Getting to Re-know Me on a Solo Hike in Patagonia

To walk alone is to know your whole self — without titles, without a gaggle of friends to text, without all the usual services of daily life. What makes your heart thump in fear, your jaw drop in wonder, and where your limits really aren’t the end.

In January, I went on my first-ever solo overnight trek — and because I don’t do anything halfway, I made it a big one:

Five days, four nights. 40 miles. 2,296 feet elevation gain in one day alone.

In the heart of Chile’s Patagonia, in Torres del Paine National Park, where four seasons in one day is routine and the wind is so fierce it knocks a person to her back.

Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is in Patagonia, Chile, past the end of a road that calls itself “The Highway of the End of the World.” And yes, that’s Antarctica not so far away.

I needed this, desperately.

Between major life changes and an intense job, I had lost little pieces of me the last few years — locked away or beaten down in the routine of daily life. I needed to recover myself, re-ground, and know again those parts of me that went missing.

So I promised my friends and family this trek was totally, absolutely safe to do alone (I was decently sure it was) and booked the trip.

Now, as I write with this pen on paper* on the edge of a slate cliff, overlooking the mountains I “W”-ed over the last days, I am so happy to say hello to my whole self once again — and I even found a few jewels I had no idea existed within me.

Torres del Paine National Park
*This was my view when I wrote this post on paper, while looking over my shoulder once in a while for lurking pumas.

You are so much stronger than you think.

As I came to the Base of the Torres, I passed a 70s-ish woman hiking alone, and she was my hero. This was a 9km (5.6mi) mountain climb with an elevation gain of 2,296 feet — 36 percent of which is in the last 45 minutes of hiking.

Nearly everyone took pauses to get up that mountain. But the reward we all knew was there, just another step, and another, and another — worth it. So, pause and climb.

And then do it again tomorrow, with a 25-pound bag on your back.

Torres del Paine Mirador, Base del Torres
Once arriving to the Base of the Torres destination, you collapse on a rock for a while, and then take the obligatory arms-wide “I made it!” photo.

You can surprise yourself.

It is an incredible gift to realize something wonderful is in you that you didn’t know existed.

I had a plan. I was going to warm up to this trek, do it in smaller pieces. But every day I went farther than I thought I possibly could, loving the strength I found in my muscles and the willpower waiting in my mind.

A trail buddy said to me, “You keep surprising me.”

I replied, without prior thought or hesitation, “I’m surprising myself.”

Torres del Paine
I hiked the sides and the middle around this, making a “W” shape. W as in WOW, me! I am a super gosh-darn bad-ass!

You can walk into the unknown.

I am a planner by love and genetic shaping. So there was no way I wasn’t going to plan the heck out of this trek.

When I booked my campsites in the national park, I made what I thought were good choices.

They were not.

In fact, I would have had to redo the hardest route one day, and compress two days into one on another. But I am nothing if not stubborn, and I’d already made that decision, so I was sticking to it.

Until I got to the first campsite on my first day, and the park workers recommended I hike NOW, today, to Torres, because tomorrow the weather was supposed to be bad.

So I went, best-laid plans constantly changing over the next days, based on weather, company and my amazing ability to sleep and recover, with no guarantee of finding space at the next campsite. And yet, I always did.

Torres del Paine Cuernos
When I changed my plans, I unexpectedly ran into an American from Oakland who I had met the day before at the night’s campsite. So the unknown brought trail buddies and spectacular sunsets.

You can be that kind stranger.

Each day, at about an hour from my destination, I reached the “am I there yet?” stage of exhaustion, and started obsessively asking hikers coming in the opposite direction how far the next campsite was.

Without exception, these hikers from everyone around the world were kind, often stopping to chat and lending encouragement.

I happily offered the same.

At the end of every day’s gorgeous hike, hikers at the campsite would relate trail stories and count blisters at a shared cookstove table. One morning, I met a friendly German over my ramen soup breakfast, and we agreed to hike together for the day along with an American from Oakland.

Torres del Paine National Park
This woman from Princeton asked me if she was on the right trail. I assured her she was — the one thing you cannot do in this park is get lost. The trail is exceptionally well-marked.

You need to be in just one place at a time.

I saw a handful of hikers with headphones, which mystified me. The sounds of this park were a symphony in itself — the rush of the wind through the tall grasses, the roar of the giant waterfalls, the birds’ songs and the rumble of avalanches.

I saw a wild rabbit one day, only because I heard its thump-thumping away from my approach.

I know, to really be present and hear and see what’s around you is not easy.

