Your New Life: The First Four Steps
Maybe you already know how to start a radically different life. Maybe you are already in love with yourself. For me, moving to France, and learning to be really content in my relationship with myself, took a million little steps.
It was nice to get the invitation from Huffington Post, but what would I write about? I saw the titles that began, “Ten Things Never to..”, “ Five Ways to..” “How Successful People..” Me, I have a permanent parking place on the steep end of the learning curve, so how could I be most helpful? It’s the end of January, and manifestos for personal growth are waiting to be executed. Waiting. No. Begin. I started with a post about facing the French government sporting Groucho Marx eyebrows and a Trump Do. Begin.
If you don’t know where to start, here are four steps to consider to create an entirely different chapter in your life, and be a good friend to yourself. They work for me.
Take action. In Magical Thinking and the Power to Change, I discuss moving from the belief that everything happens in the mind, to taking concrete, physical steps to change the way you think. From potions to the Law of Attraction, from prayer to Pinterest, we wish for things to happen or change, while we stay stuck in dead end jobs, unhealthy lifestyles, or suffocating relationships. It is from the realm of PTSD therapy, we learn about actions we can take to create a healthier mindset. In The Body Keeps the Score, the author shows how through yoga, neurofeedback, EMDR, theater and other physical approaches, his patients suffering from serious trauma, have experienced remarkable results that allow them to manage their lives in satisfying ways. Changing what you do can change what you think.
Look around. Whether you find people living fulfilled lives in your own community, or travel further afield to observe lifestyles in other places, examine the details. Is it a sense of community, or creativity, security or opportunity that makes their lives attractive to you? By doing this, you begin to identify what underlying states of mind you find most desirable. How, or where will you fill your life with that good feeling?
Divide and Conquer. There are at least two sides to your wonderful character. Start a romance between them. Perhaps your hardworking, rational self says to your creative gypsy, “Sweetheart, I’m going to make this happen, so you have space to grow and thrive.” She replies, “Darling, I appreciate how hard you work — I am with you every day, sending inspiration and imagination.” Okay, gooey, but aren’t they nice to each other? That’s healthy love talk.
Go for a test run. Set aside some time (and money, if your new life involves a move) and try out a version of your dream life. Keep calm, you’ve left yourself room to come back to the way things are. You’ll figure out if it’s what you imagined. If not, what wasn’t right, what facts need to change, or how will you adapt the dream? How do you feel about the inevitable downsides to the new way of life? Come back to the way things are. You may find it suits you just fine, and you just needed a breather.
Or, you have taken the first steps towards big change. For me, living in southwest France, where I wake up content each morning, took a million steps, and I’m eager for the next million as I build a new, meaningful life.
Take action, look around, be kind to yourself, and test out what works for you.
Me, I’m still working on not stepping out for a morning croissant.
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Emily Conyngham now lives in France, after a nine-month fling with the country turned into true love. As a photographer and writer, she shares her joie de vivre in images and words.