Each Friday, I invite a guest to share a personal story: Some way they’ve balanced ambition with happiness; a personal goal achieved or in process; and/or a way they have converted an idea into action.
If you have a story you’d like to share in a guest post, please contact me here.
It hit me suddenly, sitting at the kitchen table, home for Christmas Break my senior year in college: I was going to graduate in five months and then what? There would be little to no direction from outside forces – no classes to attend, no deadlines to meet. I was going to have to take responsibility for myself and had absolutely no idea what I’d do.
I don’t know what I had been thinking for the past 10 years. How is it the thought never occurred to think about the day that was coming closer and closer? How is it that after all this education, I still didn’t feel prepared to go out in the real world?
So I did what any smart, college-educated woman would do: I freaked out in front of my family.
I will never forget my Dad’s response:
“Why don’t you go to Aspen? There are tons of kids out there like you, working and skiing.”
Wait. What? Aside from the fact that I am about to graduate from a very expensive private college, and he’s throwing out ideas like this, my first thought was: I can do anything I want, go anywhere I want to go.
That’s what I did. I worked all summer to make the money to pay for the move. I drove out to Aspen in the Fall, got a room for a few weeks in a dorm-like hostel and met a bunch of people, lied about my restaurant experience to score a job at The Little Nell Hotel, and found a place to live with a ton of other roommates.
In hindsight, it sounds tidy and simple. In reality, it was the scariest thing I’d done in my life to date. This would become the prelude to many big leaps I’d take in life, a few of which are moving out to the mountains from the East Coast, to starting my own business, and then temporarily closing it down to take an exciting job in Chicago.
Everyone’s definition of a Big Leap is different. Some have climbed Mt. Everest numerous time. For others, it could mean getting up and leaving the house. I can tell you I hate the feeling I have during change – the uncertainty can be overwhelming. I often wonder why I even do it to myself.
Oh, here are some reasons – what I call guiding principles that help me power through it to get to the next level:
Is the alternative acceptable?
Not taking the leap is often the easy, more comfortable route. Ask yourself honestly, if not doing it is going to make you happy and fulfilled. If you’re like me, you have too much ambition and know that not taking that leap will leave you static and dissatisfied. Almost always, the answer is to do it.
Look before you leap and you will land.
Most skiers and snowboarders in the terrain park abide by the “look before you leap” guideline. Do the footwork necessary, but go for it. When you’re in the air, that sense of “holy shit what have I done” forces things to fall into place, because you have no choice but to make sure they do. You’re going to land. I once heard Danielle Laporte say, “Have faith in the process.”
Don’t look where you don’t want to go.
In bicycling, your bike follows your eyes. Focus on where you want to go. Don’t dwell on the worst case scenario. Instead of worrying about losing your house, for example, take an active role in keeping off the street. Worrying doesn’t get anything done. Focus on the positive outcome and make it happen.
Think about hindsight in the present.
Think about all the times you’ve finished something and thought, afterwards, that was AWESOME, when in fact, during it, you were scared to death. Focus on the end result and how you’ll feel when you accomplish what you are after. The feeling afterward lives much longer. A lot like eating that cupcake you shouldn’t have.
Even if it doesn’t go as planned, it opens other doors.
Lessons will be learned, opportunities will present themselves. You will be better off having tried – just keep your eyes open and walk through that next door.
Taking that first big leap breaks the ice for the next one.
The fear doesn’t lessen with each leap, but you learn to change your relationship with it. Taking the next leap doesn’t seem as hard because you’ve done it before. You landed on your feet. You will again. You know what it’s like to get through it and you remember that feeling of accomplishment.
That move to Aspen set the tone for the rest of my life, to live a life of adventure. To say yes instead of no. I bet your leap will do the same.
By the way, please wish my Dad a Happy Birthday today. and Dad, thanks for pushing me off that cliff in December, decades ago.
One last thing: Thanks for all your feedback whether it’s been in the comments or by private message. Please keep it coming – it means so much to me. I’m working on an ebook on taking Big Leaps. (The Big Leap is already taken, dammit!) It might be called Look Where You Want To Go or Balancing Happiness With Ambition. I’d love to hear from you.
Tell me about your Big Leap – one you’ve taken or one you’re contemplating.
- If you took the Big Leap: How did it go and what have you learned?
- If you are still contemplating: What is holding you back? What are your greatest fears and challenges?