At one point on the trail, my mind was circling obsessively about a past relationship so loudly that I had nearly blocked out where I was. Luckily, a splash of bright purple broke my circling, and I turned to see a whole field of these beautiful bell-shaped flowers.

To disconnect and not multitask, and just BE, that is the harder path — but so rewarding.

Field of bell flowers
Sometimes you just need a field of beautiful purple flowers to pull you back to the place you actually are in.

You should stop and stand in awe.

One afternoon, I sat and watched avalanches calve from glaciers, each tumble of ice causing a thunder-like roll through the Frances Valley.

“Look, look!” I called to my trail buddy for the day, yelling like a child and feeling the heart-hammering flush of amazement.

To feel awe like this is to feel alive.

I want to stand in awe more often.

Torres del Paine Frances Glacier
I sat and avalanche-watched the glaciers on this mountain.

Now my challenge, as always when amazing experiences wrap up, is to thread these pieces of me into every vein and keep them near the surface, so they are not lost again in routine and rush.

Or I guess I could always go back again — and this time for the 10-day trek!

 

 

Reflection without absorption and letting go with love and tenderness

Somehow, I made it. It’s Week Zero. I step on that plane tomorrow.

I might cry with relief.

December crawled by at a turtle’s pace. I went through my what-should-I-do loop about 20 times a day. I stressed about what I was doing, about what I wasn’t doing, about what I was sure I was forgetting to do.

stress ball
i was basically a living stress ball in december.

So I desperately need Chile. I need to feel the sun on my skin and breathe sweet, clean non-big-city air, and see bright stars that make me go “wow.”

I’m hoping by Day 3 that the stress loops finally loosen, unravel, and just drop off the back of my bicycle on some mountain trail.

In my one earnest attempt at de-stressing this week, I headed to a year-end Yoga Nidra class last night (yes, I know it’s very Portland-y, and no, I don’t care! It’s heavenly and please try it!).

At the start of the candlelit practice, the instructor gave us all a few moments to reflect on 2015.

Reflect: /rəˈflekt/:

1) (Of a surface or body) throw back (heat, light, or sound) without absorbing it.

2) Think deeply or carefully about.

The lovely thing about definition No. 1 is the space it provides. It’s an examination at a distance, not a re-engagement with either best or worst moments. Just watching and noticing — without letting any of those moments bowl you over like they did the first time around, hence making it onto your year’s best and worst list.

Next, the yoga instructor encouraged us to imagine what we would leave behind in 2015, and this thought bloomed within me.

It’s not the usual “what’s your new year’s resolution” with all the baggage and expectation, but a soft, kind question to yourself:

What few things would you like to place on a little wooden sailboat on the edge of a lake, and gently push off into the sunset?

Put these items on the boat, and say goodbye with all the tenderness the moments deserve.

Now you can move on to 2016, a little bit lighter, with space for something new.

create space
imagine freeing up all this space inside of you. minus the ostrich.

My boat has three hefty pieces, each comprised of many moments from 2015 to which I’m ready to leave behind:

Unhealthy living. I started this year with no life other than work. I didn’t eat healthily. I didn’t exercise. I felt fragile – and I can’t honestly think of a thing I hate feeling more than that.

So, I’m leaving Unhealthy Living forever in 2015. I’m not saying I won’t have slip-ups and live not-so-great once in a while, but not consistently, not as a way of life again.

unhealthy jabba
i was basically as unhealthy as jabba but with none of the sidekicks to keep my company in the first half of 2015.

Silence. I can count too many times from earlier this year when I wanted to say something, but didn’t in a sticky situation. I thought I wasn’t the expert, or I was younger than everyone, or I was the only woman in the room, or I would be judged. All fear-based, mostly gender-taught.

But when I decided that I was willing and ready to leave my job for something different, a wonderful thing happened — I was suddenly free! I could say whatever I felt, whenever it felt right (in a respectful way, of course)! And I did!

All those fears didn’t matter anymore – I wouldn’t be working with these colleagues in a few months, I had nothing to lose. So why not call out a colleague who is saying inappropriate things?

it was kinda like the monty pyton god said to me: i’m giving you a task to keep you busy. your purpose is to go forth and say stuff.

This opening within myself kept getting better and better. I realized no one judged me, and in fact, they wanted me to say what I wanted to say (well, sometimes). By the end of the year, colleagues even said this is what they admired about me – that I spoke up and challenged people when needed, respectfully and with persistence.

