After decades trying to apply “ideal” plans from inspirational and well-meaning self-help books to my really–un-ideal life, I finally found a way that works IN REAL LIFE.
I took the change management approach I apply for my consulting clients and applied it to my life. Action-oriented, bite-sized decision guides pulled me through every micro-step needed to build the massive bridge from the stuck life I’d been living for two decades, to the purposeful life I’d been seeking to achieve.
I believe that for every person and lifestyle, there is a fitting way of managing day-to-day life. Some people achieve great things by following a very organic, intuitive, ‘from the hip’ approach. Some people succeed by applying massive changes in one fell swoop: a big announcement, an abrupt job-quitting, or a return to college to start a new career. That can work… if you don’t already have hundreds of trains in motion and hundreds of people who depend on you.
If you are like me, every part of your life is enmeshed with and bound by responsibilities to support others. To attempt a massive life change in one fell swoop would go against my values, putting at risk all the promises and commitments I’ve made along the way. How can we implement transformational change in our lives without potentially failing on commitments to children, family members or our wider community? How can we place ourselves first without triggering regret?
Regret–humanity’s biggest four-letter word—can grow from neglect of the self as much as neglect of other things. By embracing this truth, I finally figured out how to make real and visible change happen in a planful yet passion-fueled way. And I build every step as a tiny bite-sized action that could be squeezed into the most chaotic days. I dropped the fear of failing others when I adopted the equal fear of failing myself, or of dying without leaving a little legacy behind for my kids. I recognized how strong all the outside forces were, and so I realized I needed to equally strengthen my commitments to myself. I resolved to pile-drive my goals through the avalanche that is the chaos of daily life. I recognized I would fail myself if I set unrealistic goals for each day. Instead, I mapped out bite-sized tasks for myself to ensure that I could take action every day, and make small but continuous progress… every day… rain or shine.
There is something powerful about creating visible progress every single day. Momentum builds. In the fitness side of my life I’ve been well aware of this. One day can pass by wherein I don’t work out. One day missed is recovery or an anomaly. But two days missed is a pattern that quickly paints a downward arc. Momentum dies. In the past when I’d try to insert my goals into daily life, I’d carve out one long morning or afternoon, but momentum would die when demands of future days suffocated my good intents. I realized I needed to give this the same attention I give my clients. Every day needed to deliver some form of progress, even if it was simply one small directional decision.
As I amassed the many worksheets and guide I’d built for myself, I realized this is all a repeatable process that anyone can follow. The worksheets I built for myself enabled me to:
- Be guided through decisions even when I was rushed or my brain was fried
- Gain clarity on the next steps and how they fed into the big picture goal I had in mind
- Take steps forward in real life, with the safety of testing out those changes, and stepping backward or modifying my approach if I ever bit off more than I could chew
- Test out my true “change-readiness” – As I defined actions, I learned where I was able to quickly step forward and where I was unable to address difficult conversations or truly let go of things that were not priorities in my future life.
These become concrete, visible, trackable steps that move you toward big picture changes. Books about transformational change spark inspiration and bravery, but life has a messy way of clouding our view of the nearest next step to get us where we’re inspired to go. These are tiny bite-sized tasks that enable you to build a bridge one plank at a time. And no one step puts your current life at risk. Every step is a taste test, enabling you to back up an modify your approach whenever it doesn’t feel right.
In addition, because the the steps are active, concrete and visible, you can see where you’re getting suck or hijacked. For years I blamed myself or “life” for not achieving progress. When I got more concrete about a give step, I could see I was being hijacked or blocked by other forces in my life that were well-disguised. The bottom line was, no matter how hard I advocated for my goals, the agreements I worked to achieve were not being kept, and quite forcibly being ignored. I could finally see the barriers I was up against in daylight. If I really wanted my goals to be honored, I’d have to make some very tough choices. And I finally did.
I also became more in touch with an addiction I call “duty-addiction.” Many types of people have this: people who avoid conflict, people who are big on appearing perfect or as a top-performer, people-pleasers, work-aholics, and chemical or behavioral addicts and emotionally immature individuals who use duty-addiction as a tool for over-correcting and over-pleasing to coverup after bad behavior. The list of duty addicts covers much of the good hard-working people of the world. At the core is an imbalance. A good blend of confidence and self-accountability enables healthy individuals to support others’ needs, while having no shame for promoting self and consuming time and resources for one’s own goals. An imbalanced person will constantly give in to others’ needs. There is a certain perceived safety in martyrdom. It is not altruism. It is an unhealthy way to avoid mature accountability. It avoids responsibility for making tough choices and negotiating openly and fairly. It keeps us very stuck.
The more I narrowed my tasks, the clearer I became on the barriers in me and in others that had held me frozen for two decades. Instead of letting the world pull on me, I gained skills in unapologetically pushing a lot more. I held strong to the message that “if there is not room for my goals here, I am willing to change absolutely everything in order to make room.” And I did.
I’m proud to say that through this process, I’ve grown so strong that today I own nothing that doesn’t support my self-designed life; I own nothing that is simply a status symbol to keep up with the Jones’s. I grew the strength to strip my life of everything and rebuild specifically around the vision I have for the remaining minutes I have here on earth.
By taking action in real life I also saw how this is a 360-degree project. We cannot achieve a career goal, or a creative goal, if we are not completely fit in all ways: life change demands intense physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual stamina. I realized that past failed attempts occurred because I was not truly “fit” for change in all ways. Some part of my life was always being ignored. This time I committed to maintaining a strong foundation for sustainable, rewarding, and yet tough change.
This is why the KindEdge process worked for me when all past methods had failed. I’m now publishing my suite of tools online to share with you. I believe with a method that works in real life, everyone can unlock the alternate ending to their lives.