It’s not quite four years since I left my corporate career of 20 years, but when someone asked me on the weekend what I’ve been doing with myself since then, my mind went blank. I ended up mumbling something offhand about how I took some time off after leaving corporate life and about starting a business and quitting a business and coaching, because I felt like a work-related answer was the one I was ‘supposed’ to give.
I wished I’d replied, “I’ve been through an incredible period of personal exploration and growth”.
Because a work-related answer is far less important and interesting than all the other things I’ve done, experienced and learned, which make me feel like I’ve finally remembered who I am.
So, I wrote the following list to remind myself that it’s not always the obvious changes that hold the most value, more often than not it’s a series of small changes and what they add up to.
I’ve narrowed it down to 40 (kind of), but there were so many more I could add. The truth is, I’ve spent the last four years making my way across an ocean without a rudder – and yet I believe that rudderless journey was exactly what I needed. Before that I was slowly suffocating, whilst longing for something I couldn’t articulate. Now I’m deeply inhaling this beautiful thing we call life. I also found my way back to myself.
My point is; you don’t always need to experience A Big Life Change, or to know exactly where you’re going, or for everything to make sense for life to have value. It helped me to think differently about my life, so maybe it will help you to think differently about yours too.
So, here are 40 incredible ways my life changed in four years:
1. Learned how to be with myself. Finally got to know who I really am, became my own best friend and favourite person to spend time with.
2. Re-wrote my story from being a victim to someone who takes ownership of – and responsibility for – their life, both the good and the bad. Became a living, breathing body of gratitude for all of it.
3. Stopped calling myself cruel names in my head and started to use words of compassion instead.
4. Learned how to actually FEEL my feelings. And to be comfortable with all of them; including depression, fear, overwhelm and all the other ones we treat as negative – and rather than desperately trying to push them aside, I learned to tune into them instead.
5. Started asking myself, “How do I want to feel?” In this moment, today, every day – rather than only focusing on some far-in-the-distant-future vision – and got up close and personal with my deepest desires. My life is blossoming far more brightly than it ever did when I focused purely on goals.
6. Stopped losing things – including my mind (anxiety and stress made me forgetful).
7. Resurrected my daily journaling practice. Definitely life changing.
8. Learned to set boundaries, say no, gave myself permission to create space in my life and embraced my slowness. Don’t feel guilty for any of it.
9. Plan my life around my life.
10. Am no longer afraid to be me.
11. Discovered I am brave. Not afraid of not having things like a ‘proper’ job with a ‘proper’ title or a monthly salary or feeling untethered or not having a fancy post code or having to live in a tent (which I don’t have to, but if I did), or of being the girl who doesn’t drink or not fitting in because I don’t drink and don’t want babies and have no time for small talk and a multitude of other reasons.
12. Learned I am an introvert. Learned I don’t like busy places or big crowds of people. Learned that this is all okay.
13. Learned that the person I can – and do – trust the most, is myself.
14. My relationships changed and I made new friends who really see me, for me. (Note: my relationships are an area that still requires a lot of attention).
15. Started making sleep a priority. Again, definitely life changing.
16. Quit dieting after 30 years of dieting and disordered eating. Made a choice to trust myself and dared to be present for everything I feel in my body. No more food hangovers, but better still, I finally see my body as a safe place to live and am wildly in tune with the woman within.
17. Started writing ‘The Pro-Body Project’ about my journey with my body image and disordered eating.
18. Let go of over 80% of my clothes. The day I set that process in motion is the day my life really began to change.
19. Actually go outside (almost) every day for long walks and Nature Baths and notice the distinct beauty of each season (but still coming to terms with being someone who actually uses terms like ‘Nature Baths’).
20. Learned to really be where I am. As a result I’ve finally stopped wishing I were living somewhere else or travelling the world and am truly enjoying where I am in my life, right in this moment.
21. Completed Marie Forleo’s B-School. Learned all kinds of business things I had no clue about before. Loved the course but didn’t love all the content – finally understood I could keep what resonated with me and ditch the rest. Learned the most important lesson of all; I get to choose.
22. Rediscovered my deep love of reading. Have read over 100 books in four years, and counting. I read a lot of those in the bath.