So I am leaving Silence in Sticky Situations forever in 2015. You do not serve me, you serve only Fear, and that is not who I am.

Perfection. Mostly, I just can’t strive for this anymore. My nearly life-long obsession with perfection – I was a newspaper copy editor, for goodness sakes, which is just about a perfectionist’s dream job to look for tiny errors and get paid for it – has just become too exhausting. Like a box I created for myself, but I’ve grown and the box hasn’t.

I’m done.

Perfect IS the enemy of the done. And sometimes, I just want to be done.

So, I’m leaving Perfection forever in 2015. You served me well many times. I bid you a fond farewell, and best of luck in finding a new copy editor in 2016.

perfection in book form
i literally slept with this under my pillow in college. seriously.

Now with all of this beautiful space, this empty shore and wide-open lake, I am welcoming a few things with open arms. In fact, it’s more like I’m running at them in a crazy happy tackle:

Saying YES. Research shows we regret what we DON’T do much more than anything we do try. So I’m saying YES every chance I get.

Finding balance. I’m changing my life to put work on equal footing with relationships and the other things that nourish me. One of which is…

Creating things. Starting to write again, here on this site, has been one of my many great joys of 2015. Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Big Magic that there are little jewels of creativity in all of us, just waiting to be found. It doesn’t matter if absolutely no one likes or reads what you create. You create something because you can’t not create – and that’s what writing is for me. It’s who I am. I love the electricity it lights inside my skin, the warmth it sends from my toes to my fingertips.

create
what lights a brilliant explosion of creation in you?

What are you gently leaving in 2015 and welcoming at a run in 2016?

 

Prepare Yourself for the Highs and Lows of Something New

Something big and new is starting and I am excited, and nervous, and all butterfly-stomach and obsessive. This endorphin rush is the BEST and I want it to last forever and ever.

I’ve felt this thrill every time I’ve moved to a new place or started a new job. Every new person is the smartest, most amazing individual, and every new street is exciting and full of wonder – and look! Over there is a sparkly unicorn shitting a rainbow that ends in a pot of gold-shaped hearts!

[I will happily draw that image if anyone requests it.]

But then, usually around the one-month mark, all the rosy wonderful new things dim a bit, and I miss my old room/friends/routine/job, and I can’t find the unicorn anymore.

I just really want a grilled cheese with a pickle on it, and my own super comfy pillow, and this new place doesn’t have pickles or my pillow. Or I want my old officemates back, who had their issues, sure, but at least it wasn’t this issue, which I really can’t stand.

Grilled-Cheese-Pickle
if you’ve never tried a grilled cheese with pickles, stop reading and go eat one right now…. welcome back. and, you’re welcome.

In living abroad, this phenomenon of a high honeymoon stage followed by a steep crash to a crisis point is called the U Curve of Cultural Adjustment (according to some old men named Lysgaard and Oberg, among others).

U curve of adjustment
the U Curve of Adjustment with my highly accurate depiction of complex emotion via emoticon.

I’m pretty convinced this experience is applicable to more than just moving abroad. Think about it – everything from a new house (beautiful bungalow –> the roof needs repair) to a new city (every street is amazing –> every street is dirty) to a new career (best job ever –> nothing here is functional) requires a similar emotional adjustment process.

As much as I’d like going after my new goal to be rosy and wonderful for the full year I’m pursuing it, I don’t think I can make that honeymoon phase last longer.

But I do think some preparation can make that crisis trough a lot shallower and the recovery a lot speedier.

So here is my recipe for pre-new-thing preparedness:

Know that you WILL hit bottom.

That’s right, just acknowledge that rock bottom is going to happen. You can’t avoid it.

Recognize that this whole experience is helping you grow into a more authentic you. It will hurt at times, it will definitely be hard, and it will put you through the wringer.

When you hit bottom, greet that low point with the wisdom of expecting its arrival, and a Warrior 2 stance.

Yoga_WarriorII_02_300x350
bring it, crisis. i can warrior 2 all day. or for 5 minutes while sobbing.

Get enough sleep.

Studies routinely show we need somewhere around 7-8 hours of sleep as adults. When we get less than that, we start making poor decisions and our focus is compromised.

Meeting your goal is a marathon. You need to be in top shape and not make a sleep-deprived decision to give up when you hit bottom.

Make sure you are making decisions with a clear mind. If you’re having trouble sleeping, ask your friends or family for advice. Or try one of my tried-and-true remedies in the picture below.

things to help you fall asleep
things that help you fall asleep.

Go look at something beautiful.

