Life was fantastic.
If a ‘How to do life really super-duper well checklist’ existed, I’d have nailed it. Beautiful house? Great job? Gorgeous dog? Wonderful partner? Good health? Lovely friends? Tick. Tick. Tick.
From the outside I had everything. Confident, bubbly, achieving.
But I wasn’t happy.
Fortunately, not in the can’t get out of bed kind of unhappy. But in an “I’ve achieved everything I ever wanted, but I am still not happy”.
Was it greed?
Was I really that greedy to have achieved those things and still want more?
It felt greedy.
Why would I want more? What would more look like, what was missing from my life? I loved my life.
I loved the idea of my life. I loved the idea of a big fancy house. I love the idea of becoming a high-flying corporate boss.
It wasn’t more that I wanted. It wasn’t greed. It was different.
I was living the life I had planned for myself.
Not the life meant for me. That life was waiting.
The Beginning – The Tricky Bit…
Step 1. Admit the truth
I was in deep.
With a costly 3-year degree behind me, an established career, amazing colleagues, fantastic company, a mortgage, a long-term relationship and a dog with eyes that would melt your heart in once glance.
Repeatedly squashing the feelings of doubt and unfulfillment, pushing them to the back of my mind, I arrogantly assumed they would disappear.
Eventually, I faced my feelings and admitted the truth. There was something causing my unhappiness.
And it was big.
Big enough to make me want to put it back where it came from, in a nice little locked box in the back of my mind.
I did not want to face it. I was not prepared to be brave.
Changing your life does not happen without being brave.
Do what I wasn’t brave enough to do.
Face the feelings you are experiencing deep down. They need your attention.
Allow your feelings to come to the surface.
Admit to yourself that these feeling exist.
You are not greedy for feeling the way you do. Your feelings exist for a reason and the very first step to changing them is to accept them.
Give your feelings the respect they deserve.
Step 2. Discover what’s underneath
I wanted my reason of unhappiness to be my job. It felt ‘do able’ to change.
But, it wasn’t my job.
I needed to move out. To start again. I’d been in New Zealand under a year. I was nervous, with no family close by and only a couple of friends, this decision was terrifying.
Terrifying, yet thrilling.
I’d done it. I’d faced my feelings. And I’d made the decision to change.
Yes, it was overwhelming, daunting and bloody scary. But I had the strength to do it.
It came with a sense of relief. Relief and excitement. I was ready.
It was time to give myself the respect I deserved. Time to put myself first. Time to be happy.
Now, it’s your time.
Your time to be respected. Your time to be happy.
Identify it what is truly causing you to feel the way you do.
No matter how big, the only way to break free is honesty.
Deep down, rumbling in the depth of your gut, honesty.
Don’t choose the easy option. Don’t choose the one you know how to change.
Most likely, what is making you unhappy is not easy to change, because hey, if it was, you’d have changed it by now.
Dig it up from deep down underneath the surface.
Step 3. Forgive yourself
Life is unpredictable.
You think something will make you happy and when it doesn’t, it’s confusing. There is no neon light saying ‘this way to happiness’. Ultimately, it comes down to trial and error. Doing what we think is best for us in that moment and moving forwards, in the hopes it leads us down the right path.
But when we reach that point and we aren’t happy, we beat ourselves up over it.
I had faced the true reason for my feelings and begun to tackle the changes that needed to happen in my life.
But all the while there was a niggling feeling that accompanied my every movement.
Why couldn’t I have been happy with the life I had?
I still felt greedy.
This feeling is not helpful.
You do not know how you are going to feel in the future. No matter how well you think you’ve planned it.
Forgive yourself for not being happy and fulfilled, no matter how great your life may seem.
Don’t beat yourself up because you’ve planned and worked towards something that no longer makes you happy.
Just promise yourself to learn from the mistakes you make.
Learn who you really are.
Learn what your life really looks like.
And forgive yourself for wanting it.
Whatever it is.
