Finding my Life – Part 2 – This is MY journey

This morning when I was getting ready to write this post, while on twitter, I stumbled across this video. It was so powerful to me that I had to share because it is exactly what I am talking about in my previous post. I’m still amazed at the power of this message in someone else’s words.

So, just where do you start to look for a new perspective on life? How do you find the time to change? How do you jump off that hamster wheel?

Step 1: Give yourself permission to do something for yourself.

When I decided to take the trip to the Dominican Republic this summer, it was clearly a selfish trip and I do not feel bad about this, not for one second. I needed time away from, well … from myself … or at least the ‘self’ that I had carved out, here in Nova Scotia. I was stuck in a rut. I had been running a successful photography business for over 9 years. I was well known, well paid, respected and had done a load of charity work that I thoroughly enjoyed … Truly, I felt that I was successful at business. What more could I want?

Well, I guess that’s the question now isn’t it … What more could I want?

As I struggled with being unhappy and fidgety in business, not knowing what the next step was, seeing lots of opportunities but not finding the motivation for any of them, I began to look further into where my motivation had gone. What more did I want?

Eventually, I came to the realization that somehow I had fallen short on the most important piece of success … the part where you work to live, not live to work.

All of my success in business and I wasn’t happy. I felt drained. I didn’t feel creative. I didn’t feel motivated. I had worked very hard to take my business in a new direction over the previous year, was successful and then didn’t know what to do with myself. I had decided to focus on corporate photography and to let weddings and family portraits go. I felt they were draining me and that I would be happier doing corporate work.

Which I was!

Until I wasn’t.

I got wrapped up in the busy-ness of business. I jumped on that hamster wheel and started running. I was more focused now because I was only taking corporate photography work, right? So, if someone called from a business, I was there to help them with their photography needs. Big or small.

Holy. I’m getting out of breath. This little tiny wheel spins so fast. The momentum just keeps you moving all the time. I’m tired, but the wheel keeps turning. I bet there are lots of people reading right now who know this feeling all too well.

STOP! PLEASE! I WANT TO GET OFF!

When my legs got weak and my head was still spinning from how to get from one project that I didn’t like to the next … I finally realized enough was enough. All of a sudden, I decided that it was time to do something for me.

So, where do you look for a new perspective on life?

My first step was to really learn and be ok with doing something for myself. Taking time away from my business to take time for me. Don’t get me wrong, I had to trick myself a little … I decided I wanted to go away to study Spanish. I had wanted to do this for 4 or 5 years and now I needed the break, so it seemed like a good fit. Even though this decision was supposed to be all about me, I still had to trick myself and think of all the ways that learning Spanish would be good for my business. Somehow I still needed this justification that although it was for me, it would still better my business.

When I finally made the big decision to go away and learn Spanish, oh what a relief! Wow did it ever feel good to just have made that decision. To give myself permission to do something for me.

Sure, it was a little crazy.
No, I didn’t really have the money to pay for it.
Sure, I was scared.

But, just like every other challenge I’ve ever faced in life, I knew that somehow I’d make it.

More than anything, I felt like I had no other option. Staying home and living the same way I was, was not an option. Something big had to change.

Step 2: Follow through on that ‘something’ for yourself with no regrets.

So, away I went to the Dominican Republic for seven weeks with a suitcase that was too big, all of my camera gear, a sense of adventure and a desire to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.

Looking back at my experience it seems like a distant memory even though I’ve only been home for three months.

Before I went, I sat with a coach and a counsellor and decided that I would try to work on a business plan while I was away. I would try to figure out how I could make my business into exactly what I wanted it to be. How I could have a very specific niche market and make a good living. This is what I had been wanting to sort out while I was in Canada, but could never find the time.

Step 3: Have a plan, but give yourself permission to change that plan.

This thought process takes more (at least for me) than just sitting down at a desk and thinking about it. Before I could even wrap my head around business planning, I needed to get outside of my business and clear my head. This wasn’t a one day thing … for me it took weeks. In fact, I can just about pin point the moment when I realized that my head was clearing. It was when I wrote the blog post Aspiring to be Inspired.

In short, I spent my first two weeks in Santo Domingo totally uninspired and struggling with why I didn’t want to take my camera out. The post above goes in to much more detail, but bottom line is, once I figured it out, I was able to move forward. I didn’t have it all figured out, but I certainly felt a latch release and a door open. It was at this time that I really began to see things a little differently.

At this point, I realized that I was on my own, I wasn’t tied to anyone else’s schedule and it was up to me what to do with my time. I hadn’t spent any time thinking about my business, nor did I really want to … yet. I didn’t like Santo Domingo, so I switched to a school on the north coast of the island in a community called Sosua. It was here that I continued to gain new perspective.

Step 4: Stand up for yourself.

Looking back, I feel like things in the Dominican Republic, although not ‘as planned’, happened for a reason.

My first few days in Sosua were wonderful and frustrating all at the same time. But the frustration forced me to look within and to whole-heartedly revisit my reasons for leaving Canada for seven weeks to begin with.

I disliked Santo Domingo, so I changed my plans and continued my trip in Sosua.
I got annoyed with someone who was bringing me down (Get off my Energy Bus). This forced me to look inside, find some strength and believe in myself.
I fought with a friend who was continually telling me that I HAD to make up my mind about what I was doing for the next few weeks and who kept reminding me that I hadn’t made any decisions yet. After shedding tears on more than one occasion over these conversations, I finally stood up for myself and refused to be rushed into making plans or decisions that I wasn’t ready for. I refused to live my life based on what someone else was expecting of me and chose to do what was right for me.

