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??

Take a Break from “Doing” and Start “Being”

Our lives are so full. We set them up that way. We love it. The more we can achieve, the better we feel about ourselves. Our houses should be their cleanest. Our kids should be involved in activities (we don’t want them to be seen as lazy). And what about building a career? You should have high ambitions and drive hard every day to take steps forward to be the Best_____ (fill in the blank). If you are not seen as trying to climb the ladder then you are not trying hard enough. We kill ourselves to impress those around us by how much we accomplish. For some powerful reason, we are still trying to make someone proud of us; our parents, our friends, our spouses, our children.

Achievement is innate in all of us. From the time we are born, we are trying to gain our parents’ approval. When we enter school, it is our teachers and fellow classmates that we want to impress. Competition is real; on the playground, during those exams, trying to get into college. Life tends to train us to continually look for a way to gain an edge on those around us. Work harder. Do more. Stand out.

Staying busy, having more on your checklist than you can ever accomplish in one day, is empowering, right? Is that what makes you who you are? Is that what defines you; what you “do?” Your day-in and day-out rat race, running yourself ragged, is that what defines you? Perhaps. If so, then you don’t stand out at all. Anyone can make a list of the things that you do each day and do them. This doesn’t make you unique. This doesn’t truly define what lies deep within you; your “youness.”

Consider looking at your life through this lens; bear with me. If you died today, what would people say about you? Yep, we’re going there. What would people say about you in the neighborhood, at work, at your funeral? I’ll tell you what they would say about me before I changed my focus. If I had died a year ago, people would have said, “Wow, so sad to hear about Heather. She worked her butt off. She worked so hard every day from 7 am to almost 7 pm. And I think she was kind of nice.” I was so defined by the things I was “doing.” I thought that the more things I achieved, the more purposes I served, the more important and viable I would become. The result of all of this “achieving” would lead to more happiness, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

I was only impacting processes, not people. Not the way I wanted to have an impact. There was more in me than what I could “do.” There was more that defined me than what I could accomplish by being busy. And to be honest with you, I wasn’t happy, not truly happy. I was feeling spent. No matter how much I achieved, I still felt unsatisfied with my progress and empty inside.

I don’t want to be remembered by how busy I am. I want to be remembered for deeper reasons. I want my legacy to be centered around how deeply I cared for people, by how much I made them smile, by the fun crazy adventures that I journeyed through. I want to genuinely make a meaningful impact on people around me. I want to nurture my relationships, including my relationship with myself.

I decided to stop “Doing” so many things and started “Being” more.

Being more still

Being more thoughtful and unrushed

Being more aware of everything around me

Being more aware of my surroundings at this moment

Being more aware of the energy and needs of those around me

Being more aware of myself and my personal goals and desires

Soon I realized things I hadn’t before. I began to connect more deeply with those most important to me. I noticed more clearly the deep needs of those around me, and I took a long moment to sit with them (for more than one minute) and talk with them more about themselves. I took a break from my craziness to just breathe, look out the window, go for a walk, give myself time to contemplate who I really am and what I truly want for my life.

It was a challenge. The call of responsibility is strong. Society tells you that if you aren’t “Doing” than you are lazy. I tell you whole-heartedly, this is a myth. You deserve to take time to be still. You deserve to take time to think and be creative. Let your mind wander. It can’t wander if you are constantly tasking it with activity. Creativity, self-awareness, hearing the voice of your true calling can only occur if you stop engaging your mind in tasks. Give your mind and yourself some space to stretch. It is only then that you truly achieve what life has set for you. Hear that? What Life” has set for you. Not the world. The world is like a rushing river.  It will pull you along its own agenda unless you take control of your time and find the purpose that God has specifically designed for you. Do you feel like you are being carried along by the world? Do you feel like you want more control over where you are going? Do you feel that you aren’t where you think you need to be? Perhaps you are not yet living your special, unique purpose. God is constantly reminding you of your true calling. You can’t hear his purpose for you unless you get away from the drone of “Doing” and set yourself to more “Being.”

Of course, life will continue to have responsibilities you need to accomplish, but I challenge you to find a small smidgen of time every day to devote to stillness, to breathing in the moment, to relaxing your mind. Give yourself permission to just “Be;” you deserve it. During these special moments, don’t have expectations for yourself, no rules or boxes to stay in. What you find will be inspiring. You just might decide to nourish that hidden passion. Paint more, buy a kayak, start a Mom’s group, hit the gym and get those biceps you’ve always dreamed of, and spend more time with those who mean the most to you.

 

Wow, the memories you will make, and the joy you will find in your life. Your daily tasks will suddenly seem lighter because your cup will be full. Even though you will be taking valuable time away from your “Doing,” you will actually feel more accomplished. You will feel more fulfilled in your life, and thus every step will be lighter for you. Your days will have purpose; a purpose that is in line with your own personal journey and desires.

My hope for you: Give yourself time to experience your uniqueness. Give yourself permission to relax, to let your mind wander, to just “BE.” Creative and amazing things will happen. You just might find more happiness, more fulfillment in your life. And those around you will celebrate as you find your true passion. You can’t live your passion without a smile on your face, and a smile brightens so many of those around you. What will your legacy be?