Back in 2006, when I began researching my book Breakdown, Breakthrough about how women can overcome (or bypass altogether) the 12 most common professional crises and learn to thrive, I was floored by some of the advice and stories I heard. Rather than learning about huge cataclysmic changes that altered their lives, I heard more about tiny, daily mindset shifts that help people see the world in dramatically different, and more empowering and positive ways. And when they saw the world and their lives differently, they behaved differently.
It was these behavior changes that paved the way for more happiness, success and fulfillment. I’ve learned too from my own reinventions that it’s often the small things we do in life that make the biggest impact.
To learn more about how we can take small steps to regain control of our life, I was excited to catch up with Amy Newmark who has been the publisher and author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul line of books since 2008, when she and her husband and an investor group bought the company from its founders, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. The latest book in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series is Time to Thrive: 101 Stories About Growth, Wisdom and Dreams, co-authored by Amy Newmark and Loren Slocum Lahav, all about how to take charge of your life, pursue your passions and lead a meaningful life. I’m honored to be a contributor, and have benefited from reading how the other 100 contributors discovered their own, personalized keys to thriving.
Sometimes taking back control of your life starts with rediscovering what makes you tick, learning to take care of yourself, or making time for the people and things that you love. Here are five powerful tips from the book that illustrate what’s possible:
1. Be disciplined about your ‘me’ time.
Five days a week, from Tuesday to Saturday, Rebecca Hill dedicates all of her time and attention to her customers. Whether it’s sculpting someone’s arms or the perfect vacation, her two jobs—as a fitness instructor and a combination innkeeper and concierge—keep her on her toes. Sundays are devoted to “pajama day” with her husband. And then on Mondays Rebecca takes time to pamper her most important customer: herself. Mondays are her “My-days,” and she makes sure she spends them doing things that make her feel great. My-days give Rebecca the positive boost and recharge she needs to approach the rest of the week with the energy and enthusiasm.
2. Don’t be afraid to flout convention.
Her friends and family all thought she was crazy for deciding to make the 16,000-mile trip from her home in Florida to Alaska and back—all by herself. Especially with only four months to plan. What they didn’t know was that Sheila Wasserman was making her dream come true. No, she wasn’t nervous, and no, she didn’t need anyone accompanying her. “It was hard to tell them I wanted to be alone. I like my own company.” She planned out her grand adventure almost like she was in a dream. After packing a camper with all the essentials, she set out on the open road to discover if there was any more “her” left in her. It was exactly what she wanted.
3. Treat yourself as well as you would a guest.
When Paula Klendworth Skory was a child, her mother put out special flower-shaped soaps for company. The family never touched them as they were for guests. Over time the little soaps collected dust, until they didn’t really look very special at all. As an adult, Paula continued in the same vein, putting out special things for guests, but never using them herself. One of those things was another piece of soap, this one a handmade gift from her artisan brother-in-law shortly after her wedding. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with cancer decades later that she realized it was time to treat herself as well as a guest. The soap came out of the drawer, and as the water ran over her hands, the colors and scent filled her with pure joy. “I felt my troubles washing away with those tiny bits of foam.” It was such a small thing, but it made her so happy. Now Paula understands that she deserves the guest treatment, too.
4. Learn how to say ‘no.’
Ann Vitale spent the better part of three decades saying yes to every request made of her. Lead a club, chair a board, join an organization—when anyone asked a favor, she always said yes. “The trouble is, many times when you assume the mantle people expect you will continue to wear it year after year.” When she retired, she decided she would do all the things she had always wanted to do for herself. She thought about the things she had saved for later, for “as soon as…” But the requests didn’t stop. Until one day she had a revelation: “I’d just said ‘No’ with no explanation. Just ‘No.’ And surprisingly, I didn’t feel guilty about it.” Now Ann says “yes” to herself. Yes to relaxing, yes to writing, yes to tending her flowerbed. And sometimes she still says yes to the favors, too, but only when she really wants to.
5. Make a habit of trying new things.
A lackluster book club meeting suddenly took on a whole new life after Ericka Kahler decided to make a couple of phone calls to find a guest speaker. It was like a bolt out of the blue when she realized how simple it was to make things happen. “How many opportunities had I lost because I didn’t make an effort?” That’s when she decided it would be her “Summer of Yes.” When friends proposed new adventures, she enthusiastically jumped right in. And the more she said yes, the more invitations she got and the more new adventures she tried. By the end of the year, she had a new job, a completed college degree, and a wide range of new interests. “Yes” had become her mantra, and it changed her life.
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I’d love to add my own personal tip from my Time to Thrive story (see Chapter 70 – “From Breakdown to Breakthrough). My tip is this:
6. Embrace what your life is trying to teach you.
When you hit what you think is a breaking point, don’t resist it, but embrace it. Walk right into it. Often these moments are occurring precisely to illuminate what you’re missing in your life, and what you deeply long for. When you learn to embrace rather than fight the lessons these challenging moments are trying to teach you, suddenly a new path becomes clearer and more possible than ever before. Breakdown can indeed pave the way for breakthrough, if you let it.
Originally published at Forbes
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