I’ve always believed that if you don’t like your life, you’re the only one who can change it. This belief helped me get out of a major rut and start living a happier, more fulfilling existence overall by doing these things.
I changed majors in college… five times. I always knew I wanted to go to college—what I didn’t know was that I would change majors so many times once I got there. When I moved to NYC at 18 for my freshman year of architecture school, I cut my hand pretty bad at 3 a.m. in the woodshop and switched majors the next day. I proceeded to change majors twice more, transferred schools, and then changed majors two more times before graduating. Sometimes it helps to find out what you want to do by first finding out what you don’t want to do.
I quit my job. I don’t recommend making rash decisions like this unless you have at least three months of living expenses saved up or another job, but sometimes you just have to make bold decisions without knowing how it’ll all work out. I’d just started my first job after graduating college in the New York headquarters of a global fashion brand. I thought it was what I wanted until I realized I didn’t want my boss’ job (a good indication that I was in the wrong field). A few miserable months later, I had an idea for a book and was finally excited about something for the first time in a while. I knew I wanted to keep this excitement going and so I decided to give my two weeks notice. Needless to say, I got a job waiting tables so I could support myself while I wrote the book. A year later, the book was published.
I took a solo vacation. Working as a waitress in NYC after spending a ton of money graduating from college was never part of my plan. Doing whatever it takes to be happy and pursue my dreams, however, has always been the plan. While working at the restaurant and finishing my book, my sister told me about a trip she was planning on taking to Europe. One night, after another miserable shift and sob fest, I decided I was sick of being unhappy and letting excuses prevent me from loving my life. I bought a one-way ticket to London and received my passport in the mail the day before my flight. I stayed for two weeks, going to bookstores, writing in cafes, and sightseeing. It was the trip of a lifetime because it was a personal stand against the excuses I’d been letting control me. I realized that the life I want is on the other side of my excuses. I came back inspired with new ideas for my future and renewed hope that I could make them happen.
I did what I didn’t want to do. It’s logical to think that if you do things that you hate, you will be unhappy, but I had a very different experience. There’s a difference between doing something you shouldn’t do and doing something you don’t want to do but you should. When I returned from my trip abroad, an opportunity came up to nanny and I took it. I was spending close to 40 hours a week with a child who had special needs and though it was challenging at times, I learned more in those few months than I had in a long time. I was able to see life from the viewpoint of a child, care for someone else other than myself, and reflect on what kind of person I wanted to be instead of just what kind of job I wanted to do. Now, I make an effort to choose opportunities based on the potential they have to make me a better person and not just on whether or not I feel like doing it.
I took my eyes off myself. Whenever you notice that most of the subjects you discuss when you’re talking to friends involve you and only you, it’s time to step back and evaluate your level of self-obsession. I noticed this when one of my friends politely mentioned the fact that I was complaining a lot. This information was a much-needed wake-up call for me to be more present when I was with friends and more interested in what they had to say than whatever I felt like venting about. After practicing this, I noticed how small my problems were and how much I’d missed in my friends’ lives by being too focused on myself. I became happier and much less stressed the more I chose to focus on helping and listening to my friends.
I quit social media. I thoroughly enjoy and find lots of inspiration on social media, but there came a time when I was really miserable with my life and felt that nothing was going according to my plans. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Instagram, but if you’re starting to compare your behind-the-scenes work in progress to someone else’s feature film, then you’re probably going to be unhappy. Every few months or whenever I start to notice myself get dissatisfied with my life or down on myself, I take a break from social media. Every time I do this, I’m able to re-focus on my own goals and dreams.
I put more on my plate. Feeling unproductive or inefficient with my time is one of my biggest frustration-triggers. One winter, I realized I was in a slump with my projects and my fitness goals and decided to track where I was spending my time on a daily and weekly basis. I noticed that the more time I have to do a task, the more time I take to do it. I decided to test out my theory and started taking on more work, committing to more social events, and volunteering. I found that with the right ratio of hobbies, work, and rest, I could get more done in less time, which made me feel more energized and much less frustrated.
I got a mentor. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do and it’s in your best interest to ask someone for help. One spring I found myself completely lost and confused about how to get the things I wanted in life. I sought advice from a career coach through a mutual connection and our twenty-minute conversation turned out to be immensely helpful in my career.
I detoxed my brain. I know this sounds savage, but one thing that has helped me more than anything else is to get serious about thinking good thoughts. I’ve always been intentional about eating clean and healthy foods because I know I feel happier and healthier when I eat what’s good for me. I decided to experiment by caring just as much about my thoughts as I did about my diet. I noticed within one day of purposefully choosing better, more positive thoughts that I felt better, had more energy, more confidence, and even looked better in the mirror.
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