At one point or another, most of us will arrive at a moment that forces us to take a good, hard look at our careers, habits and relationships, and ask ourselves if something is missing.
In her new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington shares the story of her own wake-up call, the moment she realized she needed to make a change in her life in order to truly thrive, and not just survive. In conjunction with the launch of her book on March 25, Huffington created a “Moment I Knew” series, asking her Facebook followers to share the stories of their personal wake-up calls, the life lessons they learned, and how they went about creating change. The voices behind the resulting blog posts are real and powerful — and they offer valuable advice for the rest of us as we work to thrive in our own lives.
Here are 12 insights from those who embraced their wake-up calls and decided to redefine their ideals of success.
Listen to your body.
Business consultant Nalini Mani was the queen of compartmentalizing her life and various sources of stress in an attempt to keep everything under control. But when her hectic work lifestyle finally got the best of her and she was experiencing extreme exhaustion, Mani knew it was time to do something about her compromised health.
“I’m still learning,” said Mani. “I have however learned to say no; learned to say I don’t know; learned to ask for help; learned to take a step back; learned to address issues as they come vs. putting it in a little box at the back of the closet; learned to take care of myself. And I am happier for it.”
Taking time off can give you the perspective you need.
After failing to get rid of a mysterious, fist-sized rash on his chest, the otherwise healthy and physically fit Christian Richards took his first vacation away from Washington, D.C., in eight years. He abandoned technology completely during his hiatus, and the condition that doctors had been unable to treat during the previous 18 months disappeared within three days of his trip. Upon returning home, he was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder.
“It seems this weird rash was the final physical warning sign, the one that was a wake up call, even though the alcohol abuse, years of poor sleep and constant pacing probably should have tipped me off sooner,” Richards told The Huffington Post. “I’m making changes to leave a toxic environment and working hard to take control of the depression and anxiety, and instead of trying to define my life by my work, I am trying to define it by who I am as a person.”
Stop making excuses and start creating the change you want to see.
When her father died, Jaime Franchi was slow to accept the fact that he was truly gone. But once she did, she began living her life to its fullest. The loss gave her a new perspective, ending her history of making excuses, procrastinating and wasting time.
“I decided to be the person I wanted to be,” she said. “I didn’t survive my father’s death. I thrived in its aftermath. I woke up to the real fragility of life.”
Nurture your passions, even if that means letting go of security.
Vanessa Avilla put her all into climbing the career ladder to her successful advertising job, but after years of all-work-and-no-play, she longed for something more. After analyzing her life, Avilla realized that she had put career success above all else, and she didn’t want to wake up one day regretting that choice –- so she resigned.
“What ensued was a year and a half journey that took me through Brazil, the Middle East and India,” Avilla told the Huffington Post. “Eventually it brought me back what I was looking for all along: myself. I realized that I had been silencing my passions, instead of nurturing them.”
Let go of perfectionism.
Debra Carpenter worked tirelessly to balance her full-time college course schedule, part-time job and long commute while she was in her first trimester of her pregnancy. One snowy December morning, a sudden event forced her to reevaluate her priorities. Attempting to make it to campus for an 8 a.m. algebra class despite the weather, she lost control of her car on the icy roads and slid into a ditch.
“The experience chilled me,” said Carpenter. “I realized I had to let the perfectionist in me die a little so I could thrive, not just succeed. I started being more cautious. I began to appreciate the path to success, not just the results of it.”
You can have it all.
Chris Hutson worked in the television industry for 20 years, loving every minute of it until her second child was born. Resenting her workload and inconsiderate boss, she decided to resign and pursue a less stable writing career that she could maintain while still being a mom who waits for her children in the carpool line.
“I never wanted to stop working, I just wanted to have it all and not feel guilty about wanting to be with my kids,” Hutson told the Huffington Post. “I’ve learned that women can still have it all. It’s not the conventional way of having it all, but I can still make a difference in the world and with my children.”
When you lose everything, you find yourself.
Elaine Torres was living the good life until her husband lost his job and struggled to find another one. The couple, along with their five kids (and another one on the way), found themselves homeless within a year. After watching her husband continue to struggle to find long-term employment, Torres decided to go back to college.
“I felt that deep down the only way that I was ever going to avoid those pitfalls that we have been climbing in and out of for those years was to finish school,” said Torres. “I live now with a different view on life and place value on things that really couldn’t be bought. I have also found a new sense of humility and humanity in helping others.
Work doesn’t need to define you.
It took a stress-related nervous breakdown and loss of her father for Ella Tabasky to realize she needed to make some significant lifestyle changes if she was going to survive. She began working out regularly, meditating nightly and seeing a therapist, among other new healthy habits. This wake-up call allowed her to enjoy time with her friends and family in a way she never had before.
“I realize now that work does not define me and that I need to carve out time for myself,” Tabasky told The Huffington Post. “Nothing that I do is so important that it should sacrifice my health and wellbeing.
You can’t help others unless you help yourself.
Attempting to juggle his roles as a teacher, mentor, volunteer and family member during tough times, Kevin Beckford found himself passed out alone in his room one night. He spent the following week bedridden with pneumonia, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave him a rare opportunity to reflect on his life.
“It was a time that motivated me to redirect my commitment to my community and my family, but also make time for myself,” Beckford said. “I have since realigned some professional and personal commitments so I am not just in the moment and sacrificing my health or work, but thriving and doing well.”
Getting fired might just be the best thing that ever happens to you.
The week after Danielle Lajoie was let go from her job, she found herself lying in the hospital in septic shock from diverticulitis. The attack was brought on by stress, lack of sleep and poor eating habits — all of which she associated with her unhappiness at her former job. Her lifestyle had compromised her health as well as her relationships with her husband and children, and something had to give.
“I finally found a job where I see a future, where I am appreciated and where I am happy with like-minded people,” Lajoie told The Huffington Post. “I needed to go through the bad to get to the good.”
Surrender to yourself in order to move forward.
Cooper Moll was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 17, but it took another four tumultuous years for her to experience her first psychotic episode. After approaching her father for help and sleeping for the first time in days, she decided to accept that she needed help. Moll took the advice of her loved ones and sought treatment.
“It was at the end of my rope where I found my desire to change the trajectory of my life. I spent 90 days in intensive psychological care and healing treatment where I acquired invaluable ‘tools’ that allowed me to move forward in the world, the woman I was on my father’s porch that July morning became a shadow of my former self and an unwelcome stranger in my future,” said Moll. “Everything I do comes from a place of gratitude for my demons and experiences that catalyzed my decision to forge the path I am on today.”
Difficult times allow you the opportunity to find beauty in strength.
Now that her 10-year-daughter is in remission from her battle with leukemia, Jolie Joelene Black insists that the diagnosis was a blessing for their family. It not only challenged her as a mother to provide constant support and strength to her fearful child, but also inspired a new level of closeness between her and her daughter. Together they embraced the wake-up call to live their lives with love and without fear.
“As I see it, no matter what we go through in life, it’s all a matter of being together for each other,” Black told The Huffington Post. “There is always some glimmer of sunlit space amongst the dark dampness of life’s places. We are our own master, we ourselves are in charge of the care of our minds and bodies, and it is our job to love and nurture that in our own children so they can live a life of fearlessness and of pure joy.”