I’ve been keeping this log of my journey to leave my desk job and do what I love for over 7 months now. That’s not a very long time, but a lot has happened since I began writing in January. I have yet to actually quit my job, though I’m growing closer every day. I have, however, waded through a long list of potential new careers and taken several big steps toward starting my own business (a bakery!) with a good friend. I’ve also written something about the process almost every day.
I don’t think I’d be making these strides if I wasn’t sharing the experience with all of you as I go. Writing about what I hope to accomplish, what I have already accomplished, and how I’m inspired by your accomplishments has given me the accountability necessary to turn my hopes and plans into reality. And this blog has opened up conversations and friendships in my day-to-day life that I wouldn’t otherwise have.
Seven years ago, when I was 21, I set out on a different kind of journey. It was a journey to lose 115 pounds, climb out of my chronic depression, and turn myself around from the homeless, jobless, college dropout I’d become. I’d just been dumped by an abusive, codependent, toxic boyfriend and I was at my rock bottom. It was an isolated and dark time for me, during which I had no choice but to face my situation alone and own up to the world I’d created for myself. I realized that only I could improve my circumstances. No one else. I didn’t have a blog then, nor did I have the incredible system of support and inspiration I have today. But I did have, even when things were at their very worst, a belief in myself, however small, that I was capable of achieving what seemed impossible.
I ultimately succeeded, slowly but surely, in changing every aspect of my situation for the better. And that personal victory confirmed for me that we all possess the ability to do what we put our minds to. It’s a simple, universal concept which endures because it’s true.
Empowered by my own return to grace, so to speak, I’ve since maintained the belief that I can do anything I decide to do, and I’ve used that conviction to fuel this new journey of mine. But I still have plenty to learn. So far, I’ve discovered (and written about) a handful of things in the last 7 months that have helped me form an exciting perspective on this new journey. I believe that these things apply to any journey to follow your bliss, whatever that might mean for you. So I want to share them.
I present to you:
13 Things I’ve Learned So Far On My Journey to Follow My Bliss
Each link takes you to the original post I wrote when I learned that particular lesson.
1.) Follow the path. Unless you are certain that you want to accomplish something really specific, like to become an American-Airlines-pilot-based-out-of-Denver-who-only-flies-weekdays, or a pilates-instructor-who-lives-in-Boston-and-teaches-women-in-their-40’s, the best way to follow your bliss is to follow the path as it presents itself to you. Decide what you hope for, what you dream of, but don’t be beholden to one way of getting there or one way it will look when you do. Be open to *not* knowing, and then put one foot in front of the other. You might not be able to see very far ahead, but all those single steps eventually add up to a whole journey. Be willing to trust in that.
2.) Happiness is not circumstantial. Sometimes people who find themselves in dire, desperate circumstances still have a positive, joyful outlook. And sometimes people who live what might seem like a perfect life, complete with success, fortune, family and opportunity are some of the most negative, unpleasant people around. You are the only person who decides what you value and how you feel about it. And you are the only person who can know if you’re waiting for something external to make you feel happy. When whatever it is finally comes along, will your world fall suddenly into place? Probably not. Practice happiness now. Few, if any, are the circumstances that are really going to change your outlook.
3.) Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend. When you’re working toward something you dream of, judging yourself harshly can be one of the most treacherous obstacles in your path. For whatever reason, so many of us are experts on how to put ourselves down, while we lack the basic ability to be kind and compassionate to ourselves. But when our best friends are struggling or striving, we talk to them lovingly and patiently in order to help them along. Why should we not give ourselves the same respect? Children who are put down have an infinitely harder time succeeding than children who are lifted up. It’s no different for adults, so be nice to yourself first and always. You’re only human.
4.) You are built to adapt. Sometimes the journey to follow your bliss, whatever that might mean for you, finds you working a job you hate, or dealing with a problem that’s hard to face. And that’s all part of it. You have the right to decide how necessary that unpleasant stuff is – do you have to deal with it, or could you walk away from it? But if you’ve made the choice to stick around and muscle through it, know that you, as a human being, are naturally capable of adapting to things pretty quickly. That can be a blessing or a curse. It can mean you end up stuck in a situation that you tolerate for a lot longer than you mean to, or conversely, that you don’t mind working an odd job to make ends meet while you’re making bigger plans. Use to your advantage your innate ability to adapt to change, while still being mindful of whether or not it’s time to move on.
5.) Courage is essential. If you want something more, something different, if you’re hoping to achieve things you dream of achieving, you have to be willing to be courageous. And if you don’t feel courageous, fake it until you do.