23. Fell in love with podcasts and TED talks and all kinds of other educational and inspiring free online content and wondered why I wasn’t looking at all of this years ago when I needed it the most? Oh, because at the time I was too distracted with numbing my life with shopping, food and alcohol, that’s why.
24. Quit my corporate career to start a business and then quit my business – even though I was very good at both. Finally understood that success isn’t always about holding on – sometimes it’s about being brave enough to let go.
25. Forgave myself for past career and business failures – perceived or real – and then let all that go too. Granted myself permission to move forward with a clear head and heart.
26. Started moving away from words like ‘business’ and ‘career’ and ‘entrepreneur’ and moving towards creating a body of work.
27. Started writing for myself. Discovered I can write. Became a writer. Learned to explore and navigate a better way of living through writing and feel anchored to something far bigger than myself.
28. Became one of those people who write/work from cool places (have always wanted to be one of those people).
29. Started a blog – quit when it no longer felt like me – started a new blog, which feels more like me.
30. Had some very bad coaching and some brilliant coaching – am very grateful for both because both experiences make me a better coach myself.
31. Followed my intuition and committed to writing from my heart and soul on my Facebook page every day for 30 days. Turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. #30daysofheartandsoul
32. Initially I said yes to everything but I also gave myself permission to ‘play’. As a result, I’ve worked with clients in London, Australia, Paris, Amsterdam and the USA. I’ve written guest posts, given talks, being interviewed, styled photo shoots, taken photographs, being a model myself, designed and hosted workshops for and with other people and even created and co-hosted a vintage style and shop walking tour in London’s East End. I said yes to all kinds of projects that felt right, but may not have made obvious sense from the outside.
33. Visited Paris five times, twice for a month which is when I began to remember important pieces of myself I’d forgotten about. I will always have a special place in my heart for The City of Light and know the Le Marais like the back of my hand. Made lifelong friends. Still can’t speak French.
34. Completed four days of solo walking and three nights of wild camping along a gorgeous 42-mile stretch of the South West Coast Path. Had a very real fear of camping alone – particularly wild camping – but wrote a new story for myself and went and did it anyway. Loved every second.
35. Went on 26 trips and visited 11 countries equaling several months in places that aren’t the UK – something I couldn’t have done in my corporate life. Travelled alone and with David, with my mother and with other beloved family members and friends. Did extraordinary things; witnessed the birth of my niece; experienced midsummer in Sweden; set sail in Croatia and skinny dipped by the light of the moon; danced the night away in Dublin with one of my favourite musicians; explored Iceland; searched for wild horses on Shakleford Banks; explored the side alleys of Charleston; celebrated our wedding anniversary in NYC and worked from sunny rooftops whilst there; paddle boarded with turtles in Antigua; absorbed art and far too many Stroopwafels in Amsterdam; spent a month in Australia; cross-country skied in Norway and hiked the hills around Lake Como and so much more. Had experiences and made memories.
36. Did so, so many other things that I can actually remember because I immersed myself in the astounding beauty of the moment; camped out, urban hiked, took up horse-riding again. ‘Escaped to the Woods’ and then said, “Yes” to ‘Yestival’ with a couple of hundred other rule breakers and makers. Joined Rebel Book Club and also wrote in fabulous locations all over the world, from yacht decks to snow covered huts with hot tubs and in tents; in a beautiful Ohio meadow; beside fireplaces in the mountains and from my old room at my parent’s home in Tasmania. Joined the Women’s March on London and led a creative collective for a year before closing it down, trusting it was time to let go. Walked a 25-mile circle of London, started going to sober morning raves and remembered just how much I love to dance. Promised myself I’ll never stop dancing again.
37. Started painting as a result of trying something new every weekend for six months.
38. Started writing poetry again. Found a compilation of poetry at my parent’s house – written almost 25 years ago – realised I’ve been creative all along.
39. Quit drinking alcohol. Not because I hit some kind of rock bottom – I didn’t even plan to quit – but I did decide I want to be fully awake for my life. #teetotal
40. Fell truly, madly, deeply in love with my life. Believe the last four years were a warm up for what’s to come, a beautiful foundation for a fabulous future.
© 2018 Esther Zimmer