While January 1 may be a popular time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh, there’s something about the blossoms of spring that evokes a sense of newness. We clear clutter, go on non-toxic cleaning sprees, and take a moment to look at areas of our lives that could use a little spring cleaning.
Sometimes, that change is a big one: Like quitting a job that’s making us miserable pursue something we love. The truth is, quitting isn’t really giving up. Maybe, when you look further, the words “I quit” could really reflect a person’s self-awareness, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence. What if we, as friends, family, and colleagues, looked at the act of quitting as empowered, one that creates space for self-reflection, dreaming, and appreciation for what no longer serves someone? Could the prospect of saying those two words inspire a healthier path? To quit might just be a lean into what is possible and hello to your next healthy step.
If you’re considering quitting, good for you. When I finally quit my job as a marketing executive, the entire world seemed to open up for me, and my anxiety and stress levels lessened a considerable amount. That being said, I know quitting is easier said than done—so once you finally do pull the trigger, here are my tips for creating the life of your dreams:
1. Create a plan.
The unknown is unsettling. You know the feeling: You’re about to leave something and move on to the next step, but you’re not sure what’s next. Fear of the unknown is normal—we all feel it. As you dip your toe into unchartered waters, you might think, “Am I good enough? What if I fail? What if I don’t like it and then regret moving on?”
These are all totally valid concerns. When you’re making a big decision, remember that stress is really just fear. Once you know that, put your fears aside and work to create a plan with action steps. The more action you take on your plan, the more momentum and confidence you will have. Ultimately, whatever decision you make, you will know it was not driven by fear.
2. Lean in to gratitude.
Longing for something different, better, or more is natural. We all want to feel happy, proud, important, respected, and loved. When we’re not feeling these things, it’s easy to slip out of the present and spend our time dreaming about something different. Unfortunately what that can do is make us feel like our day-to-day is less than, that we are less than. Instead of creating more of the “less-than” feeling, turn your mind to the present.
Keep a notebook by your side and write down five things you’re grateful for every day. It could be as simple as, “I’m grateful for sunshine, listening to the birds chirping. I’m thankful for public transportation, for coffee in the morning, and a job that gives me a place to live.” Once you’re tapped into your present, it might just shift how you think about the future.
3. Make it happen.
It’s often easier to stay comfortable than to make a big change. After all, you don’t know what is on the other side. Today, in stretchy yoga pants or the monotony of going through the motions, you know what to expect—you’ve been doing it for a while, and you’ve gotten pretty good at it. What’s on the other side seems shiny, elusive, far-fetched, unrealistic, and maybe even out of reach.
So you might spend your time researching and amassing information before you take an uncomfortable step. Or you might have to have everything lined up and perfect before you take action. You might blame someone else or something for why you can’t make a change. You might spend your time numbing out and trying to forget that you’re unhappy.
Whatever your coping mechanism, your armor is a handy list of excuses. You know the drill: It sounds something like, “I can’t because…” In five years, think about how it will feel if you’re in the same place as you are today. Go to that place today and spend some uncomfortable time there. Feel how that will feel. Then grab a notepad and commit to doing one thing today that will move you toward your goal. Ask yourself what you will do tomorrow and the next day to keep the momentum going. Over time, small action steps and consistency lead to massive change. You just need to do something. Make it happen.
4. Stay present.
From yoga retreats and meditation to workshops on living mindfully, it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that living in the moment is a powerful tool for creating happiness. The reality and practice of being present, however, is much harder to do. Staying with your feelings, thoughts, and circumstances is tough. It brings up feelings we would rather ignore, like sadness, frustration, fear, anger—to name a few.
If you find yourself numbing out and filling your day up with distractions—and these could range from unhealthy ones like drinking every night to staying so busy you don’t have time to think about why you’re not happy—it might be a good time to stop. Check in, tune in, and write down what’s going on. Chances are, giving yourself even five minutes of natural, healthy quiet might be just what you really need.