It is no secret to many who read my work that I quit my job as a tenured professor at the height of my career, we sold our big house in the country and moved to a new city. At an age when most people are thinking about and planning for their future retirement, I was, by choice, starting over.
Yes, I chose to do these things; it was not forced upon me through a layoff or divorce or death or any tragic circumstances. My life was good, I loved my work, and I had a supportive husband and supportive friends and family. I had a good life, but I wanted an even better one.
That was three years ago. I am in a different place, and I have a different mindset. People comment to me all the time that I seem different. I definitely look different. I have made radical changes and my insights have truly affected who I am and how I now think.
The journey has been one of discovery, and I have worked hard to create a life I love. Along the way, I have learned things that I wish I had known in my previous life.
Here are 13 things about life I have learned since starting over:
What you do needs to align with your values and goals.
This might seem obvious, but how many of us have done something because it is expected or because someone asked us to do it. Without time or thought we sometimes drift into things we might not have consciously chosen. We are happier in work and life if we consciously examine what we value and make our decisions about what to do or not to do accordingly.
To have a life you love, you have to be proactive rather than reactive.
Many of us are so busy going through the motions that we spend our days reacting to things that happen rather than focusing on making things happen. Acting to make hours, days and weeks that are built around the way you want things to be changes everything.
Stop blaming unhealthy choices on your circumstances.
Busyness was my excuse. I couldn’t go to the gym because I was too busy. I ate unhealthy food because I was too busy. It was true, and I certainly believed it. They key for me was that if being so busy was unhealthy, I needed to stop being so busy. It is a choice.
Relationships are important, and they help to keep us happy and healthy. Make time for people. Send the card. Go have coffee. Put down your phone and listen to your kids. Pay attention to people. Some of my biggest regrets are around my loss of time and attention to people. It is a harsh lesson.
The world can be cold and mean, we need kindness more than ever. A common Facebook meme says “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” I make it my mission to be nice to the grumpy grocery store clerk.
Soak up pet love.
I’ve had pets in the past, but never connected to them the way I have recently. My cats are unconditional love wrapped up in little balls of fur. How did I not know this? Now, I love them back.
Getting enough sleep improves your ability to function.
I heard this and read this for years. I didn’t do it. I bragged about my ability to function well on four or five hours of sleep. Now, I wonder, what could I have accomplished if I had slept more all of those years?
You can’t fill up holes in your life with stuff.
Lots of people have a problem with clutter. It is easy to buy things to make you feel better, but the feeling won’t last. I used to buy things, I rarely do any more. I don’t need stuff, which is a sign that I’ve filled my life with something better.
If it is to be, it is up to me.
My Dad used to say this to us all of the time. Now I work for myself. If I don’t find and do the work, I don’t get paid. There is no safety net. This also covers life decisions- do I want something? If so, I am the one who needs to make it happen.
Rethink your relationship with money.
I used to have a steady paycheck. I spent a lot of years living paycheck to paycheck. More time and energy spent working did not equate to more money. Now I don’t have a regular income, and the money I earn comes in sporadically. What I find fascinating is that somehow we seem to have more money now than we did before. When I stopped focusing on my lack of money, I started to have enough, then even more than enough. It is all relative. I know this sounds like some crazy, voodoo magic. I can’t explain it, but how I think about money has changed and we are better off for it.
Everything is figureoutable.
I stole this one from Marie Forleo. If you don’t know how to do something, you can figure it out. I’ve learned things in the past three years I would never have dreamed I could learn. I learned to refinish my kitchen cabinets and install wainscoting. I hired a nutritionist and completely re- learned how to eat. I built a website and now I am building an app. Yeah, I am now an app builder. Who knew? It is all figureoutable.
Quiet time is transformative.
For me, this is quiet reading time in the morning. Others use quiet time for reflection, meditation, or prayer. My former life was so full of busyness and people and demands that I rarely had a moment to myself. Now I crave it. It is when I do my best thinking, my best planning and when I come to my best inner wisdom. Quiet time is now non-negotiable.
You’re stronger than you think.
As you can imagine, uprooting your life comes with challenges. I’ve had mental, spiritual and physical challenges. Like Dorothy with the ruby slippers, I’ve learned that what I need to get past challenges is inside of me. I have surprised myself in dealing with death, in pushing through work disappointments and in reevaluating what my body is capable of. I know I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. The knowledge is empowering and gives me courage to go forth boldly.
What about you? What have you learned that is powerful in your life? I’d love to hear more.
Thanks to beth, for the inspiration today. Read more about 13 beliefs on Leadership Dots.