For most of my life I have been a rollercoaster kind of girl. High highs. Low lows. And lightning speed tracks in between.
While this does make for an exciting ride, it also tends to result in a lot of burning out, crashing, recovery time and starting again.
In some ways this made me a good fit for a career as a lawyer. Legal work tends to come in waves. I thrived in the intensity of long days and little sleep.
It also required I develop coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of being superhuman. Some of my coping mechanisms became addictions and the anxiety of expecting myself to be on all the time prevented me from sleeping. None of this was okay and so I kept it all secret, holding up the superhuman façade to the world. Hiding created barriers to connection in all of my relationships however, and so, despite having friends, family, romantic partners and colleagues, I was also often lonely. To top it all off, the shame that came when I did crash was excruciating and it required a herculean effort on the rebound to prove to myself that I was worthy.
All of this cycling led me to burn out completely and I decided to leave law and go in search of some other career that would be easier. What I quickly began to realize was every new venture I took on also came with a rollercoaster. Reluctantly, I admitted to myself that it was not the practice of law that created the rollercoaster, it was me. Until I changed the way I related to life, every new thing would be the same – high highs, low lows and a fast track in between. It would never be sustainable.
Over a few years of self-discovery and many hours of coaching, I became quite familiar with my rollercoaster way and its cost in my life, and I eventually found the courage to let the extremes go. I returned to the practice of law and I have found a way to do it differently, with much less stress and no need for coping mechanisms.
In the process I fell in love with a new word: sustainability.
I also learned two invaluable life lessons about changing our lives for the better, which I have applied in all areas of my life – from recovering from an eating disorder and insomnia, to creating healthy boundaries at work, to bringing my art into the world, to cultivating deep meaningful relationships – with reliable success.
Since the New Year is the time many of us try (and often fail) to create meaningful changes in our lives, I thought I would share some of my secrets with you.
First, you cannot make a meaningful change in your life until you become aware of the way things are currently going in your life and the costs of those ways, to the point it becomes easier to change than to stay the same.
This means you must be radically honest with yourself and exercise extreme discernment regarding which life changes you decide to take on in 2017. Dig deep and ask yourself if you are really willing and ready to let go of the old way for each of the changes you want make. If your intuition says no, your resolution in that area for 2017 might simply be taking on a practice of generating more awareness around the costs of the status quo.
Take on the change when you are truly ready and you will save yourself disappointment down the road.
Second, the change you want will only be realized – whether in your career, your relationship, your family, your friendships, your health, your home, or any new habit of any kind – if you can find a way to make its implementation sustainable.
And so, how do we let go of the extremes and make something sustainable? How can we get off the rollercoaster once and for all?
Simply, this one rule: Allow yourself to be human.
Simple. Simple. Simple. But not easy.
Even if you are truly ready to commit to a change – to give up smoking, or lose those 10 pounds, or begin a mediation practice, or take up painting – you will not be perfect in carrying it out.
Allow yourself to be human. Allow yourself to need rest and play on a regular basis. And allow yourself to ask for help at times too.
Have compassion for yourself when you fall off, mess up, or miss a day. Forgive yourself early and you will find it much easier to keep going.
If you find you have taken on too many new things a few weeks into the New Year, allow yourself to reassess. Forgive yourself for thinking you could be super human. Grant yourself permission to take a day off, or even to let a few of the goals that do not resonate as deeply go. Do this and you will prevent the exhausted crash and quit everything that would otherwise be just around the corner.
Listen to your intuition in choosing your new goals and resolutions, and allow yourself to be human in their implementation and you may find yourself this December, for the first time in years (maybe ever), talking about how 2017 was the year you made your resolutions stick.