How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Posted on January 6, 2014 in Fulfillment, Happiness, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

There is a saying that people change for one of two reasons … they either learn enough that they want to, or they hurt enough so they have to. Many times I’ve made the decision to deliberately change—for both reasons. When life sucks, it’s a teacher and a motivator.

At the time, the guy I was dating was a dud. He had all the warning signs. He bragged about his bachelor status, he thought the ladies loved him, and he owned like two pieces of furniture. Oh, and my friends disliked him immensely.

Then there was my job. I was a health care editor with cool perks (like lots of travel—Vegas Baby!), but the company I worked for in Dallas was bought out by a company in California. Coworkers/friends walked by my office with their careers in a box. My job was safe (so they said), but I also was spending too much money. Job insecurity and over-spending? Not a brilliant combo for my future.

I was overweight. Self-medicating with Ben & Jerry’s and Lifetime movies in my solo apartment wasn’t doing a lot for my waistline. Eating to ease the 30-something, life-isn’t-going-as-I-thought-it-would blues, made me more blue.

In short, my life was kind of messy. So, I did what I always do in times of mini-crisis. I grabbed my journal. I jotted down the current state of things. I wasn’t wimpy about it. I gave my life a review like a movie critic. I didn’t gloss over the unattractive parts. I knew yours truly was responsible.

Then I sketched out my ideal life on a piece of paper. What would my life look like if I loved it? I was determined to shove my life from My Life Sucks to My Life Rocks … and fast. Soon I learned a lesson that stuck: We all have incredible influence over our lives with the decisions we make, and don’t make, each day.

Today, life is much different. I am married to the man of my dreams. We have beautiful twin daughters. I love being an entrepreneur with my own biz, and the freedom of working from home with a flexible schedule is divine. Oh, and we live in a town where people take vacations—so it’s no accident that sometimes our life feels like one.

Life changes when we change. There is power in knowing you can rewrite your life script. For me, I had to stop living for fun in the moment and map out my next steps. I had to wake myself up from the denial that happens when you choose the comfort of familiarity over what you really want. I got clear and brutally honest with myself on the life I desired. (I turned what I wanted into a list I read each morning over coffee.) It worked. Here are some more tips that worked …

Be willing to take a hard look. Be willing to step outside of your life and give it your best critique. Change won’t happen if you deny or ignore those little whispers that tell you something isn’t right. “Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change,” as Iyanla Vanzant says. The uncomfortable part of change is short-lived—and the benefits are long-lasting.

Know everything can change. Don’t get so used to the way things currently are that you forget things can be completely different. Life doesn’t have to be about getting by, getting through or plodding along. It can be about thriving. Sketch out your ideal life. Is your current life close to your ideal vision? If not, what decisions do you have to make to get there? Formulate your action plan. Don’t choose familiarity over risk at the expense of your own happiness.

Forget the wait for the weekend mentality. If you are waiting for the weekend, something in your life needs to change. Why dread five days of the week and only look forward to two? Design your life so you don’t dread a day of the week. Life shouldn’t be spent waiting for the two days that begin with the letter S.

Get a job you don’t dread. Sure, you may have to drag your butt to a job you dread to pay the bills, but if that’s how you feel, devote some time to changing your job. I don’t care if the job market is tough, reinvention is possible. Don’t get stuck doing what you’ve always done if it wipes the smile off your face five days a week. Find something you are more passionate about. Consider entrepreneurship and positioning your strengths to work for yourself. Own your own time. No more depressing Monday Facebook posts for you!

Set your life up like a vacation. Oh, I’m big on this one. I love Seth Godin’s quote: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Okay, I may not be sitting around under a palm tree, sipping Pina Coladas, and flipping through a favorite magazine, but I do LOVE my life. I love our ordinary days. I deliberately do things to make life more like a vacation.

Purposefully choose where you live. I grew up in the snowbelt outside Syracuse and that’s why I moved South. Warm temps and sunshine make me happy. I like climates where people can dine outside almost year round.

Be in the right relationship. Finding the right person may not be easy, but knowing you have the right person is easy. Just ask yourself one question: Does your significant other make your life better?

Improve your ratio of excitement to dread. How can you get more exciting moments on your day and how can you reduce the dread? Make a dread list if you have to and make it your mission to make the list shorter. A great way to get more excitement is to fill your calendar with events and plans that make you excited with anticipation—a big contributor to happiness.

Connect to what you love doing. Don’t get so busy living life that you forget to do the things you love most. When is the last time you checked to see if the things you love doing the most are showing up on your monthly, weekly and daily calendar? Notice what resonates with you. On the days you are the happiest, what are you doing?

Don’t defer your happiness by waiting for vacation, waiting for the weekend or waiting for your life to change. You can change your life dramatically when you change the one thing you control—YOU.

Sandra Bienkowski

A few words about me
Sandra Bienkowski

Sandra Bienkowski is a nationally published writer and a fun enthusiast, believing every minute of every day is an opportunity to live your best life.


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