A strange thing happens when you reach adulthood: You sometimes realize
that what you always wanted isn’t really what you want anymore. The
desire you’ve always held to be a teacher, stock broker, lawyer, or
whatever may fall by the wayside when you discover that your passion
was an idealized one, or that the daily grind of your career isn’t as
fulfilling as you’d anticipated.
Maybe you actually loved your job as a lawyer until you decided to have a baby because you found that the long hours spent on your cases struck a maternal chord in you that just couldn’t be ignored. Or you were a successful doctor who discovered that writing is your true passion.
These life crossroads were identified years ago by author Gail Sheehy as “passages,” because they represent the passing from one developmental stage of life to another. Over time our needs change – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Sometimes an inner call for change leads people to wonder, “what if?” Some react to birth and death with the realization of their own finite amount of time before they reach the end.
If self-reinvention has been on your mind, challenge yourself to a life audit so you can become the person you were meant to be. Here’s how:
Ask yourself the big questions:
• What do I need to fix? Whatever is irking you the most – your family, career, relationship, health – is the problem you probably need to tend to first. Addressing that one will have the greatest impact.
ï What are you not doing, being, or having that you want to in life? Answer all three of these aspects, and you’ll see what’s causing you the most unhappiness.
ï What’s important to you about your work and career? Is it the praise, the need to help others? The income?
ï What’s the first step to fixing your life? Imagine yourself successful at whatever it is you want to change. How would you feel? What can you do over the next 24 hours to get closer to that goal? In the next week? The next month?
Make a plan…
To begin to make changes, start with this plan, suggested by Straight Talking author Linda Blair:
1. Each Sunday, write down what you want to achieve that week, then make goals out of the top three.
2. Once a month, set your top three goals for that month.
3. Each year, write down your general aims, and where you’d like to be headed for the next 12 months.
Don’t allow yourself to be daunted by some goals. If, say, you’re planning on selling your home but find the thought of putting it on the market and searching for a new place to be overwhelming, look at it this way: Would you rather stay in the same place with the same view and the same rooms and the same neighbors forever? Use this approach when considering a job change. Would you rather invest in the time needed to embark on a new professional journey… or would you prefer to be stuck at the same gig for the next five or 10 (or more) years?
Before changing careers, however, you may want to consider these steps suggested by The Big Book of Me author Nina Grunfeld:
Make two columns. In the first, list what roles you currently take on (partner, mother, colleague, daughter, and so forth). In the second column, make a list of what’s missing (the creative you, the sociable you, the sporting you, the spiritual you, etc.). Now think about what has replaced the aspects of your personality that have evaporated, or the activities you used to enjoy.
Once you make an honest evaluation of the above, you’ll have a clearer idea of the direction your next phase of life should take. If you’re thinking of a career change, build on your strengths and joys from what you’re currently doing. You can segue slowly, by taking night courses after your current job (after all, you still have to pay your bills). But if you keep up with your goal to become full-time at your new career, it will eventually happen… and you’ll have met your challenge. Think of how fulfilled you will be.
The beauty of this life audit is the new appreciation you’ll have for the world you’ve created for yourself. Don’t just let life happen to you: grab the reins, and follow the path you’ve always wanted to take!
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