by Diane Baranello
How do you get unstuck when life is not what you imagined it to be?
You make a decision to take action. You focus on people and things that matter. You clear a path. You take action. You move in another direction.
How do you begin to know where you want to go next?
By going inward before you go outward. In other words, you self-assess. You take inventory of what matters most to you … now … and why that’s important. You recognize that time is your most important currency and how you spend your time each day is the biggest decision you can make. You consider interests and goals you’ve set aside in the past but are now ready to tackle or experience.
Sometimes it takes courage to change course mid-life and courage requires taking risk and risk is something most of us avoid; but consider this … what is the risk of taking no risk at all? Things remain the same. We don’t grow. We don’t move in new directions. We don’t experience life in new and fresh ways. Most times we do have choices. We’re simply afraid to make them. What are you most afraid of? How would your life change if you overcame that fear? Perhaps that’s your destination.
Not every change has to be monumental. We have turning points in our lives too, as well as pivotal life moments. I’m not suggesting starting a new business (although you could), or moving across country (unless moving there is what you’ve always desired), taking an African safari or signing on for a trip to the moon … these would be life turning points … major decisions, major changes in lifestyle, taking large risks for greater returns. They’re fine but not for everyone. It’s up to you to choose your path.
Let’s talk about pivoting … recalibrating your lifestyle, enhancing it, focusing on what lights you up, what gives you pleasure … the pleasure of enjoying a life experience, making a difference in the world, getting your head out of its negative space and enjoying a more positive mental attitude by doing, engaging, acting, embracing people, places, things, experiences that can make a difference in your everyday life.
Technically, pivoting means keeping one foot in place while moving the other. Your pivot foot remains anchored on the ground. You still have stability but perhaps you’re changing the view, the experience, the outcome.
What does that mean in terms of a ‘life pivot’? It can be a simple course correction. And every time you pivot, you take some risk. Every time you pivot, you open the door for opportunity. You let light shine through another window. You feel the fresh air on your face. You feel refreshed. You begin to anticipate what comes next, how that makes you feel, and consider why that’s important.
The way to begin is always to start from where you stand. Here are my top 10 tips for tackling your life pivot and living with no regrets. Consider which of these resonates for you …
- Relationships matter. If your friendships are dwindling, make new friends. It’s certainly not easy at later life stages, but it’s definitely possible. You know what interests you and we’re mostly comfortable with people who share our interests. Conversation is easier. Friends call each other to chat, to go for coffee, see a film, take a walk, share a laugh. Join an organization that’s compatible with your interests and experience. Then, don’t just occupy a seat … join a committee, volunteer your time, or simply help with cleanup. It may feel a bit awkward at first but, remember, others have joined the organization because they’re interested in building relationships too.
- Careers count. They give us purpose. They offer an opportunity to make a contribution. They compensate us for our knowledge and skills. Earning income is important for quality of life and retirement is no longer considered the road to happiness. So, consider your encore career. Your second act could be better than your first. You may need to polish your skills, or take a step or two back, but you haven’t forgotten what you know. Consider attending networking events, connecting with other professionals on LinkedIn, volunteering until you spruce up your skills, or taking a course to help you get up to speed on social media.
- Jot in your journal. Write your thoughts, aspirations, experiences … whatever that conversation is that you’re having in your head. There’s nothing like a fresh notebook to encourage a fresh start. There are dozens and dozens of journals online or at the bookstore from which to choose. Pick one that inspires you with quotes or pictures or writing prompts. Then begin your writing journey … words, sketches, pressed flowers, poems you’ve read or poems you’ve written. In a few months you’ll surprise yourself and the things that interest you will become clear. Capture bright thoughts, wishes and the way forward.
- Experience a shared experience. Attend a sports event, business conference, music concert, an opening night, a wine tasting or a festival with friends or family. You may have to reserve some extra dollars to indulge in the experience but experiences … especially shared experiences … are so much more memorable than acquiring more stuff. Take lots of photos. Share them with your friends. Journal how you enjoyed yourself and how it made you feel. Immediately plan your next experience.
- Take the train. Of course we each have wonderful travel wishes on our bucket list … maybe it’s returning to someplace you enjoyed in your youth, or a great European city, or where you went to college. Consider ditching all the angst of today’s air travel and take the train. Yes, it will take longer but you’ll engage with other travelers and give yourself time to consider the small towns along the way. Maybe visit the small towns instead of the big cities?
- Talk to strangers. Everywhere you go. Be the first to say hello. Smile even when you’re passing by. Ask a stranger for directions, a restaurant recommendation, where they’re from. You’ll be amazed when you find you’ve got more in common than you thought … perhaps a friend or maybe you’ll make a new friend. Go out of your way to engage.
- Free up time. What do you want to let go of? What do you want to keep? We only have 24 hours in a day and if we continue to do what we’ve always done, there will never be time for something new and exciting. When the task is finished, let go of it. What would you do if you could free up one hour for yourself every day? Seem impossible? Well, you might get up an hour earlier to put your tasks aside and then use those extra sixty minutes to work on your hobby, take a drive, walk the dog in the park. You might ask someone else to be responsible for something you always do. You might simply stop doing something or do it less frequently. Become master or mistress of your domain.
- Partner with your partner. That means conversation. No television. No politics. No discussion of aches and pains. Instead, introduce some thought-provoking questions. What does living the good life mean to you? What would that look like for us? How can we use our time together to do things that are fun for both of us? When can we start? Why not today?
- Give something away. There’s so much pleasure in doing something for someone else. And there’s so much surprise in receiving something unexpected. Perhaps you’ve got a small treasure a friend has always admired. Box it, wrap it, send it … and wait to hear the joy. Maybe you’re a good baker. What would your neighbor say if you rang her bell with a plate of fresh-baked cookies? Come in! Go down memory lane in your photo books and pull out some pictures from years ago. Send them to someone who can no longer get out with a small note… remember when? If you have a garden, snip a stem or two for someone who always stops to admire them. If they’re not at home, tuck them in their mailbox. She will smile when she gets home tired after a day’s work.
- Invite someone to lunch. It doesn’t have to be a tea party or a very expensive luncheon. It can be some simple food and refreshment, and a lovely dessert … over which there is wonderful Too often we wait for invitations and feel disappointed if they don’t come. So, if you’d like an invitation, extend an invitation. If you’d like a call, make a call. If you’d like to share something you’ve read, send it on it’s way. Most times we don’t re-read our books or magazines but, when we share them, someone else will delight in them and then a great conversation can begin.
So, I’ll leave you with this … if you want to live with no regrets, reimagine your life, don’t get stuck on obstacles you can easily overcome, and take action. We each hold our lives in the palms of our hands.
Diane Baranello is CEO of Coaching for Distinction, specializing in personal branding & collaborative career coaching for mid-career women. She will the Evening Salon discussion on Friday night at Women At Woodstock 2017.