When you hit bottom, you will need something comforting and completely separate from what you are pursuing. Keep your eye out for this beautiful thing while you are in the honeymoon phase – maybe it’s a sun-filled spot outside your new house, or the tall pine in the town’s park where you feel at peace.

Then when the bottom arrives, head to your beautiful thing as often as you need it. Spend 15 minutes just looking at this beautiful thing, leaving your goal aside.

When you’re ready, head back in, feeling a little bit stronger.

happy spot
i find a hundred beautiful things in this spot.

Make an adjustment.

Do you need to move closer into the city, so after you work on your goal all day, you can visit friends instead of commute for an hour? Admit to yourself what’s not working, and fix it.

In looking at my plans, I know where I can be flexible in my budget and timeline, so if I need to adjust, I’ll be ready to do so.

halfway between home and gym adjustment
probably you just need to be nearer the ice cream shop.

Immerse yourself in at least one fun, social thing twice per week.

I believe satisfaction in life is directly correlated to the friends you have, so nurturing friendships and creating a support group while you pursue your goal should be a top priority. Call your friends to do something you love – biking, hiking, a glass of wine.

Especially when you hit bottom, don’t hide yourself away. Go out with your new or old friends. Call family. You are not alone in your crisis, so lean on your support group.

Be extra conscious of your negative traits.

When you hit the bottom of your adjustment curve, you’ll be in a bad mood, and your negative traits may be amplified.

Being conscious of your negative traits can help you separate out what’s a momentary reaction to hitting the bottom vs. something you actually need to address.

For example, maybe you are an impatient person. So when you hit bottom and you’re in a bad mood, you obsess about how you’re entirely behind on your goal and you’re all snappy and unpleasant to be around.

Fortify yourself against this known upcoming reaction by:

1) finding a gym to work out and pump in positive endorphins;

2) keeping a big calendar of by-the-week plans so you can see you are on track and not behind; and

3) taking an overnight trip somewhere to clear head space.

4) buying your friends drinks to remind them that they still love you, even when you’re snappy.

patience
somehow this quote is supposed to help me be a more patient person.

Write postcards to friends and family.

Especially if you have moved to pursue your goal, writing postcards when you hit bottom is an easy way to reconnect, and give yourself a short boost in mood.

Each part of this will leave you feeling better: Choosing a postcard you know a particular friend will like, spending a moment to write a message just for them, and the satisfaction of dropping it in the mailbox.

Then there’s the extra happy boomerang effect of hearing from that person when they receive your postcard.

postcards
i love writing postcards. and receiving them.

While there’s no amount of preparation that can completely erase the low that follows the initial thrill of starting something new, I just need to remember:

As much as it sucks in the moment, rock bottom is the start of a new upward curve.

Six weeks!

8 Things You Need to Feel Relatively Okay Enough to Quit Your Job

If your job isn’t horrible, and you want to quit for hard-to-explain reasons, it’s pretty difficult to get to a level of 100 percent confidence. At its core, quitting means you believe there is something else out there for you – unknown, and as of yet, unseen.

It’s a leap of faith, a need for freedom, a little burning point in your chest that you can’t ignore any longer.

Getting to this point can take years. Or at least a really aggressive six months filled with a painful amount of introspection.

In my experience, you need a few minimum things to be comfortable enough to finally have the “I’m quitting” conversation with the boss.

this is a very accurate depiction of how I quit.
this is a very accurate depiction of how I quit.

1. Find a goal that you feel in your gut.

I’m not quitting just to sit around or go on cruises. That, I believe, is called retirement. Figure out what you want, and give yourself time to get it right. I went through about 15 different iterations of what I wanted over the course of two years before I finally figured out my goal at the bone-deep level.

Once you have the goal, focus on it, like a cat goes after a laser point. Be willing to run up and flip off walls for this thing. Some days will feel like it’s not possible. Stick with it.

start with a clear destination, then use Ways to route your path. unless you are independently wealthy, then you can wander and waste all the gas you want. but please don’t do that because it’s bad for the environment.
start with a clear destination, then use Ways to route your path. unless you are independently wealthy, then you can wander and waste all the gas you want. but please don’t do that because it’s bad for the environment.

2. You definitely need a timeline.

Assuming you don’t have unlimited funds, you need to set a time limit for trying to reach your goal, if you’re quitting your job fully.

I’m deadline-driven, so I’m setting a deadline of one year for seeing if and how I can meet my goal, rather than procrastinate and just travel around and visit 108 temples all over Asia.

Actually, that sounds heavenly.

