Many times when we think of making changes mid-life, we consider them on a grand scale. Quitting an unfulfilling job to pursue a dream career, ending relationships that no longer satisfy us, and moving to a new city, state or country are examples of this. Often overlooked are the ways in which we can begin to make small, daily changes that might ultimately lead us to happier, healthier, more authentic lives. An example of this is a recent walk I took on a beautiful spring day during my lunch break at work.
After a long, hard, snowy winter, it felt amazing to feel the warm sun on my skin. I came upon an expanse of lush, green lawn that looked so inviting I decided to take a break from walking to sit on the grass. As I sat there, I was overcome by an urge to lie back and close my eyes.
This urge might seem natural enough, but I was a professional staff person on a university campus wearing a conservative dress, stockings, and heels. Final exams were over and most of the students were gone, but what if my boss or another colleague came upon me sprawled out on the grass on my back? It would hardly be the picture of professional decorum.
I wrestled with what to do. Do I maintain my professional persona or give into my natural urge?
The longer I resisted giving in, the more it struck me as ridiculous that I was even debating the matter. One day I’d be dead and would anyone really give a damn if I had lied back on the grass? I seriously doubted it, but I on the other hand would have missed out on an amazing moment.
I lied back on the grass. It felt divine. Slightly damp, but otherwise a plush cushion of comfort. I stayed there for about five minutes basking in the sun, feeling more natural and more myself than I ever had before on that campus. Reluctantly, I stood up, brushed off my back end, and returned to the office.
This is what I mean by making small, daily changes. Those of you who live life as an adventure every day may consider my example pathetic. For me, who often fights my natural impulses for fear of being judged, it was liberation. This one small act – lying in the grass on a warm, sunny day – opened me up to the possibilities of living more authentically in the moment as a way to facilitate meaningful change.
Not everyone can make major life changes without drastically impacting or risking their family, friendships, finances, or future well-being. All of us can make small, daily changes that make us feel more fully alive; less TV and Internet surfing, exercising more, engaging in creative endeavors, practicing gratitude, or simply committing to being more spontaneous. These types of changes might not bring the instant gratification or excitement that comes with a drastic, large-scale change, but they’re a good start.