6.) The struggle is part of the dream. This was a piece of wisdom imparted to me by my good friend and fellow improviser Phil Wells when I was having a string of bad days early on in the baking biz. His advice made me realize that someday I will look back on the struggles fondly, as times when I was learning and growing. The hard parts might not be pleasant in the moment, but when I remember that they’re all part of this colorful journey, I’m more willing to smile while I push through them. Plus, I’ll probably have some great stories to share when I’m a grandma.
7.) Practice moderation, not obsession. I had to learn to do this with exercise, because being obsessive about it was clouding up my focus. I firmly believe in exercise as a way to keep myself happy and healthy, but when my new endeavors started to take up lots of room in my schedule, I missed some workouts. And then I freaked out about it. Ultimately, I decided to get over myself and trust that I can be healthy in lots of ways – going for a run five times a week doesn’t always have to be one of them. Too much of anything that’s usually considered “healthy” – keeping a focused schedule, keeping a clean house, going to the gym, eating veggies, communicating your relationship woes to your partner – can tip the scales toward unhealthy if you don’t practice them in moderation. You will exhaust yourself and your body if you don’t let yourself off the hook. As you seek out your bliss, even if you are committed to working your butt off to get there, spend time doing what’s easy, relaxing and low-maintenance sometimes too. It will fuel you the rest of the time.
8.) Put it out there. And don’t be afraid to tell the whole story. This one isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who don’t mind sharing details about ourselves with others, it’s helpful to be open and honest with other people about your quest. You don’t have to have a blog to do so – the simple act of communicating your situation honestly to the people you can trust (“I want to move to another city.” Or, “I am trying to get out of a bad relationship.” Or, “I want to quit my office job.” Or, “I want to be a movie star.”) can open up conversations and opportunities you may have never had otherwise. People tend to respond warmly to someone who is forthcoming about their goals and dreams and it can be a strength-building experience to hear yourself saying the words out loud to another person. Plus, you never know what you’ll uncover.
9.) There are teachers everywhere. This is an idea that has been reinforced for me by doing the payday and guest book segments on this blog. When you begin to follow your bliss, you realize there are people and ideas everywhere that seem to support your efforts. You’ll read quotes in the newspaper, overhear a conversation, or see a movie trailer that all seem to have everything to do with exactly what you’re searching for. It’s not that they weren’t there before, it’s that you’re paying a different kind of attention now. All of the people, places and experiences in your life have something to teach you on this journey. If you are willing to let yourself be taught, even about stuff you think you already know, you’ll start to see almost everything as an opportunity to learn.
10.) Anything can be work. If your journey to follow your bliss is career related, this applies to you. No matter how much you love something, if it becomes your job, it becomes a job. Even if you’re thrilled to spend your time on it, there will be days when you don’t wanna. It doesn’t mean you love it any less and it doesn’t mean you’re broken. Work is work. It’s hard, it’s rewarding, and if you enjoy what you do for work, you are lucky and blessed. Keep in mind that if you turn your passion into your career, it will change, even slightly, how you feel about that passion, for better or worse.
11.) Time will pass no matter what you do with it. God willing, you will wake up one day ten years from now, just like you woke up today. Only you can control whether or not that morning will look like this morning did. If you want something about your current situation to change, if you want to seek out what makes you happiest, you might as well start now. Because time waits for no one.
12.) Everything is a process. I don’t have an earlier blog entry to link to this. I was doing my Yoga Download session on Saturday and the woman on the podcast said, “Yoga is a process. Know this.” And it struck me as being true for everything, really. A relationship, a weight loss effort, a career, parenthood, childhood, learning to swim, learning to ride a bike, learning to articulate your needs, being a runner, being a world-champion ping-pong player – they are all processes. And the very nature of a process is that it contains periods of new growth, periods of setbacks and periods of no movement at all. It is a moving forward and a moving backward. And I realized that so many of us, myself included, tend to become upset with ourselves during the points in these life processes when there are setbacks or when growth is not happening constantly. And that is such a waste of precious energy and focus. Because there are SUPPOSED to be periods where growth is not happening constantly. That’s part of it, that’s how a process works. It’s the time when our bodies and brains are rewiring themselves, making the unfamiliar familiar, making the familiar habitual. If those periods of no-movement didn’t occur we wouldn’t actually learn or grow at all. So we’d be better off choosing to revel in the “setbacks” and the times without “forward” motion, because they actually indicate progress. And without them, we’d never improve.
13.) You can be anything. You can do anything, go anywhere, live any life. There are no limits but the ones you choose.