08/27/2013 06:58 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2013

Time for... Change?

I notice things a lot more now that I'm getting older. Sometimes things "pop out" at me as an "Aha" moment, where I can now see something clearly that I might not have noticed in the past.

Something I've recognized is how I had been living my life on a hamster wheel. What in the world does that mean? I realize I had spent my days getting up in the morning, rushing to work, coming home, taking care of the kids, going food shopping... you might recognize some similarities in your own life by now. After my hectic day of obligations, I'd fall into bed each night exhausted, only to wake up a short time later and do it all again. The days became a blur, the weeks flew by and it always seemed to be Christmas. Again.

Hence, the analogy of being on the hamster wheel, the best way I am able to describe how I spent my life. Look at yourself. Are you like me? On the hamster wheel, just continuously running? Or do you stop and smell the roses? I for one am tired of wishing my life away, tired of wishing for and waiting for the weekend. I've started questioning what is the meaning of life, why are we here, and why does it seem we always have so much "stuff" to do?

I recently published a book entitled, If I Knew Then What I Know Now. This discussion was included in the context of the book. I truly believe that we are not put on this earth to be "tortured souls," the theme of chapter two. The goal of If I Knew then What I Know Now is to get people to wake up before they became 47 years old (my age), or older, and to take advantage of every day.

One of the most important things I realized about being on the hamster wheel is I didn't know I was on it. I didn't realize that, deep down, I was missing everything and was just focused on getting "stuff" done. I believe this is something very common. That we don't realize we're in a rut or we are in an undesirable situation. Sometimes we may just feel tired, or maybe we have a headache, or maybe we can't sleep, or maybe we just don't feel right but don't know why.

In my case, I just knew that I felt harried all the time, but I became so proud of crossing things off my many lists that accomplishment began to form my identity. If I accomplished a lot during the day, I had a good day. If I didn't, I had a bad day. What I realize now: things do need to get done. We do need to work so we can pay our bills and feed our kids. We do need to have a clean house so we can stay healthy. We do need to food shop so we can eat.

But the largest lesson I realized is that we have to look at how we are living and do self-checks. I worked in health care for the past 27 years, a large number spent on quality-improvement activities. I learned things can always improve in everything and anything. Every company can improve, every process can be better. I started to apply quality-improvement principles to my own life. Why? While we are in a situation, we don't necessarily recognize the effect it has on us. We're living it, but we need to sometimes step back and do an analysis. We sometimes forget how powerful we really are. We forget that we have the ability to change anything and make anything better and more pleasing to ourselves so we can enjoy life.

Are we happy? Are we really happy? What is making us happy? Are we enjoying our jobs? Do we enjoy our relationships with others? Do we have relationships with others? Start asking yourself simple questions. If you find that there is an area where you can make things better so you can enjoy life, it might be time to learn what you need to know so you can start implementing a change.

It is up to us to make our days and our lives better. If you find you need it, perhaps starting with small changes, even something you might think is negligible like taking a different route to work, might be just the answer. If it's something big that needs to be addressed, perhaps a career change, make a plan and determine the steps you need to get there.

I recently spoke with a gentleman who had taken a job more than 20 years ago because he needed a salary to care for his family. Of course, this is something that many of us do or have to do. Many of us even take on more than one job to make ends meet. But because of his unhappiness in his work, all these years later, he is now battling depression. As we talked, I reminded him that it's never too late to pursue his passion. He just needed to determine how he could fit in what he loves into his day, even if it's just for a few minutes.

If something you've always wanted to do may be unobtainable at this point in your life, for example, being a star NBA player, remember that it is never too late to volunteer in an area you love in order to partake in, or be a part in, something that will be rewarding to you. Don't just sit on the sidelines wishing you were part of the action. Be a participant.

It is so easy for things in our lives to become so big to where I would even refer to them as obstacles -- no, maybe not even as small as an obstacle, but a mountain. If you can put into your mind that there is no mountain too big to climb, you can start making changes to get there. All it takes is your realization that you need to start the process.

For more by Doreen Guma, MA, FACHE, CPC, CLC, click here.

For more on happiness, click here.