out I’m ok with it. Admittedly, I don’t like that my group number is no longer in the beginning, but I’ve adjusted J and realized that less travel doesn’t equate to less happy. A friend and former coach shared that there is science behind that – Hedonic Adaptation. Scientists have studied the fact that while changes might create a temporary shift in our level of happiness, our ability to adapt allows us to return to our stable level of happiness. So, while we might blow things out of proportion (“If I stop doing this, I’ll be miserable”), we really are able to adapt and return to our same level of happiness because we are so adaptable.
LESSON 5 – JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE MAKING CHANGES DOESN’T MEAN BAD HABITS/PRACTICES JUST DISAPPEAR
The things I struggled with in the past – well, I still struggle with them. Sometimes we hope that by making changes in our lives, those troublesome situations or habits won’t rear their ugly heads, but they still appear because we haven’t learned from them yet. We haven’t overcome. Ironically, in new situations you might be forced to face your weaknesses or bad habits head on because you can’t hide behind your past lifestyle. You can’t use the same tricks you did before. (unintended consequences) View it as an opportunity to overcome and move on, instead of taking that baggage with you.
In summary, making significant changes takes guts, persistence, a willingness to let go, and a willingness to take on. All the while, you have to realize you are living with a new normal. Someone recently told me that I’m making so many shifts that I don’t even realize what’s going on. At the same time, I told my husband that I need to get my but in gear because I’m not doing enough. J I think that is to be expected because your past habits and lifestyle are your only basis of comparison – your only benchmarks. You have to realize that as you incorporate big changes, you are also incorporating a new sense of normal – a new way of doing things, and a new way of not doing things.
Deep down we know these changes can be good for us and so we must press on. It’s exciting to see what lies ahead, but we must be willing to see it through. So don’t stop. I have a saying on my desk – “striking out gets you no more runs than being tagged out at third”. You’ve got to work toward that home run.
What kinds of lessons have you learned when making changes in your life? Share your lessons learned; I’d love to hear about them!