I really like this time of year, these days at the end of December when we pause, take a look back on the year and honor all that has happened and changed in our lives in 2013. For me, 2013 often felt like a chaotic whirlwind, like I just couldn’t quite see where I was going. Yet it was also a year in which I focused on honoring my authentic self and speaking my truth, and a lot of really amazing things have come from that. It has been such a significant year for me.
I don’t think my year would have been quite the same if I hadn’t started it out by reading an amazing book called Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. I would highly recommend this book to anyone going through a confusing, chaotic or difficult period in their lives. I read it last winter while backpacking through Southeast Asia, and it helped me get really clear on how I had veered from my North Star (or my true path) and how to get back on track to a life I loved. Martha Beck explains that each of us go through predictable change cycles in our life. These change cycles have four stages, and when we can recognize which phase we are in we can gain so much relief and clarity.
A year ago I found myself in the first stage of the change cycle, “death and rebirth.” Death doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, it can mean the death of an identity, career, or relationship. Basically it’s any event that propels us into a major life transition. Within a year and a half I had ended a relationship and let go of my identity as a teacher, and I now found myself dealing with a new loss as I realized that the “serious backpacker” identity that I had hoped would fit me simply did not. This was not easy for me to face, because I had left a lot behind: my family, friends, apartment and most of my savings to travel across the world and do what I thought would bring me happiness…but it just wasn’t who I really was. I felt very lost, sad, and confused, wondering how had I veered so off course.
Yet what I was experiencing was so normal, because anytime we are faced with the loss of something we are going to have these emotions come up! It is better to welcome our feelings, mourn the disintegration of our old lives, and then release it all so that we can pave the way for a life that is so much better than the one we left behind.
After coming to terms that the backpacker life wasn’t for me, it became really clear to me that what I DID want was to have a career in personal growth because that is what I was SO incredibly passionate about. What I was really longing to do was read books and blogs about authenticity, purpose, relationships, emotions, meditation, and so on. I frequented internet cafes to read inspirational blogs and listen to online seminars about becoming a life coach rather than researching travel blogs and hostels. That wasn’t what lit me up, and I knew it. But more importantly, I had discovered what DID light me up…which led me to the next stage of the change cycle.
Phase 2 is the dreaming and scheming phase, and I think 2013 was definitely my dreaming year. I have gotten pretty clear on what I want in my life and can easily envision having this amazing career as an entrepreneur/life coach/author/blogger/group facilitator/anything else I discover that I love to do. I really like this phase because it is all about allowing ourselves to dream big without holding anything back, knowing that anything is possible as long as we believe it is. The problem is, many people can get stuck in this phase, and I am definitely one of those people! I have no problem with the big vision but when it comes to actually taking action, I often feel overwhelmed and don’t do anything at all. Yet this is what phase 3, “The Hero’s Saga,” is all about, taking our grand visions and dreams and breaking them down into small action steps (and not giving up, even when we feel discouraged!). To give myself some credit, I did take some really important action steps towards my dreams in 2013. I started to share my thoughts on this blog, I enrolled in a life coach training program, and I facilitated a 20-something women’s group at my apartment. That’s a pretty big deal and I think it is so important for all of us to remember to celebrate these beautiful things we create in our lives. But I can see that 2014 is going to be my year for taking more inspired action towards my goals and not getting stuck in dreamland where I so often find myself!
Finally we have stage 4, “The Promised Land,” which I haven’t reached yet in my current change cycle, but I look forward to it! This stage is all about arriving to our unique promised land where our dreams come true before our very eyes. It’s about making small adjustments here and there and enjoying the new lives we have created for ourselves.
Can you place yourself on the change cycle? When I first read about it I felt so relieved and grateful that what I was going through was a completely normal part of life. Even when we go through a really difficult and chaotic change, we can now recognize the doorway that will soon open to a beautiful new beginning and a life more amazing than we ever dared to imagine.