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Self-Improvement Movement

Lifestyle Change or New Year's Resolution?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Let's face it, most of us feel confident in our future selves making the changes our current selves want to see. Maybe it's beginning a new workout routine and sticking to it. Maybe it's to stop smoking. Or going back to school. Or finding the Happily Ever After spouse. Whatever it is we desire, it's usually to make us happy. "If I just lost fifty pounds, I'd be happy." "If I could just get rid of these forehead wrinkles, I'll be happy." "If I could just find a new career path, I'll be happy."

I don't know anyone who decides, "In five years I'm going to become a miserable cuss who drinks too much and uses pancakes as my chaser. I'm going to spend $50 on cigarettes and make sure I sit around the house watching Baywatch reruns in my pajamas. Alone." And if this sounds like might want to get professional help. Like, right now.

Here's what I've learned in my not-quite-fifty years on the planet: Making changes to a current status is one of the most excruciating challenges you will ever be privileged to have. Yup. Excruciating.

It's much easier to daydream about the eventual imaginary outcome. And trust me, daydreaming is a wonderful thing. It helps motivate us and picture a positive ending to all our problems. The Lottery wouldn't climb to the millions if people didn't daydream. Inventors wouldn't have conceived of the most remarkable creations. But the problem is finding the incentive to improve our lives.

What is your incentive for making a lifestyle change?

Mine is complex. It involves health and well-being. Balance. The need to claw out from the well of depression. My children's happiness. But here's the thing: I have made changes. Attempted to create the life I wanted. Made a go at grabbing happiness in a big, welcoming bear hug.

And still, I have not moved forward. Twenty years ago, I thought I'd be in a much different place than I am now. I didn't see myself as a divorced mother of two boys with no job, no money, and health issues. I saw myself taking pilates classes and running children to their sporting events and married to a man who cherished our time together and I could run to the store and purchase a new blouse without wondering how I was going to pay for it, and maybe I'd have my degree in psychology and have written several best-selling novels and just have been...happy.

How to make that change

In all honesty, I didn't have perfect role models while growing up. Not to get too personal, since my mother is a lovely woman who embraces creativity and has a lot of wonderful qualities...this was the 70s and 80s. Many mothers didn't work. They also didn't spend a lot of time doting on their children, who pretty much left the home in the morning, then would return in time to inhale dinner before running outside to play with friends again.

My father worked in retail. Although both parents ended up with Masters degrees, neither got very far in using those degrees. When I applied to colleges, I had to do it on my own. I paid my own way. I had no one to explain what I should do to further my education or get ahead. I was encouraged to stick it out in the safety of retail. In general, I had no one pushing me to move out of my comfort zone.

And here is what I've learned since then, which may be too late for me, but not too late to teach my children: success is dependent on stepping out of the safety of one's environment. Exploration is a must. Staying in one place means keeping the status quo. Which is fine if you want a quiet life where every day is the same as the last. But for some of us, that's not enough. Why be alive if all you are doing is trying to stay alive?

Disclaimer: to those whom are terminally ill, I'm not referring to you. Although I do encourage you to attempt one act of bravery if you have the energy. Even if it's as simple as learning to knit. Or solving complex math problems. Keeping the brain engaged makes your time on earth more pleasurable. Even if it feels impossible at times. And my heart goes out to you.

But for those of us who are for the most part healthy and able, some of us will want to reach for the stars. Some will take the leap of a lifetime and still fall short. Others will make it, briefly, but surely. Rarer still are the ones who grab that star and hang on as it takes them across the sky. But then there are the ones who never allow their feet to leave the earth. And I'm trying not to be the latter.

Which one are you? And again, it begs the question, where do you see yourself in five years?

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