This year, resolve to own life on your terms, even when it hurts.

Setting up our lives is like carefully building a house. It takes years to plan, to lay that strong foundation, create the infrastructure, and choose colors and design palette that matches your tastes. It can be a very frightening feeling, then, when the house suddenly doesn’t feel like home.

When the once-treasured pieces of your life—career, family, and friends—make you feel a bit alienated, it can eat away at your happiness and overall wellness. And then what the heck do you do about it?

During the last year or so, I realized I was sleepwalking. I knew I needed to wake up, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. I was terrified at the thought of disrupting routine, disappointing others, and dismantling the career I’d painstakingly built
and invested in.

In fact, my career had been decades in the making. I was a leader in financial services doing what I set out to do from high school—leveraging my skills and making a great living doing it—but I didn’t feel like I was making the kind of impact on the world (or myself) that felt truly satisfying. But here was the question I faced: Should I leave a job where I was valued and successful, knowing I had more to offer to the world?

The fear of change is sometimes scarier than the actual change itself, but I decided to face the challenge head-on. Rather than trying to orchestrate that next step in my career at the company (or somewhere else) like I normally would, I started exploring what my life could look like beyond the corporate walls. After years of advising mentees and c-suite execs to manifest the careers they desired, I was finally going to take my own advice.

That was, it turns out, just a baby step. I had to draw up a brand new strategy, utilize my network for support, and navigate an entirely distinctive career path. It was the kind of queasy excitement I hadn’t felt since I graduated college, and it left me feeling unnerved and adrenalized in equal measure.

I know what you’re thinking. Good for you. I don’t have the luxury of leaving my job and taking huge risks (college tuition, mortgage…) And I get that. Dire circumstances can make us feel locked in. But for me, my career wasn’t the only major change I was making. The career shift was the result of an adjustment in mindset that touched all the major intersections of my life.

As I looked across the landscape of my 46 years, I saw the same patterns in my personal life that had become apparent in my career—I was letting societal norms determine my self-worth. Even some of the relationships closest to me were unhealthy, and I knew it needed to change, even though I faced judgment and ridicule.

It sounds so easy to say I just cleaned house and removed the negative energy from my life, like stripping ugly wallpaper off basement walls, but the reality was much more painful than that. Relationships I valued most needed to be scrutinized and even deconstructed.

People ask me now if all of this upheaval was worth it. But if we truly value ourselves then the only answer can be hell, yes. We all deserve to be happy and surround ourselves with people who will elevate us to be the very best versions of ourselves.

So, now what, you ask. Start small. But start. Move the dog dish. Take a different route to work each day. Listen to music instead of NPR on your way to the office. Let them do their own laundry for a change. Stare in the mirror and ask yourself, What kind of human do I want to be? Fear inaction, not negative consequences. Don’t wait. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Double Dare

This year, I challenge you to try something completely new. Take a knitting class. Go skydiving. Learn the tango. Study Portuguese. Do something you’ve always wanted to do, and then write to me and let me know what you’re up to. I think you’re going to surprise yourself.

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