I was in an unhappy marriage. One day I just decided that I wasn’t going to stay in a relationship with someone who was keeping me from my dreams. It was unhealthy for me and for our adopted son Jeffrey. I am a generally happy person. People know me as optimistic, positive and friendly. I cheer my friends and myself. I felt this side slip off of me.
Even if it is the right decision, the decision to end a marriage (or relationship) is not an easy one. The range of the following emotions is overwhelming: fear, sadness, regret, hope, relief, anger … the list goes on. But I like to think that people build the greatest structures on the basis of brokenness. We are vulnerable and open to change and growth and make something better out of painful pasts.
I went to therapy. I have deepened my connection with myself and my son. I have protected my happiness and peace by creating a foundation that negative and toxic people could not hurt. There is constant work going on, but I’ve come a long way. A big part of that growth has been understanding that fulfillment is not something that can be achieved or gained, but rather an ongoing process – one that will last our entire lives. I imagine it to be like a chain. Each link in this chain represents an act of self-care or empowerment. Every day you build new chains with persistence and determination and self-love. The chain grows stronger with each link. With each connection, your ability to withstand life’s inevitable struggles increases.
That’s what I call 7 for 7, the key elements of a fulfilled life.
Create a spiritual growth plan
No, I’m not talking about going to church – unless that’s your thing. Creating a spiritual growth plan is about figuring out what is nourishing your soul and making time for it in your life. For some people, these are yoga, meditations, daily affirmations, even group meetings in support of things they are struggling with, like alcohol or the death of a loved one.
Experiment with different activities and keep a journal or log of how you feel. The most important thing is not to force a yoga practice because it works or seems like the right thing for your friend. Your needs are unique, and when and how you need them is also unique. You could benefit from daily affirmations for a month and then find that they no longer serve you the way they did. Now is the time to try something new.
Develop your mental muscles
I love to learn new things. I love reading and listening to podcasts. But I’ve learned that lifelong learning isn’t really about gobbling up as many non-fiction books as possible. Checking off 60 books on Goodreads in a year just to brag about it on your social media feed doesn’t automatically make you smarter or better than everyone else. Learning comes from life as well as from books.
Yes, read books. But don’t limit yourself. If you want to get lost in a summer romance novel one afternoon, go for it. Listen to podcasts on topics that interest you. Talk to people who live outside of your normal social circle. Take a dance or cooking class. Don’t define the idea of learning.
Move your body every day
I love fitness. I take the time to move my body because it makes me feel good and gives me an energy that caffeine never could. But it’s not always easy and I don’t always wake up wanting to go to the gym. Listen to what your body is telling you. If one day you don’t feel like lifting weights, switch it up with a brisk walk around your favorite lake. Don’t make it complicated. Don’t punish yourself if you miss a day. Don’t make regular body movement just another thing that you feel guilty about or that you are pressured to do.
Your body does amazing things for you. Thank him by nourishing him with food, exercise, and rest.
Use the power of your influence
No matter where you are in your life or career, there is someone who can learn and grow from you. Forget the idea that you haven’t accomplished enough to give back to others and amplify their voice. That negative voice in your head distracts you from the real work. Continue to grow into your own space of empowerment as you help others create their own space. Here are a few ways you can use the power of your influence:
- Start or participate in a mentoring program.
- Volunteer to serve people in underserved and underrepresented communities.
- Make philanthropy the foundation of your business model.
- If you’re a business owner with co-workers, incentivize your team members to give back within their communities.
Rediscover childhood miracles
One of my greatest joys is the wonder that travel brings. Experiencing new places, people and cultures helps you see with childlike eyes. The first time you do something, you are in awe of the unknown. You become very aware of your surroundings – and perceive things you would normally ignore, like the bright color of a new flower or the smell of the morning air.
No transatlantic flight is required to rediscover your childhood miracle. You can find wonders by changing your perspective and seeing your surroundings with new eyes. Do you always go the same way to lunch or to the office? Update this path. Put your phone down and make a conscious effort to really see and experience your surroundings. You will be amazed at what you have missed.
You do not succeed in spite of your mistakes, but because of them. Once you stop fighting that negative voice that is reminding you of all the “wrong” moves you’ve made, you will learn that the rough edges are the best thing about you. I like to call that imperfectly empowered.
Accepting your perceived flaws is not an easy task. It starts with forgiveness and love. It continues with the sometimes daily reminder that all of the things from your past come together to create the person you are today.
These seven things are the pillars on which I built my House of Fulfillment. The stones in your house may look different from mine, but they both share the ability to carry us through whatever life throws at us. This is really life: growing into yourself to thrive when life is going through tough times.
Photo by Natalia_Grabovskaya / Shutterstock
With over 20 years of experience in the real estate industry and a certified life coach, Debbie Biery firmly believes in the power of communication, authenticity and self-confidence. She combines that experience with a desire to serve others and empower them to be the best version of themselves by helping them accept failure and choosing every moment as an opportunity for change and growth.