One Year Later: 5 Most Important Lessons Learned From Shifting My Life and Career

Heather Hardin, July 2019. One Year After Changing Her Life

It was exactly one year ago, that I boldly followed my heart. My soul was screaming for me to make drastic changes in my life. Enveloped in stress and shame, I realized that I was not living a life aligned with my spirit and purpose. No matter how successful I was at work, I still felt empty. My health was failing. My nights were spent anxiously staring at the ceiling. My relationships were suffering. And more importantly, I felt empty, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

After wrestling with the devil and angel on my shoulders and draining my husband with endless late-night discussions on the topic, I made the courageous decision to resign from my upper-level, successful job to find more joy, peace, and purpose in my life. Let me jump to the end of the story for you. This was the best decision I have ever made in my life (well, second to marrying the most dashing and intelligent man on the planet, of course). Today I want to share the 5 most important lessons that I learned during my life shift. I pray that these bits of wisdom might provide insight into finding more purpose and joy in your own life.

  1. God, the Universe, Life…Everything is working FOR you, not against you. It can be easy to get distracted by all of the negativity around you. You can get consumed by your perceived failures and struggles. But life is full of blessings. You need only adjust and open your perspective. What are these experiences teaching you? What is this struggle opening the door to; how is it making space for your next opportunity? Perhaps you could never find that new perfect job if you didn’t realize your unhappiness with the current one. Life is full of amazing experiences, some tragic and some exhilarating. Blessings and lessons abound in all that you experience. The current moment is the result of your past steps. Your future lies before you as a clean slate to write as you wish. Choose to trust in the flow of the universe. Trust in God’s wisdom. All is moving forward for your own good. Believe in yourself. Believe in the blessings of your life.
  2. Find Your Center. What does that even mean? It means taking time to find out who you are; who you truly are. For this, you have to be still and learn about yourself. We often spend our time “doing” for our career, for our family, for others. We can easily lose sight of ourselves. When you take time to get to know your true Self better, you learn more about what you truly enjoy, what you value, and what you truly want out of life. Find time to break away from your usual routine. Take a walk at lunchtime or after work. Sit by the ocean or a pond. Sit on a bench in the park. Find a simple, relaxing place to be still. Calm your mind (easier said than done, but with continued practice, you’ll be an expert). Try to view your surroundings as if you were a child experiencing them for the first time. Notice the details: the leaves on the trees, the birds’ songs, the wind, the sky. Take a deep breath in, and start to connect with the soul within you. You are a spiritual being having a human experience. No one else is experiencing what you are at this very moment. No one else can, because you are the only amazing you there is. What a blessing to finally grasp the unique person that you are, and then live your life celebrating your experiences with all of the other fellow souls trying to find their way home.
  3. Relish the special person that you are! Stop trying to fit into some mold that you created in your mind. Perhaps it’s who your parents expect you to be. Perhaps it’s some dramatization that you believe society expects you to be. Perhaps it’s some idealized personal expectation that you created for yourself based on a lifetime of trial and error. Listen to these next few words like your life depends on it: Be Honest with Yourself! If you are unhappy, then take a look at your life and be honest about what you want to change. Don’t hold onto goals, jobs, or relationship choices because you think you “should” be happy with them. If you are not happy, then accept that, and then do something about it. If you continue to live a lie to make someone else proud, you will be doomed to a life of unhappiness, stress, and disappointment. Who YOU are is way more important than what people EXPECT you to be. Once you connect with the amazing person that you are and follow your own personal passions, your life will begin to flow along a pathway filled with the most gratifying and joy-filled experiences. Work will become less “work,” and relationships will flourish in a way that seems effortless and light.
  4. You Are Worth It. Having a servant attitude helps us live in sacrifice to others. You are likely very thankful that you have a job and life roles that benefit the ones you love. We appreciate our opportunities to serve others and are proud knowing that what we do benefits those around us. Yet, we lose ourselves in these roles so much so that we are left feeling unworthy ourselves. “Oh no, not me. Happiness is for someone else. I mean really, who is ever truly happy?” In order to serve others, you must find time to fill your own cup. We can serve others so much better when we serve from a place of fulfillment. Again, I implore you to lean into these words: You deserve to be happy. You deserve to live the life of your dreams. You deserve to be respected. You deserve to laugh, love, and find peace. You are worth it!!!
  5. You Can Do it. Nothing is impossible. It may seem that way, but I am here to inform you that it CAN be done. How easily you can talk yourself out of something. Let’s see; what are all of those reasons? Oh yea, you’re not strong enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not _____enough (fill in the blank). Oh and then there is this… “I can’t because_____.” “Maybe when (this happens) I will do it.” Remember Jesus’ words, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26 NIV)” Why do you hesitate when you feel it in your soul. If it makes sense to you, and if it feels “right,” then go for it. How fulfilling life will be to create a path that is meant for you. It is right there waiting for you to decide to take the next step. You know what you should do. Now be courageous enough to trust in yourself and take that first step. Remember, life is there waiting to play out for your good. What are you waiting for??

