“The beautiful things about setbacks is they introduce us to our strengths.” ~Robin Sharma
It was morning, March 2009. My alarm announced another ho-hum weekday.
On the outside, I had it pretty together. I was living the corporate NYC life with a great apartment, a steady relationship, and a solid paycheck. But in the back of my mind, I knew I wasn’t as happy as I made myself out to be.
I didn’t know what I really wanted, and I constantly felt like I should just stop complaining in my head and make the best of things.
So, with every workday, I went through the motions of convincing myself things were great.
But something was different this particular day: my toe had swollen up like a sausage.
Did I hit the gym too hard? Take a wrong step in my running shoes? The pain was intense and didn’t get better. So I headed to my doctor to see what was going on.
His diagnosis shocked me: at thirty-nine, I had arthritis.
For the next six months, every move I made was excruciating, even with the strong medication I was taking. Even just a few steps shot pain straight up my legs. Walking was almost impossible, and you can forget about high heels and dancing!
I didn’t get it. I was a healthy, slim woman who’d just dropped forty pounds. I had a boyfriend and a career. But in that moment… I was someone’s grandmother.
There’s one major upside to unexpected health crises: they wake you up to what’s important.
Six months of mostly-immobility forces you to sit down and think about your life. And I realized a few things.
My relationship wasn’t working.
I really wanted to be happy. He wasn’t a terrible guy, and being a thirty-nine-year-old, single woman comes with its share of challenges. But he wasn’t able to make me a priority, and I knew the timing was all wrong.
I hated my job.
The constant go-go-go of my career path had completely worn me out. I didn’t get the same pleasure from it anymore. The only reason I still showed up every day was because of the paycheck (and NYC was just fabulous).
I’d had the same wild, amazing dream for years.
I wanted to live between my native New Zealand and New York City. But it seemed almost impossible. What kind of job would give me that kind of freedom, anyway?
The bottom line was, I needed to stop pretending I was happy with my life.
I always told myself “I can’t wait to____, as soon as _____.” I was constantly waiting for a catalyst—for my finances to be right, to be in in the right relationship, to have just the right job.
Feeling chained to my inflamed foot and throbbing burning pain over those months made me realize that captivity was nothing new to me. I’d been a prisoner of self-doubt all my life.
The only question was: what was I going to do about it?
I was sick of thinking I would start my dream life someday. I knew if I was to live an awesome life, I had to take action.
So, after devouring as many self-help books, articles, and blogs as I could find, I mapped out a path to follow.
Part 1: For the first time, I started focusing on the things that brought me joy.
When I was finally back on my feet, filled with fresh moxy and ready to tackle the world, I turned my attention to health.
After my weight loss and six-month bout of sickness, wellness had become something near and dear to my heart. So I played the corporate game by day, moonlighted as a Group Fitness aerobics teacher, and took classes to get my Health Coach certification.
Being a coach meant the location-independent life I’d always dreamed of on my own terms. It was more than passion to me. It was my key to my freedom.
Part 2: I downsized and simplified my life.
My relationship ended, I moved out of my NYC apartment and headed permanently to New Jersey, and eventually settled in a small place on the Jersey Shore.
It was a cozy hideaway for me while I saved money and figured out what to do next. I studied, worked, and incubated my ideas while I geared up make the full leap.
And leap I did, soon enough.
Part 3: I just did it.
When you’re stuck in bed for six months with no company but books and your laptop, you realize: There’s no perfect time. You’ve just gotta put one foot in front of the other and go.
But I didn’t do it alone! I spoke with my family and friends of my plans to leave the corporate world and coach instead. While some of them weren’t so sure I could easily be a coach between New York and New Zealand, they gave me their support.
Five months after starting my health coach training, I left my twenty-plus-year corporate I.T. sales role. Boom.
Was it easy leaving a dependable income and starting a business from scratch? No! But it was easier than watching life fly by me while I pretended to be happy.
Nowadays, I’ve got my dream of living between NYC and NZ. I’m in love with my life and my business. My arthritis is under control, and life has never been better.
Now, it’s your turn to make it happen for yourself.
It’s okay to be tired of waiting for happiness. But you have to step up and take responsibility for creating it.
It starts with small shifts that lead to bigger and bigger ones:
Instead of saying “someday, I’ll…” change your mindset to “I’ll do that.”
Start writing about what you want—all those juicy little things you’re saving for when things are “just right.”
Learn to ask yourself: “What’s stopping me?”
Recognize negative self-talk and self-doubt for what they are: nonsense that keeps you playing small. Ignore!
Break your goals into small steps, and actively add them to your calendar. Giving yourself real deadlines will help you stay on your path of action, and see your goals through to the end.
You just have to take the first step. Then keep going.
So… what’s next for you?
It’s time to catch yourself every time you say “someday,” “I’ll do it later,” or “maybe next week/month/year.”
Next time that phrase comes out of your mouth: Stop. Think. And get out a pen. It’s time to slip that dream goal into your calendar.
Even if it’s one small step—reaching out to a colleague, beginning your research—write it down, schedule it in, and make it happen. Do this with the next steps in your journey. Before you know it, you’ll turn “don’t have time” into “done”!
Make the call. Take the step. Watch what happens.
Photo by Chad Cooper