“It’s not one day you wake up and it’s a proclamation. It’s a million individual acts of courage.” ~ Brene Brown
Major life changes are extremely difficult. Yet change is the only constant in life.
Reinventing ourselves is simply following the natural order of the universe. It’s something we’ll do over and over again during our lives—especially those in Generations X, Y and Z.
At 33, I’m a year into my third career. The transition between the first two careers was, honestly, somewhat easy. I was in my 20s. I was young, broke and ready for change. The change wasn’t terrifying—it was exciting.
But major life transitions are much harder in your 30s. You’re no longer as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You know that life can throw some harsh curve balls and that those curve balls can knock you down and out. Making a major life change takes guts like you never had to have in your 20’s.
Walking away from high income earning potential and security is much harder when the world around you is full of marriage, children, mortgages and retirement planning. I had a job that had become not just what I did, but who I was—how I saw myself and how others saw me. My job defined me. I had also made a decent income—far more than I do now while transitioning careers.
But deep down I knew that I needed to not be that person any more. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I spent two years making thousands of small changes that became one big change. One step of courage led to another and another.
Here are five small changes we can make to help get started on the bold, brave path to big change:
1. Gain courage from others.
Find people who have made life changes and ask them how they did it. I started to ask questions to friends, family and strangers about how they made changes in their lives. I asked retired people how they transitioned from working to retirement. I asked people who struggled with love for years how they opened their heart enough to fall in love and get married. I read books and books about people who made life changes.
One person’s courage begets another person’s, and so on and so forth.
Take these words of wisdom and make little notes of courage to yourself—leaving them at your desk, in your car, next to your bed or on your Facebook wall. One that gave me particular strength was a quote from my mom. It said simply, “Becky, you are the bravest person I know.” I drew on my mom’s belief in me to create my own.
2. Step away from the ego.
I worked in a non-profit and spent my days helping other people. On the surface it sounds like the least ego-driven career decision a person can make, but in reality my ego was the noose that was hanging my spirit. Slowly I stopped believing in (or caring about) climbing the ladder and getting the next job. It was a little bit of stepping aside from my ego and a little bit of not caring what other people thought anymore. There is no winning at life and realizing that changed so much for me.
Everyday ask yourself—does my heart want this? Or does my ego want this?
Tape those questions to your bathroom mirror—write it on a post-it, and put it near your desk to remind yourself. Overtime I realized it was my ego, and not my heart, that was guiding me in my career.
Today I’m a writer, yoga teacher and life vision coach. To the outside world it may seem way more ego driven than my previous job but my heart is guiding me in ways it hadn’t in years. And that’s what matters.
3. Cut back at work.
My parents (bless them!) worked their butts off for my siblings and I to have everything we had. (Again, thanks mom and dad!) Both my parents worked far more than 40 hours a week, in the same jobs, for over 30 years. Not working 40+ hours a week, and not going into the office every day for years, was never presented to me as an option.
A few years ago I remember making a pact with a colleague that we’d only work 60 hours per week. Slowly but surely I cut back on that. And over the course of a few years I got down to 40 hours. Cutting back and setting boundaries at work isn’t easy. And it’ll likely be met with some resistance. But the trick is to do it slowly. For the next month set boundaries that have you work just one or two hours less than you do now. The month after that, another hour or two.
4. Try fun new things.
After I started to cut back at work, I realized how much time I had to do other things. I started to explore hobbies I hadn’t ever tried or done in years.
I picked up boxing, and I got back into yoga. I did a triathlon, started writing for fun and took sewing classes.
While some of the things I tried won’t ever be what I do for a living, they helped me discover that there were other things I loved to do—besides the job I was passionate about but had been wearing on me. As an added bonus, I used these things to create the boundaries I needed to set at my job. I scheduled to meet friendsat a certain time for yoga class, so I had to leave work on time. I scheduled personal training sessions at times that ensured I couldn’t get into work at the crack of dawn (or before!).
5. Take a realistic look at your financial picture and save, save, save.
For a few years before I left my job, I cut back on a lot of the extra things I was spending money on (which honestly wasn’t a ton, I’m naturally an under-spender). I stopped buying clothes, getting pedicures and going out to dinner or movies.
If someone wanted to go out to dinner, I would invite them over for dinner. If I wanted a pedicure, I’d do one myself. I saved, saved, saved.
Today I’m living off all that money I saved, along with money I bring in from writing, teaching yoga and life coaching. Having a good nest egg to dip into has helped me a lot in terms of being able to make a major life change.
I live a much simpler life than I did for a long time—but I’m happier.
What are areas you can cut back? Can you move into a smaller home? Can you eat out less? Can you reduce your cell phone plan? (From what I’ve seen, almost everyone can.) Can you get a lower loan percentage rate? Can you make your coffee instead of buying Starbucks every day?
There are hundreds of ways we are all spending our money that we don’t have to. It’s just a matter of determining what’s most important to you and deciding what you can or can’t cut out.
So the question is—what individual act of courage are you going to make today to create that big change you are looking for?
Will you ask another about how they changed their life in some way? Will you walk away from your ego? Will you try something new? Will you cut back, just a bit, in some area of your life where you are spending a little too much? Will you find some other way to live courageously today?
I sure hope so! Get out and do it—I believe in you! (Even if you don’t.)
Author: Rebecca Harris
Apprentice Editor: Jessica Chardoulias/ Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Artem Popov