We’ve all experienced some kind of change in our lives. But determining whether we’ve passed the test of change isn’t about the change itself, it’s about how we grow, learn and adapt from it. In fact, sometimes it’s the smallest things we decide to stop (or start) doing that have the greatest positive impact on our lives. We asked 10 people of all ages to share the simplest change they’ve made in their lives that has enabled them to be their happiest self. Get inspired by their stories.
I started waking up earlier to enjoy ‘me time’ before work.
“All my friends and family know I don’t function before 11 a.m. and certainly don’t wake up a second earlier than I absolutely have to in order to get to work on time. That is, until a few weeks ago, when I was woken by my starving cat meowing in my face at the crack of dawn. Unlike most mornings, I wasn’t able to fall back asleep. Totally at a loss for what to do at 6:30 in the morning, when I didn’t have to be at work until 9:30, I decided to make a cup of coffee, sit on the couch and catch the news, Good Morning America and Kelly and Michael. My boyfriend was startled to find me awake, so much so that he asked if I was feeling OK. I was feeling fabulous.
I showered, had time to actually get ready for work, lounged on the couch in my slippers and even caught up on my emails—all before I left for work. It was so much of a revelation for me because I had such a fantastic, happy, rejuvenated rest of my day, that I now wake up every morning at 7 to enjoy that ‘me time’ I wasn’t able to find when I was a snooze-aholic.”—Janis, 32, Salt Lake City, Utah
I dropped out of college to join the circus.
“Although becoming a professional trapeze artist was unconventional and didn’t require a college education, I decided to finally pursue it because it was something I was truly passionate about. I made the change because I knew that working in my potential field would’ve left me burnt out, tired and totally unfulfilled. I didn’t want to live my life with a job that felt like ‘work.’ I decided that if I were going to wholeheartedly chase something long term, it had better be for my dreams and not for a paycheck.
I focused all my energy into flying trapeze classes, which were quite expensive at first, but I progressed quickly enough to turn it into my job after a few short months. Now I get paid to do what I love, and I think it’s changed my overall energy and outlook on life. I never dread going to ‘work’ because it will always feel like play for me.” —Lisa, 28, Chicago, Ill.
I finally established an exercise routine.
“I’ve always been someone who loves exercise. I joined every sport I could in high school and continued playing basketball through college. But when I graduated and starting working in the real world, things got more complicated. I’ve tried for years to get a good workout routine going, be it heading to the gym a few times a week or making catching a pickup basketball game at the courts near my apartment. But mostly every attempt was unsuccessful—until this year.
After putting on a few extra pounds and starting to feel lethargic and exhausted for no reason, I decided it was time to make a change. My fiance and I started keeping track on our calendar at home of how often we exercised. Each day we made it to class or to the gym, we’d put our first initials next to the day. So far it’s worked—and I’m even beating her this month! My energy is up, I feel healthier, I’m in better shape and I’m more confident. I’ve lost a little weight and, because I feel better about my body, it’s made me more motivated to eat less, eat healthier and accomplish more in all aspects of my life. Now if I can only keep up this routine!” —Dan, 28, Long Island City, N.Y.
I’m no longer taking things personally.
“I have a tendency to take people’s comments or opinions to heart. After a while, I realized that all that was doing was bringing my down mood over something so not worth being upset over. So I decided to become more positive. I started thinking in terms of what made me happy and using those thoughts to overpower what others say. I also started thinking about what other people have going on in their lives, too. At the end of the day, you never really know what other people are dealing with. Just because someone says something rude or upsetting doesn’t mean it has anything to do with you as a person. They may just have something going on in their life that’s causing them to react to others in a certain way.” —Rachel, 25, Astoria, N.Y.
I quit my job to follow my passion.
“My first full-time job after college was working at a PR agency. The job was a good one, the agency was growing, and I was promoted within eight months and on track for another promotion in a few months. But still, for some reason, I felt like something was missing. This feeling turned into my dreading going to work everyday, not being able to get up in the morning and complaining to my boyfriend nonstop. Everyone told me this was life—you had to put in your time, go up the corporate ladder, etc. I went through probably six months of feeling like my insanely expensive college education was a total waste until I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself.
