When a company layoff left me reeling, I was left with two inevitable, looming questions: “Why me?” and “What’s next?”
It’s a juncture author and spiritual motivator Danielle LaPorte thrives on. In her world, there’s no room for wallowing in what-ifs or stagnating in a sea of “someday, maybe.” You are the agent of change, and change begins now.
While that wasn’t convenient to read in her seminal book The Fire Starter Sessions, it’s what I needed to hear. As she writes, “Get clear on how you want to feel. Then do stuff that makes you feel that way.”
In other words, if you’re not ready to actually make a change, pick up the phone and talk to the friend who tacitly agrees with whatever you say. But if you’re ready to dig deep, listen to your gut, and take a leap, then follow these next six steps.
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Stop Trying to Be Well-Rounded
Surprise! Trying to do it all is the fast-track toward mediocrity. Instead, ask yourself: What motives you? What moves you? As you answer those questions, get real about your weaknesses. Those answers will help you set goals, and propel you toward what you’re passionate about. And if you’re already good at whatever that is, then strive to be even better. “Your most valuable currency is what comes most naturally to you,” LaPorte says.
Hone Your Cocktail Line
It happens at every gathering: “What do you do?” Whether that opening line feels trivial or like an emotional landmine, use the scenario to meditate on your ultimate response. “How you introduce yourself could be a sacred distillation of your reality, talent, and deepest interest,” LaPorte advises. Visualize the exchange so you can shape the reply you’d love to give in a perfect world, as well as craft a meaningful response for where you are in life now (hobbies count!). Not only will you kick off a more interesting conversation with whomever you’re meeting, but the exercise will also help you identify your deepest intentions.
Accept That Balance Is Bull#@%!
Do you get sick the minute your long-awaited vacation starts? Unfortunately, in this over-committed age, you’re not alone, and it’s not a coincidence. “Striving for balance will derail your plans for greatness,” LaPorte writes. Instead of trying to do it all—a self-flagellating impossibility if there ever was one—focus on the phase you’re in. LaPorte splits life into three categories: work, relationships, and inner self. Let each part have center stage when it feels “most urgent and ripe,” she suggests. Think long-term as you pivot among each category, knowing that some things will have to slide or wait altogether.
Just Say No!
This is a great next step to eighty-sixing balance. Embrace “no” so you can pave the way for more “yes” in your life. “What is on your plate got there because you said yes to it,” LaPorte writes. Amen! The people, projects, habits, and resentments that are impeding your progress—sorry, but you chose them. Define what they are, and then have the willingness and courage to let them go. Some, like your intrusive email habit, can be cut cold turkey. Others, like a bad job, require patience and a phased approach.
Get Real About Money
Ignore the competitive “more, more, more” American drive and fixate on what you actually need to live your desired life. Maybe it is, in fact, a boatload of traditional trappings. Perhaps it’s something more meager. Use that knowledge to help navigate your present-day choices and career decisions. On the flipside, as you think about your needs, ruminate on your worth. What do you want in return for your services? Is it money, knowledge, experience, to feel like you’re making a difference? As LaPorte says, “Money is a form of energy. One’s value is not a fixed rate.” Assign value (even if it’s not monetary) to everything you do because you are intrinsically valuable.
Create a Love Letter to the Universe
What articles do you find yourself talking about? What conversations do you enjoy having with people? What do you yearn to learn more about? Now, find the common thread. Next, ask yourself why that is. For example, if you feel called to teach, what is it that compels you: Being around young people? Communicating new concepts? Helping others succeed? Chase the feeling underneath the title, to “find the intersection of passion, what you feel destined to do, and how you can make a living,” LaPorte says.
Mandy Major is a writer and editor who recently traded New York City’s skyscrapers for the Connecticut shoreline. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and Prevention, among other publications. A reading advocate and board member for her local library, she is working on her first collection of short stories.
Illustration: Marie Guillard