Ahhh January. There’s something exciting about opening a new calendar or a new planner for a brand new year. Ideas of reinvention and renewal swirl around our head. Even if we’re leaving behind a wonderful, glorious, life-changing year, we’re excited to see what the new one has in store. While we all love a fresh start and a chance to begin again, what if the new year was a time for some personal reflection and a mental tune-up because everything in our lives was pretty doggone good already? That’s where I am this year and it feels great. But how did I get here?
It all started when I had Gia. I happily quit my job to stay home with her and I settled into my new job as a mom. We easily settled into our own little routine of bottles and naps, errands and cooking (baby food for her, dinners for me and her dad). Although I was busier than I had ever been, motherhood made me feel free in a way I hadn’t in a long time.
Watching a tiny baby develop into a little person who walks and talks and laughs and plays has quite an effect on the soul. Every milestone is truly amazing to witness and it makes so many parts of adult life seem tedious and boring in comparison. The beauty of witnessing the growth of a baby is that it made me realize just how fleeting time is. I noticed that I no longer had tolerance for anything that didn’t bring me true happiness. So, over time, I began to move away from anything or anyone who took away from my happiness. I set out on a path to keep only the things around that are positive and fulfilling.
And that’s really how it all began. By making small changes over time, I slowly created a world where nearly every part of my life is overwhelmingly good. It wasn’t always easy. I had to say goodbye to a few things along the way: not-so-healthy friendships, material things I didn’t really need around and I had to get myself on board too. I’ve done the work and it’s been worth it.
If you’re ready to make some changes and live a happier life, start here.
We all have people in our lives that are tougher to deal with than others. Some of those people have to stay in your life, like your boss or your in-laws, etc. But some of them don’t.
Take an honest look at the people around you. Distance yourself from difficult people. You can have an honest talk with them and tell them things need to change for you to remain in each other’s lives. Or you can slowly move away from them by keeping contact to a minimum. I don’t recommend cutting people out with no warning because it’ll leave you both confused. You’ll feel guilty about the way you handled things and the other person will be very hurt. Be compassionate, but put yourself and your happiness first.
Most of us like having nice things. I know I do. But I stopped trying to keep up with the Jones and started to pay more attention to need vs. want. I truly have everything I need and that makes it easier to not buy lots of things. But, material things are nice and I still do love shiny new things, so now I’m more selective. I used to have 7 black handbags that were all ok. Now I have 2–a big one for my everyday needs and a small nighttime one. And that’s enough!
I also started following the one in/one out rule for everything. If I buy something new, something old has to go. If I buy a new shirt, I go through all the old ones and get rid of at least 1 I don’t wear anymore. I keep a large shopping bag at the bottom of my closet and every time I’m done with something, it goes in the bag. When the bag is full I donate it via one of my Facebook swap groups. (I do this with all the kids’ clothes too. As soon as they grow out of something, it goes in the bag. It helps me keep their stuff organized.)
This is both the easiest and hardest area to tackle because it involves the things you do, such as your hobbies and your job.
Finding hobbies you love probably isn’t difficult at all. The harder part might be to stop doing the things you don’t love anymore or just don’t have time for right now. Here’s an example. When Gia was first born I started scrap booking. I had this great idea to make her a baby book. Every month I’d sit down with pictures, special scrap booking paper and stickers and do a page. Then, when she was 6 months old we went away and I missed a month and never got back to it. So Gia has a half finished baby book. Oh well. The part I did looks pretty great, and the rest is boxed up in the basement. Maybe one day I’ll get back to it. Maybe not. Either way, I’m ok with it. Right now I’m focusing on learning photography, writing this blog and writing in general. I’m not going to beat myself up about it! (see #4).
The other part of experiences is your job. This is the hard part. The vast majority of us need a job to pay the bills. So, if we don’t love love love our job, we need to stick it out because we can’t afford to quit and wait for the perfect thing to come along. If you already love your job, you can move right along to number 4. If you don’t, keep reading.
It’s probably pretty obvious that if you don’t love your job, it’s time to start looking for one you do love. The perfect position is not going to fall into your lap, so you’ll have to do some work (no pun intended). Rewrite your resume and cover letter, apply for new jobs, network with friends, join professional groups (both online and in real life) and get the word out that you’re looking for something new. If you want to switch fields altogether (and you’re ready to make the switch), do all of the same things! If you’re not ready, continue to learn everything you can about the new field so that when an opportunity comes your way, you’re ready for it.
A few years year ago my mom was increasingly unhappy at her job. She didn’t want to switch fields, just “companies”. She’d been casually looking for a new place to work for a while and nothing was quite right. One day she was talking with a friend and a mutual acquaintance’s name came up, seemingly out of the blue. And then it hit my mom: he owned a company she might be able to work for. She went to his company, introduced herself and got herself a new job. It didn’t happen overnight but the fact that she was open to new opportunities and was putting herself out there at every opportunity certainly helped.
This last one was the hardest for me. Be kind to yourself. Listen to the things you say to yourself in your head. Do you call yourself an idiot? Do you mentally beat yourself up when something goes wrong? Start cutting yourself some slack. It sounds crazy but compliment yourself when something you do goes well. Tell yourself you’re smart and beautiful and happy. Listen to your intuition and let it guide your decisions. The more your confidence grows the easier it will be to work on steps 1, 2 and 3.
If you focus on positive change in these four areas of your life, you will see the results. It won’t be overnight, but it will happen. Here I am more than four years later and I’ve built a life I love. Are things perfect? Absolutely not. But the good days outweigh the bad a thousand times over. I’m surrounded by people who support me and who I support: people who lift me up and don’t judge me or try to cut me down. I have a fulfilling and meaningful job that I love going to (and actually earns me some money–yay!). I have hobbies and I’m constantly learning more about them. There is nothing in my life I dread dealing with. And because of that, this new year I don’t have a need for a major overhaul in my life. Instead, I’m working on a tune up. I’m checking in with myself and making sure that most, if not all, things in my life are fulfilling me in some way and are adding to my overall sense of happiness and well-being. If they aren’t contributing to my life in a positive way, it’s time to make a change. It may not be easy, but with four of the most amazing, happy and fulfilling years behind me, I know it’s worth the work.
So here’s what I’ve learned these past four years about how to reinvent yourself so you can thrive. Fill your life with things you love. The rest will fall into place.