When One Chapter Ends, Begin Your Next Chapter Knowing This: You’re Not a Sloth
I can remember visiting the La Brea Tar Pits in California as a child and thinking how sad for those poor creatures many years ago caught in the muck. They simply were going about their business and were halted by a thick stew of asphalt. From what I hear, it wasn’t a quick process either. The Smithsonian recently shared new research that revealed it took months for the trapped victims to sink into the depths of the earth. Not a pretty image. Thankfully we humans don’t ever have to feel stuck like those animals who didn’t have a choice in the matter.
I share this with you not to be morose—but to be real. How many times have you felt stuck? I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of all the times in my younger years when I held myself back, when I came up with excuses to support the notion of “I can’t.”
Hmm… not exactly the stuff of a successful life, is it? The good news is that we are free. We get to decide where to live, which school to attend, our work, who we marry, to have a family or not. And if that isn’t exciting enough, we can change our minds. We can move, change careers, drop out or go back to school, and leave an unhappy relationship. We canreinvent ourselves.
I am 49 years old, and I have changed it up quite a few times now. I returned to school to be a teacher after being a stay-at-home mom for 11 years; then I moved across the country and left teaching after seven years to pursue a career in writing and social media.
What a ride it has been—and I am having the time of my life, enjoying this current chapter. When I think back, however, all of the past chapters had good things about them, too. When they stopped being what I wanted, I moved on. I started a new chapter. I reinvented myself.
I know a lot of people who are not happy in their current career situations. They think they have put too many years into it and so they are waiting it out to retire. The younger ones? They live for the weekend and their vacation time.
I can empathize. Change can be scary. Most of us need a sense of safety and security and will often choose inaction rather than making the changes necessary to live more happy and productive lives. The result: being like a Harlan’s Ground Sloth that got itself trapped in the La Brea pits tens of thousands of years ago. Now, who wants to be a sloth stuck in muck?
Here are five “excavation tools” to help you dig around the obstacles you have created and unveil the life artifacts that are part of the new chapter awaiting you:
1. Get clear on what you really want.
Don’t focus on the things you are unhappy with or what you are scared of. Those are temporary and irrelevant conditions. Write in your journal, talk to someone you trust, read empowering stories about real people who overcame their fears and obstacles (SUCCESS.com is a good place to start!).
2. How can you get there?
Map out a plan. It really helps to write out goals and break them down into baby steps so that you do not get overwhelmed. Take that first step first.
3. Get some serious leverage on yourself.
I attended a Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within seminar back in October 2008. One of the most memorable and powerful things that I got out of that weekend is when Tony described a client he was helping to quit smoking, how he forced the guy to smoke cigarette after cigarette in an enclosed room. After a time, this poor man got sick and quit smoking for good—the memory of how bad he felt then outweighed pleasant associations he had with his smoking habit. Leverage. If you stay where you are, how will you feel? Do you like the picture of where you will be five years from now? Ten years? What will people be saying at your funeral? You have to get some leverage! Now, if you make some changes and envision your new life, how will that feel?
4. Act as if.
I believe in faking it till we make it. It is all about attitude. Some years ago, I declared myself to be a writer even though I had not gotten anything published yet. Know your truth (tool #1 will help) and then act as if it is happening now. The world will be onto you soon enough and accept it, so long as that is what you are confidently living and experiencing for yourself.
5. Take action.
You may not have everything figured out before you take the leap. I know I didn’t whenever I made big changes happen in my life. I just believed in what I was doing—I had faith. I knew I was going to land some place good, and I never looked back.
It’s not over until it’s over. Your life is not a single essay like this post. You have lived many chapters and many new ones are waiting to get started. I am so excited for you.