I was the managing director of human resources for a 30,000-person business unit of a Fortune 500 corporation. I earned multi-six figures, had two homes, travelled the world at least twice a year, drove a fancy car, ate at expensive restaurants and had a standing appointment at the local spa. According to society's definition of success, I had it all.
It took me over 30 years to build my successful career and just under 30 minutes to decide to leave it and start my own coaching business.
My partner of 25 years looked a bit taken aback by my announcement, but he and I have always been of the same mind when it comes to fully living our lives, so he got it. In fact, two years later, he did the same thing (to start his photography business).
Most people, however, were sadly shocked and a bit scared for my sanity. While I had hoped for more happy inquisitive reaction, I mostly got a full dose of, "But you had it all, Gayle!" "Are you crazy?" and "How will you survive?" My favorite was, "But you were so successful!" Yes, I was, but I was now on my way to being even more successful.
I now have a prosperous writing, speaking and coaching business where I spend my days helping others find health, happiness and balance in their own lives. My husband and I are experimenting with coast-to-coast living, and after spending the summer on Cape Cod, Mass., we are now in Kauai. While we spend time working hard on our businesses, we also enjoy morning conversations in bed, yoga, golf, hiking and beaching on weekdays. Life isn't just for weekends and vacations anymore! We still travel the world, eat great food and drink awesome wine and never go a month without a massage. Sure, our car might not be quite as fancy as it was, but it gets us from the beach to the bar without a problem.
Everyone can do what we've done. It just takes three not so easy, but totally worth it steps.
First, fantasize about the life you truly want to live, the person you want to be and the footprint you want to leave in this world. Sounds big, right? It's not -- most of us do this regularly without realizing it. When's the last time you talked about what you would do if you won the lottery? What about dreaming about your life after retirement? Or, those feel good conversations with friends over too much wine. These are your inner fantasies that, up until this point, feel safe showing up only if they will not be taken too seriously or after too much wine. When your heart gets a chance to talk, listen to it, and go so far to write down what it's telling you. Taking pen to paper is the first step to moving fantasy to reality. Like a to do list, unless you write it down, it won't get done.
Next, set aside a few hours to talk about what you wrote with someone you trust. It can be a partner, spouse, cousin, parent, aunt, uncle, therapist, coach, your best friend, or maybe the person you just struck up a conversation with at Starbucks. Find someone who can keep silent and just let you talk. Talk about your life in the present moment and then talk about the life you want to lead. There is no room for solving problems, judgment or creating action plans in this discussion, there is simply talking about where you are and where you'd really love to be. Add as much detail to your fantasy as you can, and as you identify new ideas, write them down too. During this step, notice how you feel and how your body moves when you talk. Write down the words that describe your feelings and actions -- happy, animated, excited, smiled a lot, crazy. Enjoy yourself, you will return to reality shortly.
Finally, make it part of your regular weekly routine to repeat steps the previous two steps. Keep a separate notebook or journal dedicated to fully articulating what you truly want in life -- not what others expect of you, not what others tell you you should want, and not what you think is the "right" thing to do or be. The more regularly you think and talk about it, the more you desire your new definition of a well-lived life.
I believe that a successful person is one who is living the life they truly desire, and defining what you truly desire is the first step in a redefining how you view success. Taking action is next, but I'll save that for another blog.