You know those ‘out of body’ type moments? When you suddenly “wake up” and see your life from an outsider perspective, even for just a brief moment?
That happened to me this week.
While visiting a good friend in southwest France, we were invited to a birthday dinner. We arrived at a 1800s farmhouse in the French countryside – with a big, heavy table set outdoors, a bonfire, fairy lights, and (in true French style) copious amounts of good food and wine.
As everyone was bustling around getting food ready, I suddenly had this flash of perspective and gratitude. How did I end up here at this moment? After years (and years) of wanting to live in Europe and run my own business – I was finally doing it.
Of course, it hasn’t always been this way.
Since I’ve left my corporate job and started my own business as a natural health coach, I’ve gotten lots of questions from readers, friends and people I meet asking how I did it. So I thought I would share some resources and tools that have helped me along the way.
I am still in the early days of my business, so I can’t give you a recipe for success. But here are 4 tools that I’ve used regularly to get myself onto the right path (which for many years seemed like just a fantasy …)
Tool #1: Get quiet so you can hear what you really want.
We all know what we want, deep down inside. Unfortunately, we tend to suppress what we really want in an effort to be ‘normal’ and ‘successful’.
The first step in following your dreams, is to find your dreams again! Not the dream of being ‘rich and successful’ that you think you should want … but finding out what you really want for your unique life.
What works for me is to get quiet through meditation (you could also do this through exercise or other chemical-free ways to quiet your mind), and also to get in touch with my body (which I do through yoga and dancing … but you could do it through running or tai chi or rock climbing, whatever makes you aware of how your body feels!)
Your body will tell you when you’re on the right path or not. (You know that sick feeling in your stomach when you really don’t want to do something? It’s either fear, or your body telling you that this isn’t the right path for you. Learning to read these signs gives you huge insight into what you really want!)
Two absolutely amazing books using these techniques of listening to your ‘inner compass’ are Steering by Starlight and Finding Your Own North Star, both by Martha Beck (affiliate links). I’ve used both of these books and found them really helpful in getting me onto the right path (and even to figure out what that path is!)
Tool #2: Write it out!
Write, write, write! It doesn’t matter if you’re a good writer or not. This writing is just for you – no one else.
I’ve kept an irregular journal for most of my life – and it’s been a hugely helpful tool to figure out exactly what I want, and how I feel.
Talking about problems is very good. But I’ve noticed that only talking, or worse, just thinking about your problems seems to take you around in circles. (You know when you obsess about the same issue for ages, never making progress? That’s stressful and not effective!)
But when you write down your problem or question, you start to make progress on it. When you write it down, you can get it all out of your head, see different sides of the issue, organize your options, make lists, pros and cons, and methodically work through the issues.
How you write is up to you.
Write it on notepaper. Type it in a blank document.
Or put it in a decorative, leather-bound journal.
Write every morning, or just when something is on your mind.
Save it or shred it afterwards.
It’s the act of writing it out and organizing it on paper that’s important … not what happens to it afterwards.
Also – always keep a journal and a pen beside your bed for any ideas, insights, dreams or to-dos that pop into your head at night. (Better to get them out, than to try to remember them and disturb your sleep!)
Tool #3: Just try it.
Thinking and writing and analyzing your inner-most feelings and desires is great work. I love it!
But at some point, you’ve just got to take action.
As Marie Forleo says “Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.”
So, get out and try things!
Do you think you might be interested in changing careers? How can you get a little taste of that new career now, even when you’re in your current job? Can you volunteer? Take a class? Join a Meetup group?
Want to move to a new place? Who in your network might know someone there? Can you learn the language? Take a trip there to visit?
You’re never going to know if you like something and if it can become real, until you start taking action on it!
Taking action doesn’t mean you commit to it 100%. It just means you’re testing the idea. Trying it out.
Look at it as an experiment. Just try different things and see if you like them.
At some point something will just feel right and you’ll know you’re on the right path!
Tool #4: Do what you love, even if you don’t know why.
What is that thing you just love to do?
The thing you would do for fun, for free, and without a bigger purpose?
It’s probably one of your hobbies. Or one of your former hobbies that you gave up in exchange for being ‘practical’.
Or the fantasy hobby that you’ve always wanted to try, but didn’t see the point.
If it lights you up inside, you need to do it.
Maybe it’s cooking, playing the violin, running, making scrapbooks, photography, collecting insects, memorizing opening lines from old films…
You just need to keep doing this thing. Make time for it. It’s important.
Even if you don’t see the purpose now, the depth and expertise and experience you get from this activity will all make sense later.
As Steve Jobs said, you can’t connect the dots looking forward. It’s only in retrospect that you see how all the pieces fit together.
So keep doing this thing you love – and at some point, you’ll see how it fits into the bigger picture.
(Plus, isn’t it great to know that you should keep doing something just for fun! Feels much better than another should on your to-do list.)
Now I’d love to hear from you. Which of these 4 tools are you going to try? What area of your life are you looking for clarity in? Leave a comment and let us know!