Change came to my life a little over two years ago without any warning. A simple, unexpected movement while jogging left me flat on my back in pain awaiting surgery for a severely herniated disc. What you would naturally expect to be an incredibly difficult time in my life, actually wasn’t.
It was scary to have my health threatened, but I felt more relief than fear. I felt relieved from the crazy pace, the continual pressure, and the persistence of trying to “make something of myself.” I was physically forced to stop everything and to simply exist (in a largely still state) until I woke up in the hospital after surgery and could begin the process of healing.
My health scare wasn’t life threatening, and it pales in comparison to what many people deal with on a daily basis, but it was transformative for me. I recognized then and there that things in my life had to change… Not someday, not soon. Now.
Time for Change
My sedentary lifestyle and long hours at a desk as a lawyer contributed to the back injury I suffered. So as I regained the feeling in my legs I got moving again. First through physical therapy, and then back in the gym. Soon the movement toward change began to seep into other areas of my life.
I came to realize that much of the needed change had to do with me – how I handled (or didn’t handle) stress and how I thought about my life and my work. Despite my upbringing and true beliefs, I had let myself buy into the idea that work should dominate our lives and that our lives can be measured in things. In an effort to accumulate personally and professionally, I had neglected all others aspects of my life, except for maybe my family. I had become empty and unfulfilled, and this was my wake up call.
I knew I needed to change, and I was ready to do what was needed, but the question was what and how. I had some false starts in the beginning… I remember thinking at some point that if life could just stop changing and demanding of me for a little while then I could get ahold of things, unburden myself, and get ahead of it. I wanted a “summer break” or a clean slate – a time when I didn’t constantly have one more thing to do or to buy to replace something that just broke, a time without these eventualities. As you (and I) know, it doesn’t exist. But, I was committed and eventually found a path that felt right for me.
A New Path
The distance between where you are and where you want to be is navigated by change. I’ve come to see how small steps over time can lead to big change. It requires planting a seed, nourishing it with your daily habits, and watching it grow and develop in your life. Where I am today is a direct result of multiple, seemingly minor changes I made months ago… Where we find ourselves tomorrow will be a result of the seeds we planted yesterday. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to force things to happen on my timetable, but like the seasons, good change can’t be rushed.
The path I’ve chosen now emphasizes people and experiences over material things and professional recognition at high costs. In about a year’s time, I’ve completely and meaningfully reoriented my life largely by changing what I do outside of the office in my free time – at my leisure. I still work for the same company, and sometimes I work a lot. I have the same growing, challenging job, and I still desire and achieve professional success, its just not to the detriment of my life anymore.