Thriving In Simplicity

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Happiness, Mindfulness, Stephanie, Time Management

by Stephanie Harbison ~

What would life look like if things in life were less complicated? Would people be happier, less stressed, or feel more empowered to make big decisions? Would we be healthier, have better relationships, and perhaps even be more successful?

About two years ago I had to ask myself that question. “What IF my life didn’t feel so complicated?” At the time I was dealing with a recurring illness that was taking a lot of my energy and confidence; I was overwhelmed with work and had too many outside commitments; and I wasn’t making time for the people I cared about most. I couldn’t even make time for the simple things I really enjoyed, like cooking or running — they actually just caused me more stress!

Sleepovers! Cheers to good friends and comfy PJs!
Oh the days of sleepovers; cheers to good friends and comfy PJs!

This was definitely a time when I did NOT feel like I was thriving. Life just felt so complicated and I longed for the days when things were simpler; when I could just enjoy the moment. I didn’t want to worry about living up to society’s standards for success, I just wanted to be myself. I wanted life to feel simple again.

Like the days when you were a kid and you could play all day in the pool with your friends and never worry if anyone was judging you, or wonder if there were something more productive you should be doing. Or when you found the perfect pumpkin in the pumpkin patch and were so excited to carve it as soon as you got home.

And sleeping in … oh the days of sleeping in and not thinking about a laundry list of all there was to do that day. That’s the kind of simple I missed. So I started to envision what my life would look like if it was simpler, and what would I change to make it that way.

Dressing up never gets old. I knew it even when I was 5 years old!
Dressing up never gets old. I knew it even when I was 5 years old!

I envisioned being able to enjoy the things I care about without feeling distracted. Being more present, so I can be a better listener and a better friend. Feeling at peace, even when circumstances aren’t perfect. Finding purpose, even in simple everyday tasks. And making room in my life for the “good stuff,” so I could actually experience all of the blessings in my life.

I’m working on simplifying my life as I write this, but a lot of it has to do with changing my perspective. Instead of feeling unproductive for just watching football with friends and family, I want to cherish that time instead. Rather than dreading the grocery store or cooking dinner, I will find the things I like about those tasks and decide to enjoy them instead. Being intentionally positive is not always easy, but when I do it, I feel I can start to enjoy the little things a lot more.

I also realized I wasn’t dedicating enough time to the things I said were important to me; my supposed priorities. For me, these things are my faith in God, my family, and my health. I was spending plenty of time at work and with outside activities. I would offer to take the lead on any and every opportunity that came my way. Eventually, I had no energy to dedicate to what brings me the most happiness.

In order to bring life back to what makes me happy, I have learned I need to say “NO” to opportunities without feeling guilty, build routines around my priorities and “schedule” in free time. That last one is the hardest most days, but it is when I can be free to relax and read a book, go visit a friend, or say yes to an unexpected dinner invitation. The best stuff happens when you make time for the unplanned.

Chocolate is my simple pleasure, and Dove reminds me to take time for the other simple things too.
Chocolate is my simple pleasure, and Dove reminds me to take time for the other simple things too.

So what would I say about my life today? It’s a work in progress. Some days I feel energized by all that they day brings, and I feel like a multitasking queen! Other days I feel the weight of all the expectations I set upon myself. It’s on those days that I need to remember to take it one day at a time and not to feel guilty if I just don’t feel like being superwoman that day. Tomorrow is a new day and has enough worries for itself. Today, I will choose to live simply.

by stephanie harbison | email | linkedin

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My Third Act

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Career Change, Education, Mary, Uncategorized, Wellness

by Mary Yoke ~

It’s hard not to ponder the strange path my life has taken. Both personally and professionally, I’ve had so many unexpected twists and turns. Career-wise, I’ve definitely had what can be divided into at least three acts — something I would have never imagined in my 20s, 40s or even in my 50s. And who knows? Maybe there are more acts to come. Life, for me, has been so unpredictable.

In my 20s, I thought I had it all mapped out. I was certain I was destined to be a famous opera singer. Every indication led directly to that conclusion.

I earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in voice performance, won every vocal contest I entered, and won two large cash prizes at the culmination of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program in 1978.

Me singing Mimi in La Boheme at an outside performance in San Francisco, 1978.
Singing Mimi in La Boheme at an outside performance in San Francisco, 1978.