The Middle – The Turning Point
Step 4. Open your doors
I’d moved into a flat with some wonderful girls and could finally say I was happy.
But, I wasn’t done yet. By making the biggest decision of my life to face my feelings and make big changes I’d opened so many new doors.
I now had the confidence, the strength and the belief to continue reaching for goals.
I decided to change my career and return to study. It was now or never.
I followed my passion and my dream to work in mental health.
To allow yourself to find what makes you happy you first have to let go of what is causing you to be unhappy.
You can’t go straight from a position of unhappiness to happiness in one swift movement.
You’ve faced your feelings, identified the true drivers of those feelings and forgiven yourself for any negative feelings towards yourself.
Once those first 3 steps are done you are ready to open some doors and create change.
Discover what opportunities are facing you right now.
Dream about what doors you wish would open.
Identify your goals.
The End – The Fun Bit
Step 5. Embrace the unknown
I had no clue on the end result.
On returning to study I did not know the outcome.
I didn’t know what would come of it.
But it didn’t matter. I was living in a way that was true to myself.
I was living the life that had been waiting for me.
To make changes you do not need to have every goal and every step laid out.
Not knowing is scary.
You may know what your different life looks like, but that does not mean you need the whole path mapped out.
If you are on the right path and making steps in the right direction the passion and excitement will over rule the fear.
Yes, the fear will still be there. A bit of fear is healthy. But the fear won’t be paralysing.
Learn to be ok with not knowing every detail.
Dealing with uncertainty is the norm when making changes. Learn to harness the fear as excitement.
Now, I’m not saying it’s as easy for everyone to quit their job. I’m also not recommending you quit your job. But whatever step is the is right one for you to take, take it with the knowledge that you will not necessarily know the outcome of that first step and that is ok.
Embrace the unknown.
Step 6. Edging forwards
Fast forward a year…
I was a student (again!), flatting in the city, single, volunteering in three different organisations and trying desperately to earn enough money for those flat whites and brunches on the weekend!
But I’d found my passion.
For me, that was my motivation. My motivation was that each day I was a day closer to spending my life doing what I love.
I was a lot poorer, yet infinitely happier.
Those changes took time, sometimes I even felt like I was moving so slow I would never reach any goals. I still am on this path to this very day and have not finished what I started over 2 years ago.
But I continue to always move.
If you have admitted the truth, found your underlying reasons, forgiven yourself and embraced the feeling of the unknown, then you are already well on your way.
Find your motivation and create action.
It does not need to be as big as the changes I made. But make a promise to yourself to always move in the right direction.
Without movement you have created a lovely set of dreams to think about as you go to sleep each night.
Write down your goals, big or small and decide on the necessary steps to realise and achieve your goals.
Step 7. Find your different
During my, let’s call it ‘transition phase’ where I was going from my planned life to my true life. I took myself to South East Asia. Because that’s what people in their twenties are supposed to do, right? Travel, find themselves, see the world, etc. etc. I went for a month. Preparation for potentially a year away travelling.
Well turns out, travel? Not for me. The trip was fantastic, and I loved many aspects of the culture and adventures. But a month is way too long. I’m more of a 14 day vacation kind of girl.
I missed home so very much. Not even the fun parts of home either. I missed a cup of tea on the couch every evening. I missed cooking breakfast on a Sunday in my pyjamas. I missed my every day routine.
I realised that happiness for me is in routine and being at home.
Some people find happiness in travelling the world. Others in a relationship or in a job they find meaningful. While for some, it’s a cup of tea under a warm blanket.
Everyone’s happiness is created from something different and means something different to them.
Your happiness does not need to be the same as what your neighbours want or the same as what your family and friends want.
It is ok to want something different to others. It is ok to want something different to the norm.
Find your different. Find your motivation. Create goals and move forwards.
If I can do it, you certainly can.
Everyone is capable. Everyone has the potential.
Leave the life you have planned for yourself.
And find the life that is waiting for you.