BUT that will not get me to the point I want at the end of one year, and would just put me back in the position of needing to find a full-time job that treats me mildly okay.

3. You’ll want a budget.

I know, blerg.

BUT! What if we call it a SEXY budget (Halloween just passed, so I’m feeling inspired) and put Ryan Gosling on our budget spreadsheet?! Now this is motivation.

Cut out all the fat in the budget – be super honest about wants vs. needs, figure out the range of housing, food, transport. Be realistic and stay cat-laser-focused on that goal. Total up what you need against your timeline, and add a cushion for just in case this all falls apart.

Then start saving like crazy.

it’s okay, Ryan, I know numbers are hard. let’s do them together, that will make it better.
it’s okay, Ryan, I know numbers are hard. let’s do them together, that will make it better.

4. You’ll probably want a worst-case scenario.

This can function as both a comfort (you won’t live under a bridge, even a nice one) and an incentive to spur you on (you probably don’t really want to live in your friend’s unfinished basement).

So go through this exercise – if at the end of your timeline it doesn’t work out, and you can’t reach your goal, then what happens? You should have that cushion in your budget, so you’ll have a little money. Who can you live with, if you need to, while you apply to jobs in your previous or new field? Can you wait tables or work at a shop?

I’m not saying it’s ideal, but probably your worst-case scenario isn’t so bad. And you’d completely regret not taking this chance. And you’re awesome, so you’re not going to end up in that worst-case scenario anyway.

no way will your worst-case scenario be as bad as this day was for Alexander.
no way will your worst-case scenario be as bad as this day was for Alexander.

5. You’ll definitely need a support group.

As in, your friends, family, and other like-minded people. Whoever is supportive of your goal. Push those nay-sayers to the side for a while — they will not help you with your focus.

Talk to your supporters regularly. Buy them drinks and be liberal with hugs in exchange for support.

6. Lists!

With the amount of planning you’ll need to do to pull this off – if you can do this without a list, please let me know how.

Breaking big, scary things down into steps on a list makes quitting a job manageable. And then you can cross it off when you’re done with it, and doesn’t that feel amazing?! Put your end goal at the top of every list.

Admittedly, I love lists. I usually have a minimum of 4 sticky notes plus random other papers filled with lists on any given day, both at work and home. When I was around 10, I had a list of “places to go and things to do” on my wall. Something in staring at that list every day must have clicked in my brain, because 2+ decades later, I’ve visited and done almost everything on that list.

this is a list of things i love to make lists of.
this is a list of things i like to make lists of.

7. You’ll probably want to know at least one person toward your goal.

Before you quit, make sure you know at least one person in the field you are going into or in company you really want to work for. Probably you spoke to some such people when you were figuring out your goal. If not, now’s the time to find at least one.

I have a friend who really wanted to work in environmental resources for the state of Minnesota, and he went after that job with everything he had. He quit his just-okay job and just worked day and night being connected into the organization and applying to jobs and getting advice on applying to the jobs, until he got the position he wanted.

8. You’ll want a few intangibles too.

Stubbornness and flexibility. Stick to your goal and timeline, even when you’re inevitably told it’s not going to work. Recognize when you’ve got to shift and bend, and when you need to stay firm. Remember there are likely multiple routes to your goal.

A happy place. For the days when things go wrong, have a happy place to go to for a few minutes. This is mine. Or this. Both repeatedly if it’s a really bad day.

And maybe most important of all: Courage. The first step is the hardest. Nothing will stop your stomach from rolling over when you go to your boss and say “I’m quitting.”

But nothing will feel as free as the moment you’re out of the office after that conversation.

Seven weeks!

5 Reasons to Leap – and 10 weeks until I’m quitting my job

In 10 weeks, I am quitting my job, leaping out of the career race that is Washington, D.C., and boarding a plane to Chile.

Eek!

Look, this has NOT been an easy decision. I’m in my mid-30s and have been on a fantastic upward trajectory in my career. I believe in Lean In. I spent the last year of my life working 70+ hours per week on a massive priority project, prepping my boss for meetings with the Big Guy, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.  My career is important to me.

But at some point in the last six months, I realized my life has pretty much looked like this for several years now:

toomuchwork_pie chart 2
i worked 110 hours one week. seriously.

Sure, I’d take vacations once in a while. But something wasn’t right.

I couldn’t stop thinking about certain pieces of advice I’d heard from mentors and articles the last year.