Famous impressarios, conductors, voice teachers and opera coaches all were convinced I had a magnificent career ahead of me. I lived — diva-like — for music and art. This was Act One, and, like any act in a theatrical play, it came to an end — and an unfortunate end at that.

Suddenly, in my late 20s, I was beset with unexplained hoarseness. I tried everything: a month of complete vocal silence; 100 shots in my back to see if I had allergies; and a tonsillectomy, which was followed a year later with an adenoidectomy. I changed voice teachers and voice coaches; I moved to different climates. I studied the Alexander Technique. When experts said it must be psychosomatic, I entered therapy. All to no avail.

During the subsequent and devastating entr’acte, I unhappily supported myself with a number of different jobs: waitress, bartender, line cook, pastry chef, legal aide, bookkeeper, receptionist in a large car dealership, salesperson in music and clothing stores, and as a church organist.

Eventually, I chanced into the world of fitness. And so the Second Act began.

Luckily, after teaching group exercise for a couple of years (back then, we called it aerobics), I met an influential person who recommended I return to school for a Master’s degree in exercise physiology, which I achieved in 1988.

Fitness has been good to me. Not only were jobs available, but I was able fairly easily to juggle the demands of new motherhood and maintain a flexible and accommodating work schedule. Plus, a great side benefit of a career in fitness is that staying in shape is actually part of the job.

I worked first in cardiac rehab and as a physical therapist assistant, then in corporate fitness, and then in commercial fitness, all the while teaching one academic class per semester as an adjunct professor.

In 1986 I became involved with a major international fitness certifying organization, and for 30 years this company has provided me with amazing opportunities for teaching, writing, and traveling around the world to present a wide variety of fitness workshops and certifications.

I’ve also presented at hundreds of conferences and have made several online videos on a Hollywood sound stage. I’ve been so very fortunate and I’m tremendously grateful to all those who’ve helped me and inspired me. The fitness world is full of people who motivate others for a living — they’re an enthusiastic and passionate bunch!

The bizarre thing is, I never could have predicted this entire career back in my 20s. Who’d have thought I’d become a fitness presenter, educator and writer? This was SO not on my radar during Act One!

Teaching at Indiana University.
Teaching at Indiana University.

And now, surprise!, I’m in Act Three. My fitness credentials helped me land a Visiting Lecturer position in kinesiology at Indiana University. I entered academia full-time and found that I loved it.

After decades of cobbling together a full-time income from multiple fitness jobs, I’ve now decided it’s good to stay more-or-less in one place and have some job security. I’ve found that I love developing longer-term relationships with students over the course of several semesters. I am inspired by my students, other faculty, and partners within the community. I love the vitality of a college town, the vibrant action on campus, the idealism and questing of students, and the golden bubble of learning, which is the academic world.

I have a strong sense that this is where I now belong. When the Visiting Lecturer position ended, I found I was finally at a point in my life where a PhD could become a reality, and so I’ve moved into health behavior research and will receive my doctorate by the end of 2016.

I hope to stay in academia, do research, inspire students, collaborate with inspiring colleagues, and continue with my writing and presenting. I am filled with purpose and feel as if I’m on fire!

Seriously, every single day is exciting and amazing for me. I’m being challenged in new ways I couldn’t have imagined ten years ago. Even though I’m at the age where some of my friends are already retiring, I feel as if I’m just getting started on a new and amazing path.

Retirement for me? No way! I have zero interest in retirement — I feel as if I’m good to go for another 20 or even 30 years. There’s so much I want to learn and accomplish.

I guess the reason I felt compelled to write this post is that I am continually surprised at my own career path (and don’t get me started on all the personal life changes I’ve experienced) and I’d like to put forward the idea that this is possible for others.

I’ve come to believe that, in fact, we can have multiple careers within one lifetime. Perhaps this can be an important way to stay vital, energetic, curious and productive. If you’re floundering in uncertainty or in a dead-end job, take heart that life can hold something better for you that may be beyond imagining.

In my own case, I can assure you that my unorthodox and unexpected journey has nevertheless caused me to thrive in ways I could have never foreseen. Who knows what lies ahead?

by Mary Yoke | email | facebook | linkedin

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