You may be sitting where I was about a year ago — in a large office building, feeling like you’re not in the right place in your career, job, or life, but not knowing where you do belong, either. Or you may be perfectly happy in your career, but feeling stuck where you’re at with your health, weight, or relationships. Either way, I hope some of the lessons I’ve learned about getting unstuck from my quarter-life career crisis of sorts will help you through any change you’re making in your journey to ultimate health and happiness.
But first off, in case we don’t know each other already, I’m Sam Vander Wielen, a corporate-attorney-turned-certified health coach who helps (mostly) women learn how to create a healthy relationship with food/exercise, prioritize self-care, and live the life they want.
In 2016, I left my career as an attorney at a large law firm to start my own health coaching business, Hygge Wellness. It was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and the Pennsylvania Bar is no joke!). Not only because I chose to walk away from great coworkers, an amazing managing partner, a generous salary, bonus, and the perks afforded to an attorney working at a great firm, but because I realized I had gone so far down a path I didn’t want, I didn’t know how to get back home. I know so many people, in various jobs in different fields, in the same position.
I realized life wasn’t going to hand me the perfect situation or timing to leave. It was actually pretty alarming to realize that I was in control of my happiness and future.
Here are the top 11 lessons I learned through the process of leaving my career as an attorney to chase my dream of starting my own business, helping others make themselves a priority, and spreading wellness across the Philadelphia region.
1. Know that change brings out insecurity in a BIG way.
Making any big change in your life is deeply exposing on an emotional level. If you’ve always been afraid of what people think of you, or been riddled with self-doubt, those feelings will bubble to the surface with a vengeance. Be prepared to use the opportunity of making a big change in your life to work through those emotions, once and for all.
2. Know that nothing you’ve done up until this point was a waste of time. (Really!)
All of your past experiences, jobs, late-night brief-writing sessions, etc. are and were valuable moments in your life. Even if you’re going in a whole new direction in your career or your journey to health and wellness, don’t spend one moment thinking you wasted your time. You will be reminded of just how useful those experiences are when you least expect it.
3. An open mind is essential.
Keeping an open mind is essential, whether you’re starting your own business, looking for a new job, or changing the way you eat or move. I became a certified health coach because I wanted to work with people one-on-one and help them make healthy lifestyle changes. But I’m also open to the idea that my business may morph into something different based on peoples’ needs (like my dream of opening a healthy, cozy bistro and coffee shop).
4. Know that you’re capable of more than you know.
I felt so overwhelmed when I first started Hygge Wellness. I didn’t know how to run a website, blog, write HTML code, or plan eCourses. But all of those experiences from #2 came through. I had done tough things before, and that gave me the confidence to know I could do (different) tough things now.
5. Whatever change you’re making, there will be times you want to throw in the towel.
Remember all those insecurities in #1? Well sometimes they pop up and make you feel like running back to your old ways. It always feels more comfortable to run back to something we know, rather than running headfirst into the unknown. Keep your eye on the prize and remember why you’re making a change.
6. You have to be a sponge.
If you’re making any type of change in your life, use the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and discover new places. In fact, you need to get uncomfortable. But if you try something new and truly hate it, ditch it. Trying is the only way you’re ever going to truly grow, change, and find joy.
7. Learn to enjoy the process.
Whether you’re leaving your job, trying to lose 50 pounds, or training for the Broad Street Run, enjoy the process and the journey you’re going through. It’s not all roses either. Stuff is going to get hard and you’ll feel like giving in (see #5). No matter what happens, you’ll look back and remember this special time. Make it count.
8. Eating right and moving should be on your to-do list.
Although it’s always important to eat well and move your body, it’s especially important during times of transition or intense stress. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to nourish and nurture your body with whole foods, lots of water, and exercise that you actually enjoy.
9. You have to ditch the negative.
Write down the things you’ve done in the last month that brought you the most joy. Spend more time on those things or with those people. At the same time, clean up your social media accounts (less Insta-stalking, more Insta-inspiration), your physical space (de-clutter), and your relationships (surround yourself with people you love, who make you feel good).
10. Don’t forget about self-care!
Self-care is about identifying what your needs truly are and taking the steps to meet them. Self-care is essential, no matter what “season” your life is in, but times of transition call for some serious downtime.
11. Find happiness — wherever you are.
Maybe you aren’t planning to overhaul your life quite yet. But you might decide to chase your dreams one day. Until then, though, find happiness by cultivating and nourishing sources of joy in your life: yoga, friends, cooking, CrossFit, knitting — whatever “joy” means for you. Don’t wait for something to happen to be happy. Happiness is sitting right in front of you. You just have to reach out and choose to grab it.
Sam is a corporate-attorney-turned-certified health coach who helps busy women ditch diets and practice self-care, mindful eating, and functional fitness. She gets hygge by brewing coffee, reading her favorite books and cooking healthy meals. Sam works 1-on-1 with women through health coaching and eCourses. She also regularly presents workplace wellness seminars at Philadelphia-area companies. You can find her at her website here or her Facebook page here.
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