  1. Unwitting Mentor: What do you love so much, you could do it every day, without stop, forever?

Everyone has something like this, but so many of us have lost it. It’s usually something you did non-stop when you were little. Maybe it’s being outside in the sun (and now you’re in a windowless cube), or sketching, or playing a sport, or reading or baking. You know what it is. That thing that every time you do it, you disappear into the zone, hours pass, and you are at peace.

This advice came from Elizabeth Theranos, who I think is one of the most amazing and talented women alive today. She worked nonstop on her invention for years on end. She loved it so much, there was nothing else she could do but this. (Of course, she eventually got to her goal and now is a gabillionaire, but money isn’t the point here.)

Probably most of us aren’t built like that – I know I’m not – but there are things I love so much that I would like to do every day, and I’ve lost over the years. Like writing for pleasure, and not for work.

Here is a cover and a page from a “book” I wrote at 8:

my writing has improved thankfully since i was 8

pentraveler_book_3

2. Fully Aware Mentor: What stories do you want to tell from your rocking chair?

How you won that big account of a paper company and your grandchildren don’t even know what paper is now because it was obsolete by 2030? Or how you wrote a billion papers that were used for a total of 10 seconds in some meeting once?

Or do you want to talk about the time that you ran from a bear, you almost drowned learning to dive, or that person you loved but just wasn’t right for you? That you explored the world and made huge mistakes, but you don’t regret any of them?

I don’t know if I want to have grandchildren of my own, so I’m not entirely sure who will listen to my stories, but I definitely want to be talking Big Adventure. Big (more, already made plenty) Mistakes.

  1. Random Online Quote Mentor: Make new mistakes. Do what scares you.

Making mistakes is scary. I don’t think you can be human and not fear making mistakes and being judged for them.

This is probably a healthy emotion to a degree, but you have to know at what point it stops being a positive – don’t-go-down-that-dark-alley-alone-it’s-dangerous – and turns into a negative – don’t-try-purusing-that-thing-you-love-because-it’s-new-and-different.

Letting fear hold you back leads to only one thing, as far as I can tell – regret. Whether it’s starting something new or leaving something, it’s the first step that is the most terrifying.

In fairness, I’ve quit a job previously and gone to travel. It was one of the best six months of my life.

nortern peru valley penwriter

But to do it now, when my career is going so well, when everything and everyone around me is telling me to settle down, buy a house, have a family, keep that steady job and keep advancing it?

Very scary.

  1. My Mentor (and Unwitting Love) Mark Manson: Just don’t give a fuck.

I need to be honest with myself: I don’t want to be judged.

It’s kept me from making decisions before in my life. I do care what people think. And not just my family and friends, but random people I’ve never met who might theoretically learn something about me and think it’s stupid. Yea, I’m that scared of judgment.

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid it. People are going to judge you. Whenever you do something out of the norm, you’ll hear or see a reaction.

Which is why I love Mark Manson, who writes that learning the difference between when we should and should not give a fuck is essential to being comfortable and honest with yourself and others. It’s tricky. But worth it.

Unfortunately, Mark is not single as far as I can tell, so I will continue to love him from afar and recommend his articles to anyone who will listen. (Especially this one on relationship myths.)

  1. My Closest-Thing-to-a-Life-Coach Mentor: Visualize your two futures.

Fair warning: My friend called this technique “very Portland-y.”

Picture yourself, 10 years from now, having made one decision, on your current trajectory. Build that full picture in your mind – the job you’ve achieved, the office, the car, the family. Or maybe it’s a relationship or a place you live.

Did you feel something good in your body? Maybe you sat up a little higher, or smiled, or relaxed your shoulders? Or did you feel a twist in your stomach, a frown, or a claustrophobic sense of breath?

Now picture the other choice and the future it’s created in as much detail as you can.

How does your body respond to that future?

Your body already knows the answer.

Mine knew. It was time to leap and create a new future from the path I was on.

So I drew a new chart, composed of the kind of stories I want to tell on my rocking chair.

better life pie chart 2

Even now, sitting with my decision made and out in the open, I am scared some of the time. And I feel the weight of judgment some of the time. But after a few minutes of indulging those some of the time, I either call one of my friends who supports me 100% for a pep talk, or I look at the cover of my Chile travel book.

liz lemon i want to go to there chile_book

I am to go to there.

Or I sit and write and two hours have passed and I’m happier than I’ve been in weeks because I’ve been doing something I love.

Because this life has to be about more than just work. Starting a new path will never be easier – a lot of planning and saving, yes – but the timing will never be better.

I can do good, meaningful work, AND have a good life. I am convinced.

So I’m leaping.