Priorities, choices and happiness have been on my mind a lot lately so I figured this would be a good topic to throw out there and to get people thinking about a bit more regularly.
When I decided to pursue nutrition coaching as a full-time career, it wasn’t without great pause. I was living an a nice, top-floor, one-bedroom apartment with a dishwasher, parking, laundry and a view. And I was paying for it in more ways than one.
In order to keep that fancy roof with all the trimmings over my head I had to keep working at a job that wasn’t feeding my soul. I dreaded waking up in the morning so much that I was staying up later and later in an effort to delay the dawn of the following day.
Funny, staying up later didn’t actually make the next day begin any later. Sigh.
I’d wake up tired and had to power-up on some afternoon caffeine to avoid slumping over at my desk by around 3pm.
For me, it wasn’t about poor nutrition, lack of exercise, or even a lack of general health. I was eating well and was active outside of my 9-5 gig. But that 8 hours a day sitting at a desk working on projects that, while sometimes fun and interesting, didn’t really get me excited about waking up and accomplishing things day in and day out. That’s to say nothing of the lack of light in the office, which really brought me down. I remember telling coworkers on numerous occasions that I felt badly for them having to meet me in this situation and I assured them that I am normally a much happier and more cheerful person when not shackled inside for 8 hours a day to sit at a desk and push pixels around on a screen.
Wow. I was really in it. I was chained to that desk and a job because I somehow felt that I needed to live in the apartment that I loved. Talk about being a slave to your stuff. I was living that life for sure.
I can’t remember the exact moment, but there was one when I told myself that I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I called up my mother, as I typically do in these situations, and asked her if it was going to be okay; if quitting my job, moving to a smaller, cheaper apartment, giving up my parking space, laundry and dishwasher and overall just living with less was going to be okay.
If I wanted to stop working for someone else’s dream and start working for my own, it was going to HAVE to be okay. I was going to have to MAKE IT OKAY. And I was going to have to make it work. I gave notice to my boss that very day. I sat down with her and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She was a bit surprised and she wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t entirely confused. She knew I had other passions and that I was the type to pursue them.
I hopped online and scoured Craigslist for a new apartment. I stalked listings for days on end and looked at several places that just didn’t feel right to me. They were mostly too quiet, too dark or too cramped. Then I found the place where I currently live. It’s a small studio on the first floor of a building that’s next to a Thai restaurant. It’s on a very busy, very loud street. It has no parking, no dishwasher, and no laundry. I have to walk through my closet to use the bathroom (as do my guests). I have barely enough counter space for my cutting board and some spices. But it’s bright, and it’s open. And it’s more than enough space for one person plus a cat. I can’t even believe I used to occupy more space than this – me and my stuff.
With these thoughts, I challenge you to the following questions… Are you constantly complaining about your job? Your body? Your significant other? Your friends? Your life? I'm guessing that many of you are highly motivated people who “get it” about making choices in life. And I recognize that not every person's life is as agile as mine is at the moment. I am single and don't have kids (just a kitty), so I live for myself largely, and my choices about how to live don't effect other people directly. I chose this life, and you chose yours. You are responsible for your own life. How do you measure your happiness and success in your life? I measure mine in the percentage of time that I have dedicated each day to doing things that I feel 100% are my choice.
That means work, eating, exercise, sleeping, playing with Paleo Kitty, or even writing blog posts like this one. I’d say that around 80-90% of the time these days, I’m doing things that feed my soul and make me happy. That doesn’t mean they’re not work, but I enjoy doing them and recognize that I’ve chosen to do them.
On an everyday basis, would you consider yourself happy?
Do you live for the weekends?
Are there some days you dread waking up?
These questions get to the heart of the choices you make every day to live a life that you choose. This isn't to say that there might not be a few things here or there in a day that you need to accomplish that aren't your favorite tasks (maybe it's a tough conversation with your boss or some chores at home), but in general, do you feel you are in control of your days? Brian Tracy, one of my favorite motivational speakers, states in his Psychology of Achievement series that “we feel good about ourselves to the exact degree to which we feel we are in control of our own lives.” Does this resonate with you? Do you feel that your life is directed or driven by outside forces that you don't control? Psychologists refer to this as your locus of control. Is yours internal or external? Do you feel you're driving your life or that your life and everyone or everything in it is driving YOU?
Clearly this post has more questions than answers.
I want to challenge people to really think about what it is that they choose to do every single day and whether or not those actions contribute to their happiness or to their feeling of stress, anger or disappointment in life. We only get one life to live (I can't say I believe in reincarnation, sadly), so what's keeping you from making some different choices to have a life that you feel you're in control of every single day? If you feel that having kids and the responsibility to pay for the things they need in life is holding you back from doing other things like making a career change or going back to school, look closely at your expenses. Do you NEED that bigger, fancier car? Do you NEED that bigger house? It may even be as simple as asking if you NEED that latte every day- which can easily add up to around a $1,000 a year habit if you go every day!
Robb Wolf puts it well when he writes in “The Paleo Solution,” (if you don't already own this book, you really should!):
“stress is an inescapable and significant factor in people’s lives, and a stunning amount of their stress is self-induced. People might benefit from considering how they want to spend their time and resources… If you are attached to a bunch of crap that requires you to work ungodly hours to pay for it, you are missing something… If you have weight or health issues, work yourself to death, have a closet full of clothes you never wear, and a house full of crap you never use, then maybe you need to do some thinking about how you approach your life.”
Robb was talking about our attachment to “stuff” there, but I would venture to guess that much of the stress we put on ourselves to “achieve” more, or “succeed” more is largely because of a desire to get more stuff. What’s the stuff really worth anyway? Most of the time, it tends to control us rather than us controlling it. It’s the reason why we are bound to jobs we hate or relationships from which we don’t remove ourselves. Unbind yourself from the stuff and start driving your own life rather than it driving you.
On that note, I think I’ll clean out my closet (again). There is certainly more clothing in there than I can wear in a month. That’s gotta be weighing me down…
Enjoy & be well!