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At 37/38 years old, I just had the best year of my life. Here’s what happened / how I did it.

A tale of going with the flow, listening inwards, engaging daily with one's personal finances, and embodying an authenticity-based self-esteem.

If you only have two minutes to give to this article, and you want the content of the ‘how I did it’ in a nutshell…here it is:

1. Even though it was scary and I had no idea what the future was going to look like, I said ‘yes’ to a life-changing opportunity that knocked on my door. (My opportunity was the ‘invitation’ to transition into self-employment; yours might be something else.)

2. I hired a budget coach, who assisted me in learning how to run a meticulous and considered budget month after month.

3. I rejected all messages that society was telling me about how I *should* live my life. Instead, I listened with razor-sharp focus to my internal guidance when it came to making choices about how to live – on a week-by-week, day-by-day, and sometimes minute-by-minute basis.

4. I strove to live by the lesson I had learned (not without toil) long ago – in my early 20’s – from the Swiss psychologist Alice Miller: “One is free from depression only when self-esteem is based on the authenticity of one’s own feelings and not on the possession of certain qualities.

Now the story that goes with it, for those who would like to read on…

When my beloved boss of 10 years – Julie Daniel – asked if I was interested in transitioning from a full-time employee into a self-employed person (my area of expertise is providing personal productivity coaching and training services), and thereby changing our relationship from employer-employee, to company-supplier, I knew that I wanted to say ‘yes’, even though I also knew that I wasn’t (completely) ready per se. I had begun to think that self-employment was where I wanted to head at some point, but that I would not start to move towards it until a few years into the future, once I had properly prepared myself for it. Watch what you wish for! You just might get it.

Simultaneously, I had been working on improving my personal finance acumen, and had found a budget coach online – based in Australia – who I believed might be my jackpot (no pun intended) to finally learning how to become an exceptional budgeter…a skill that I had been interested in acquiring for some time, but that had always eluded me. Phil McGilvray was his name; his company – Grandma’s Jars. After an initial conversation, we promptly set up a monthly Skype coaching call…and we’re still going strong today.

Creating consistency and rhythm around the money I was spending provided a structure for me in this new phase of my life – a phase that ostensibly did not (yet) have any (obvious) structure.

As I set out on my new path, I decided to look inwards when making decisions about how to spend my time, and the more I did that, the more I felt compelled to do more of that. I kicked-off my period of self-employment (which began on 1st April 2017) by travelling to France to visit my sister and her then-partner (now-husband) in Paris and then subsequently travelling to the South of France to visit my dear friend Natacha, and her family. These visits felt long overdue.

I said ‘yes’ to work opportunities that came up that felt right, and I followed nudges that had me travel across the world. So, for example, I decided to attend my 15-year university reunion – at Pomona College in Southern California at the end of April…and then a few months later I hopped on a plane to join an old friend and his brother in travelling around Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank. It was my first visit to the region. (I felt changed by this trip; that, however, is a different article for a different day.)

My (retired) mother – having been drawn to Catholic monasteries for as long as I can remember – began to invite me along to her usual week-long retreats at various monasteries across America and Europe, and I said ‘yes’ whenever I was free. I began to grow accustomed to having a week at a time to dedicate to reading, reflecting, and resting…and then started to find it difficult to remember how I had lived without these meaningful retreats from the ‘real world’ in my life pre-self-employment. The productivity coach / consultant in me started designing retreats in my head for my most cherished corporate clients – sensing that this sort of experience was exactly what so many of them needed. Without fail, I noticed again and again that upon ‘re-entry’ into the ‘real world’ after one of my monastery stays, I would always have so much more of myself to give.

And none of this would have been possible had I not spent years (over a decade ago) wrestling my self-esteem away from being linked to things like achievement or embodying specific ‘desirable’ qualities…and finally inviting it to braid itself into an emotional space where experiencing and expressing my authentic feelings was the number one priority. Without my self-esteem being linked to the latter, I think it’s possible that I might have struggled to come to terms with no longer working as an employee for an established company, and the change of how much money I was earning and spending. (Hint: the numbers went down – not up.)

It bemuses me to say that I felt wildly rebellious living the way I did this past year: taking a nap when I felt tired; jumping on my road bike when I felt like I wanted exercise; staying up half the night working on a work project when I felt inspired to do so (which is how this article started); and making plans to visit a friend abroad when I felt the urge to see him or her. How interesting – that living so intentionally authentic (never had my actions been so aligned with my values) would lead me to feeling so rebellious.

There were so many gifts that I received from this past year, but perhaps the greatest of them all was this: If I die tomorrow, I genuinely feel like I will go to my grave with a contented heart and a big smirk on my face. I will be able to say that – for a whole year – I experienced a way of living where I was truly myself. And what a gift this has been.

If you want more of ‘this’ in your life (‘this’ will be different for everyone I’m sure), I have tools and experiences that will allow me to assist you in doing just that. (Not only do I feel compelled to share the riches I have reaped this past year, I almost feel like it is my ‘duty’ to do so.) You can get in touch on [email protected], LinkedIn, or +44(0)7817 249377.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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