I always loved dance and fitness, so I decided to get my barre certification. I thought teaching classes after work would give me something to look forward to. And it worked! On days I taught barre, I couldn’t wait to get home from work. I’d even teach class on weekend mornings and hop out of bed with a smile as opposed to hitting the snooze button six times. I fell so in love with teaching that I quit my PR job after a year and two months to start my own business, Town Barre. Now I feel like I have a purpose and am in total control over my life.
I’m active every day, meet new people, help them reach their goals and provide them with an outlet to work on themselves. I’m making a whole lot less money than when I was working a corporate job, but I know that when I work my way back up, it will be so much sweeter because I’m truly happy.” —Michelle, 26, Boston, Mass.
I mustered up the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship.
“For years I’d spent my time with someone who didn’t appreciate me, treat me right or make me truly happy. Once I was strong enough to leave, a door of positivity opened up to me and I was able to revive my soul. It was a breaking point for me that involved having the courage and strength to believe again in my own self worth. Learning to be alone and surround myself with people who truly love me for me gave me the strength to make the change. I no longer wake up feeling that same heavy weight on my shoulders. I wake up feeling light and no longer hold the pain in my heart, head and body.
Being strong enough to walk away from the wrong relationship has had a domino effect in my life. Because I was no longer afraid to do something without someone controlling me, I was finally able to visit my close friend in New York City for the first time. I have freed myself from something so toxic that I have now been able to do and see more things in my life within the past four months than I have over the past six years of my life.” —Beth, 37, Santa Barbara, Calif.
I stop to smell the flowers and appreciate the little things.
“Sometimes it’s not a dramatic change that needs to take place to help someone become a happier person, but rather an evolution and learning what works—especially in dealing with others. It helps to learn to listen to diverse opinions and perhaps find some value in ideas which by nature you might reject almost automatically.
I’ve learned that finding something that’s especially precious to you, that helps you find a few moments of real peace and relaxation in your day, is so important to long-term happiness. For me, that is classical music, walking in the park and just enjoying nature.” —Ron, 83, Fair Lawn, N.J.
I finally learned how to delegate to a team of people.
“When I first started my job, I had a lot of trouble delegating responsibilities to other people. I kind of hit a brick wall and realized I needed help and just couldn’t do everything myself. It was out of my comfort zone to ask people to help me in any way, but I knew that if we were going to succeed as a team—and with my sanity still intact—I had to learn how to let go of control. It was hard at first, but my teammates rose to the occasion and really made the transition smooth. Now I have more time to focus on my actual role in my company and don’t feel as drained at the end of a long day.” —Michael, 53, Swampscott, Mass.
I stopped letting technology rule my life.
“I work in the field of news and reporting, so I’ve grown accustomed to constantly being surrounded by technology. I’m always looking on my phone for news and content ideas and started to notice that it was taking control over my happiness. I decided to tone down my use of electronic devices, not only for the sake of my own sanity and happiness, but also for my family.
Now, I put my phone away whenever I’m around my daughter, as well as 30 minutes before bedtime so I can clear my mind and fall asleep more easily. I make it a point to take one walk outside each day—even if it’s only for five minutes. It helps calm my mind and lets me refocus. I also try and buy fresh flowers (even cheap ones from Trader Joe’s!) every week—the brightness does wonders for my mood.” —Kim, 35, Bethesda, Md.
I’ve learned to say ‘no’ more often.
“I’m a pretty easygoing person who loves to please everyone around me, especially my friends, family and co-workers. I would always say ‘yes’ to everything, whether that was taking on a big assignment at work even if I was swamped with other projects or hanging out with a friend who I really didn’t care to spend time with anymore. I felt this constant obligation to please everyone. But it got to a point that trying to make everyone around me happy was at the cost of my own happiness. I decided to finally learn how to say the word ‘no.’ I’ve become so much less stressed. I’m not worrying about crossing so many things off my to-do list or having to tackle an assignment I’m not really interested in. I also have more time in my schedule to do what actually makes me happy.” —Christina, 27, Astoria, N.Y.