The following post is a guest post from the April 2007 Grayfiti Newsletter (while Nance was on vacation). Since Nance is on vacation again (which seems to be an every five year kind of event) and Mary Carlomagno is working on her next book, we thought it would be fun to re-post it.
There is a Zen teaching that states if you leap, the net will appear. Three years ago, I tried out this proverb for myself when I left my corporate job and began my own business. Today, I am living proof of how making small changes every day can lead to a total life transformation. Three years ago, I was the quintessential corporate Girl Scout, with fourteen years under my belt in the same industry, the idea of changing anything about my life seemed too risky. The last eight of those years had been spent at the same company, the last ten of those years was spent in a rental apartment that I hated from the moment I walked in, yet I stayed there as well. My habits were so ingrained that I had become stuck, unhappy and in desperate need of change.
From the outside, everything looked great, successful career, close-knit family, and friends, all of which made my unhappiness more difficult to pinpoint. Why didn’t I appreciate all the things I had in my life that I was blessed to have? There had to be more to my life than ticking things off my never-ending “to do” list.
Sensing that a change could happen, but with no idea where to start, I decided to eliminate something from my already packed day planner, instead of adding something in, sort of like a year long lent. As a child practicing lent, I had no idea what sacrificing my ring dings or Snickers bars had to do with religion, but still took the challenge every year. As an adult seeking change, I was looking for a life jump start.
Like all good resolutions, stories mine begins on January 1 where I vowed to never drink again, at least for the entire month of January. The journey continued month by month going cold turkey on all the important things in life: shopping, elevators, newspapers, taxis, cursing, television, multitasking, coffee, chocolate and even my cell phone. In essence, I was determining what I could live without.
Breaking these habits of accumulation and distraction taught me much more about myself than that I was buying too many pairs of shoes. Appreciation and gratitude for the things I had were immediate results followed by moderation in daily life and finally the biggest lesson of all, I learned how to change. By taking small things out of my life each day, I began to make subtle changes everyday, subtle changes that prepared me for the big changes that followed.
January of the following year, I left my corporate publishing job to write full time and start my own business. My experience of living with less became both the basis for my company order and my first book, Give it Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better With Less. Order helps people declutter and eliminate distraction from everyday life through individual consulting, workshops and classes. Give it Up!, details the year-long experiment that changed my life. Ironically, after fourteen years in book publishing working with author’s every day, I decided to write my own book. This brings up another proverb, perhaps everything does happen for a reason?
Today, I live a life of my own choosing. Order continues to thrive helping busy people find more time in every day with a focus toward the small business owner and entrepreneur, a client with which I am intimately familiar. I finally moved out my unhappy rental apartment, got married and together we bought our first home.
I attribute all this progress to learning how to change, something that can be practiced every day. And while I believe strongly in a higher being, I believe much more in the human spirit and its power to bounce back and be resilient.