Choices and Chickens

Your journey is a result of a zillion choices. Some choices are big, like where you decide to go to college, or who you choose to marry. Obviously, those choices have major impacts on the course of your experiences. Yet even small, subconscious choices shape your own distinct path of life. I can think back to many small choices that I have made that have shaped my life and created who I am today.

When I graduated from pharmacy school and began working, my time off was extremely valuable. Between spending time with my husband and two small children, doing chores, and shopping for shoes (a pretty big priority), my time was limited. Even though I was fully focused on these responsibilities, I had a little tickle of an idea. Because I had enjoyed my time as a student at the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy, I made a choice to sacrifice a few hours each week to return to the college and sit in the back of the pharmacotherapy classroom. I had every intention of merely sitting there re-absorbing the plethora of clinical information without that ominous concern for “what is going to be on the exam.” It felt good to be there in that learning environment again. It felt right … Hold that thought. We’ll get back to this in a sec.

Fast forward about nine years. Though it wasn’t my favorite topic, I took on the responsibility of teaching a lecture on Behavioral Barriers for Diabetic Patients. I had to stretch my thinking outside of the medication treatment itself; an area in which I had little expertise. It was not something I would have chosen to teach about, but I was thankful for the opportunity, so I pushed ahead and set a goal to teach myself about the struggles of diabetic patients beyond drug treatment. The lecture ultimately contained more global holistic issues that hinder a patient from reaching improved health outcomes. These included feelings of social stigma that may occur when having to give themselves insulin injections in public, and a lack of self-efficacy (which is basically self-confidence that “you can do this”) … Again, hold that thought, this will all make sense soon.

Another path-defining choice I made was to raise chickens. Yep, I am a crazy chicken lady. I love those little hens. They are great listeners when I need to practice any presentation. They just cluck and cluck, and tell me how awesome I am. I digress … Oh, yeah, I became a crazy chicken lady. You may not know this, but there is an actual attraction between chicken people (not romantically, but socially—come on; stay with me). Once we find out that the other person has chickens, we can sit and discuss chickens for hours; what color eggs they are laying, how they are molting during this hot weather, how those foxes are so annoying. You get it. We connect with each other on a chicken level … Again, wait for it, the wrap up is coming.

I could go on and on, but I at least wanted to give you a few examples. These small, sometimes subtle, choices helped me find the most rewarding and exciting journey in life.

Because I made a choice to spend that one hour of my off time to go back to learn more at my alma mater, I eventually was asked to not just sit in the back, but to assist in teaching a few topics. A few months later, I got a phone call I’ll never forget. I was invited by the College of Pharmacy to join their team as a faculty member in developing and growing what is now the very successful Center for Quality Medication Management at UF. I became a UF Professor!! What?!?!?!? I would never have dreamed it; what an honor to be able to be in that stellar learning environment with those amazing students, and they were going to pay me! I was humbled beyond comprehension (and still am).

As I evolved in my teaching career, I later took on the lecture section about behavioral barriers to address improved health outcomes. Because of this experience, I have grown to become a clinical expert who is now creating a concierge life enhancement business that not only helps patients with safe and effective medication usage, but truly guides them holistically to great success in achieving positive health outcomes. I gained the knowledge that if we, as pharmacists, truly want to help our clients/patients effectively manage their conditions and become healthier, we cannot merely counsel them on medications. If we truly want to help our patients, we must take the time to address all of the other influences in their life that are barriers to health success. These include providing coaching in nutrition and fitness, identifying social and economic hurdles, and addressing psychological factors that prohibit them from feeling that they can achieve great health outcomes (and deserve to). Because of that one lecture experience, I am blessed to be creating a business helping my clients in a personal, holistic fashion as a concierge pharmacist.

Now, what about those chickens? Well, because I made the choice to own chickens and become a crazy chicken lady, I have connected with many people that I might not have met otherwise. One of my connections has been instrumental in donating his time to help me create my website for my new business. What a blessing! Who knows how well my business would have kicked off if I had not met my amazing friend; if I had not chosen to become a crazy chicken lady.

In every moment of your life, you are making choices; choices that affect your next minute and your next. Sometimes we regret the choices we have made. Sometimes we don’t even choose, we just “move.” Buying coffee at Starbucks versus the local coffee shop may just lead to a personal connection that opens up a new opportunity. Choosing to be a nerd and stay home to read a book your friend recommended may just lead you to try out that idea that has been bouncing around in your head.

It is important to realize how your journey is influenced by every choice you make and to realize that YOU make the choices in your life (at least the choices that you control). How and what you choose will lead you to your next step in YOUR journey. You are creating your path of life that is uniquely YOURS. Avoid basing your choices on what your friends do, or what you think you “should” do to be accepted. I mean look at me. Owning chickens is not always what most people would choose. And if you try to choose like someone else, you won’t end up where YOU need to be. One of my favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Be conscious of the decisions you make; be purposeful. Listen to your intuition; follow your heart. You will be glad you did when you arrive where you are truly headed.