Have you ever looked around at your life and thought, “this is not where I thought I’d be”? I have. In fact, when I look at my life today, I often think that, and, it’s in a very positive light. If you told me ten years ago that I’d be living the life I’m living today, I never would have believed you. It’s much better than I could have imagined.
However, it hasn’t always been that way. No, I’ve had instances in my life where I’ve looked around in sadness and thought “how did I get here?” I’ve had a couple of Eat Pray Love moments, on my bathroom floor, sobbing thinking, “how can this be my life?” And those moments are always followed by: this is not where I thought I’d be.
Waking up in sadness or frustration, realizing your life is nothing like you planned or imagined can be profound and transformational. Or, it can sink you into further sadness and frustration. It depends what you do with that realization. Thankfully, I used those moments to create positive change in my life. It didn’t always happen immediately. In fact, it rarely did. It often took many “on the bathroom floor” moments to finally propel me to make a change. But, ultimately, I believed and knew deep down that life is meant to be lived joyfully, not in a state of frustration about where you’ve ended up. So, what can you do if you’re having a “how the hell did I end up here?” experience…
First, admit it!
It’s hard to look yourself in the eye and admit that you’ve spent the past many years living on auto pilot. I remember when I began to realize I wanted to leave my corporate job, I had a hard time admitting I’d spent over a decade at a place I intended to only be for 2-3 years. Suddenly so much time had passed without me realizing it and I found myself thinking, “how did that happen?” I’d been on autopilot. That’s how. I wasn’t thinking about how much time was passing or whether I was happy. I was just existing in the daily grind of my life, until I woke up and realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
One of my clients has been through several personal and professional changes the past year and is waking up to the realization that she’s been in a loveless marriage for the past decade. That is a hard pill to swallow and a difficult thing to admit (for anyone); however, covering it up and ignoring it certainly won’t help. Whether a dead-end job or a dysfunctional relationship, we stay in certain situations for a variety of reasons and that’s okay. But, when you realize it’s time for a change and you’re having your “how can this be my life?” moment, admit it. You are where you are. Accept it, and admit it is not where you want to be. When you finally admit it to yourself, you can begin moving towards the life you want.
Second, decide what you want to be different.
You now know you’re not where you thought you’d be or where you want to be. The next thing to do is ask yourself: what do I want to change?
What about your life isn’t the way you want it to be? If you could wave a magic wand, what would your life look like in the next 3-6 months?
Third, take one step.
Now, take one step to move toward your answers to the above questions. Don’t worry about all that needs to happen to get you to your desired end state. All you need to do is take one step. When I was leaving my corporate job, my “one step” was to hire a coach to help me figure out how to transition to starting my business. That was the ONE thing I did first and the next step arose from there.
For my client who wanted to get out of her marriage, her one step was to call a lawyer to get some advice. That was the only thing she could even think about doing. Taking a step makes the change real and can be scary, but it’s necessary to set the momentum in place for more steps to arise. The truth is if you could see all the steps you needed to take to get to your desired end state, you’d probably get even more scared. You’re not ready for all of them. You’re ready for the first one. And from there, the second one shows up, when you’re ready for that. Each step builds upon the previous ones; so, don’t worry about anything more than the first step you can take to move toward what you want. That’s all that’s required for you to start to make a change.
When I look back to my past frustrating and sad moments of “this isn’t where I thought I’d be”, I realize that they’ve all led me to where I am today. They’ve led me to the joyful satisfying moments where I’m making the same exact statement, but instead with a sense of immense gratitude in my heart that my life is better than I ever imagined it could be. When you move through your frustrating “how the hell did I end up here?” moments, you begin to walk down the path of creating your joyful “I can’t believe I ended up here” moment. Don’t be afraid to take your first step on that path – from there, you’re on your way.
This post was originally featured in HuffPost on July 25, 2017.