New year, new you. Right? So many of us consider the new year to be a time of reinvention. But I’d like to propose something completely different. Rather than using the new year as an opportunity to re-create yourself, what if you made a resolution to find yourself in 2018?
For me, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my health, happiness and career.
When I graduated from law school, I had it all figured out. I would “save the world.” I would put on my white hat and take care of everyone’s legal problems. So naturally, when I was offered my first position in a law firm that practiced trial work, I jumped at the opportunity.
These were going to be the best years of my life because, for the first time, I believed that my sole role as a lawyer was going to change lives and impact the world through the practice of law.
But they weren’t the best. My first couple years as a lawyer involved primarily conducting research, a lot of writing and working on cases that would eventually pigeonhole me in lemon law defense work. While I admit that researching and writing continue to be the basis of a lawyer’s training when they graduate from law school, working on lemon law defense work was not allowing me to reach and connect with the community I had envisioned helping with my legal degree.
While I was in this role, the decision to change directions was not an easy one. After all, I was making a good salary, had settled into my new life as a lawyer and was comfortable. But I was drifting farther and farther away from the real me. My health declined. I was unhappy. My desire to be a lawyer suffered.
It became painfully clear that I needed to see my situation for what it really was — I was getting paid well to do something that did not align with who I was as a person. So instead of being complacent with my big salary, fancy car and nice house, I needed to ask myself these questions — Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve?
It took a lot of soul-searching to find the answer. It also took a lot of letting go. And I must confess, it was hard to open myself up and feel so vulnerable in the process.
But eventually I found my path. Three years after essentially starting over, I was running my own business. I had found my purpose and a career that helped me share my gifts and skills, while being true to all aspects of my personality.
If you want to be truly happy in 2018, you have to be truly you. Here are three techniques I’ve used (and still use!) to get in touch with the real me.
1. Listen to Your Body
Your body talks to you. It tells you precisely what it needs and wants. A simple example: A week or so before I start my cycle, my body craves chocolate — which I give it because I know that my magnesium levels have dropped.
A more extreme example: When I was in the role that I didn’t feel helped me serve my purpose, my body was not just talking to me, it was screaming! I was overweight, depressed, and suffering from acid reflux and severe anxiety and panic attacks. Then there was the kicker: I was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, a potential precursor to throat cancer.
I had obviously not been listening to my body for a long time. It was going to extremes to get my attention.
What is your body telling you about your current situation?
2. Look at Your Relationships
I’m a firm believer that our relationships are a mirror of who we really are. Like our body, they can tell us a lot about ourselves.
At one point in my self-discovery journey, I found myself surrounded by friends who appeared to be victimized by someone or something. They had relationship issues, money issues and were downright negative about anything and everything.
Naturally, I felt their pain and wanted to help. But, my help often came in the form of enabling and often resulted in me shouldering additional burdens that were not my responsibility. This was the beginning of my understanding of what true help looks like versus codependency. I started fixing their problems without allowing them to have the opportunity to figure out how they got into their situation in the first place.
And then it struck me: These weren’t healthy relationships. In order to be happy, I had to let people experience their own journeys and figure out why I always felt the need to burden myself with other people’s problems, which did not leave room to look at my own “stuff.”
Look at the relationships in your life and pay attention to how they make you feel. If you can, move away from the ones that keep you stuck or that do not give you the room to make space for yourself. Doing so will help you continue on your path of growth and make room for healthier relationships.
3. Tune In to Your Surroundings
Like your body, the universe is always talking to you. Tuning in to your surroundings allows you to hear whatever messages it’s sending.
I can recall a time when I was holding on to an argument I had had with one of my kids. That week, I heard and saw the phrase “let it go” at least five times in some shape or form. If I hadn’t been tuned in to those moments, I might have missed the message and an opportunity for a teachable moment with my child — it’s okay to disagree, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking.
In my journey, I’ve also found that no matter what type of problem you’re dealing with, if you open yourself up, the universe usually provides a solution.
When it was time to make a career shift, I knew I needed a mentor. I needed someone to teach me all the things they don’t teach you in law school: how to network, how to develop relationships, and how to develop my own style of practice.
I let the universe know I needed help. While job-searching, I interviewed with a firm and, thankfully, I was not only given one mentor, but three teachers who walked and talked me through the nuances of what working for a Big Law firm entailed. Fortunately, I developed the skills and relationships that helped me grow as a lawyer and business owner. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them.
Finding yourself is a journey. And I don’t know if it’s one with a hard and concrete ending. It seems every time I peel back a layer there’s a moment of euphoria and then the realization that there’s another layer right beneath it that needs to be explored and dealt with. Every challenge makes you re-evaluate your situation and views. Every win just pushes you further.
I’m here to share my journey and learn from yours. What are your tips for getting in touch with yourself? What were your ah-ha moments that showed you it was time to make a change?