And then … somehow, after taking this stand, both in my head and out loud to my friend, over the next few days, my head started to clear. I think this is truly when I found a new perspective, when I made the decision to do what was right for me.

Step 5: The Answer

So, where do you go to find a new perspective?

I believe the answer isn’t in the destination, but it is hidden within the depths of the roughest moments of your journey to get there, wherever ‘there’ is. I believe that new perspective is found in leaving your every day life completely behind until you unravel and embrace the new challenges and frustrations head on. I believe that my new perspective came when I realized that I was in charge of my journey. When someone tried to break down my transportation or make me follow their journey, I found the strength to say ‘No. This is my journey.’

Stay tuned for Finding my Life – Part 3 where I will talk about what my new perspective showed me, how I put my new plans in motion and where I am now because of it! You can sign up for my blog updates to come to you by email at the top right hand side of this page!

Finding my Life – Part 1

Imagine being really really good at something, but not wanting to do it.

Imagine putting 10 years of your life into something and then just walking away.

Imagine going from freedom to structure.

Yup, that kind of sums up what I’m going through.

In February, when I went to Peru and sat in silence and tranquility at the top of Machu Picchu, I felt like I had found myself. My true self. The self that really wanted to be balanced and happy and whole. I came home from an amazing life changing trip wanting sooooo badly to change, but ending up in most of the same old ways I was in before I left. The difference was, I was now very aware of those same old ways. I came home yearning for a more simple life. I hadn’t been shocked to see the poverty and simpleness of life in Peru, I was shocked to see the complication and selfishness in my own.

I began talking about change. I came home with one of the biggest realizations of my life … that I had WAY more than what I needed and I had it for the wrong reasons. I came home feeling guilty because I have so much. A condo, a new vehicle, lots of clothes and shoes, a refrigerator full of food, some of which I don’t use and end up throwing away. I have heat and access to good medical care.

I have, I have, I have.

And, don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to have! However, I’m also frustrated because I have too much.

It was then that I realized how materialistic my life had become and that I have so many things for the wrong reasons. And, overall, in the grand scheme of things I am not a very materialistic person … so some of you out there, well, Wow. I have a brand new vehicle, which I love. I bought it because I could afford it and I needed to cart around my photography equipment more easily. Good reasons at the time. But, when I came home, it made me sick to think of this huge brand new, incredibly expensive vehicle that I didn’t NEED. I wanted it for good reasons, but now all of a sudden I looked at it differently and not only regretted my purchase, but felt almost shameful for the waste of money when I really truly just didn’t care about it.

I had spent many thousands of dollars on something that I didn’t care about.

BIG realization!

Why did I do that? I did it because this is what our society does. I did it because I could, there was a reasonable need for it and now I’ve realized that I really don’t give a damn about a new vehicle.

Life looked a little different coming home. Wait … a lot different.

I looked at the clothes in my closet and realized that even though I have a lot less than many women out there, I still had four times as many clothes as most people Peru. I decided that wearing the same shirt twice before washing it would be a good plan. After all, I just spent three weeks traveling with only a few pairs of pants and shirts. Why couldn’t I do that at home too?

All of these thoughts of guilt and confusion led to me being angry with myself and the biggest realization of all.

I was working my ass off, running my own business, doing all kinds of things that I didn’t like so that I could have lots of money to pay for stuff that I didn’t want. But, I was successful (financially and in the eyes of my customers)!

WOW! Does that make sense or what? *sarcasm*

So, after this huge realization, I decided that things needed to change. I started thinking about how to change my business to only do the things that I loved. If I was going to work hard, I should do so at something I loved, right? As I started to move forward and formulate thoughts on how my business was going to change I realized that I had still missed my own point. I didn’t want to work so hard. I didn’t want to have lots of money just so I could spend it on things I didn’t need. I wanted to find balance. I wanted to live a good, happy life.

Switch gears … rather than thinking about how to change my business to fit my life, I needed to figure out my life! Life is what we are here to live, right?

I didn’t do all of this thinking on my own … business coaches, counsellors, friends, family … everyone heard bits and pieces of all of these different things at one time or another between February and June of this year. I can remember telling friends that I was contemplating if I wanted to continue to run my business. At that time, I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else, but I also knew that something big had to change. I remember talking about needing time for myself (as in not being in a relationship). This was a new concept for me. And, I came up with the idea that I might like to be a travel writer, so I needed to do some research. Maybe there was a way to continue photography and combine it with travel writing … maybe.

I got to a point in April where I just couldn’t take it any more. I was a hamster on a wheel, running in circles. I was taking in more and more work … some I liked, some I didn’t. I was piling on the hours of work all to make money so that I could pay for that car that I didn’t really want … I knew that I wanted to change things, but the wheel didn’t seem to have a stop button. I couldn’t seem to get out of the cycle.

It was then that I realized, in order for me to figure out my life, I had to get out of my life. There was no way for me to stay here, work from home and take time out to change things. My brain could not separate business and pleasure. A weekend away wouldn’t be enough time to sort out my life. A week away would only leave me wondering what work had to be done when I got back. The only way I felt that I could make significant change in my life was to remove myself from my current life in order to get a new perspective. I could see what I was doing wrong but I was too busy trying to keep up to find time to change it. Because, let’s face it, one of the biggest fears out there is change. And, one of the biggest fears surrounding change is that it takes a lot of hard work, time and effort. If change was easy, we’d all jump on board. Change, my friends, is not easy. Even when we are open to it and want it … sometimes we can’t find time to allow it to happen.

So, just where do you start to look for a new perspective on life? How do you find the time to change? How do you jump off that hamster wheel?

Let me share with you some of the things that I did … Finding my life – Part 2 – This is MY journey.