We have all heard it before: Mindset is everything! This is a powerful and potentially empowering statement which taken in certain context can almost verge on thought shaming...
Hear me out! I agree that mindset plays a very powerful role in success, but I also know what it's like to feel broken, unworthy, and incapable yet still take the actions necessary to accomplish big goals and do things I never thought possible. Mindset is important, but sometimes action has to come first!
I could have wasted a lot of effort and time trying to change my mindset before I changed my actions. If I did, I may have still been fighting an internal battle trying not to kick myself for feeling low... That is NOT a productive cycle. So if you are reading this while half a pint of ice cream in and wondering what is wrong with you because of X, Y, or Z, I'm here to tell you not to worry! You can achieve your dreams too. Feeling low does not have to stop you!
Believe it or not my own issues with self worth actually helped to fuel me and encourage me to accomplish things that I did not always believe were possible. It really is all about the actions you choose to take!
Let me tell you a bit about my story. I am writing to you from my home office with a cat in my lap, a tea, in my hand, zero debt, a paid off mortgage, and the freedom of time as I have just quit my 9 to 5! All of this came from the ashes of depression, failure, anxiety, and grief.
On failure and anxiety:
Shame and self doubt have spread through my veins like ice on many occasions throughout my life. The year I purchased my house, I was already beginning to give up on myself and my chances of some day feeling like a success in life. I had been working as a veterinary technician and taking pet sitting jobs outside of my work hours, while also pursuing a degree by taking classes at my local community college. I thought that I would go on to accomplish my associate's degree, transfer to get my bachelors and then pursue my doctorate in veterinary medicine. Perhaps even going on to specialize so that I could become a surgeon.
I was excited to have the knowledge of biology, anatomy and medicine, and I could not wait to feel PROUD of myself as a skilled and respected veterinarian! I had just one problem standing in front of me, and that was my glaring underachievement and crippling anxiety in relation to academia... A MAJOR problem for someone hoping to study medicine.
I remember looking at the clock at 2am, 3am, sometimes 4am in the morning, as I attempted to write a paper or complete an assignment. Unable to focus beyond the thoughts of how tired I would be the next day, how badly this assignment needed to be completed NOW and what days I would have to get back on a "regular human" schedule to work at my actual job that week.
Trying to be both a student and a working person was incredibly trying for me and every school assignment brought with it more and more anxiety and self doubt. Eventually, my class schedule grew smaller, semesters without classes became more and more common, until a "break" from college became indefinite and the shame of my failure rooted into my psyche as a secret part of my identity.
Much of my life's purpose and motivation today comes from a story of grief. I have always struggled with depressive thoughts as a highly sensitive individual and level 10 over thinker. As a child, I can remember having conversations with my friends about the meaning of "beginning" and "end" and how it could be possible that everything we know and all of our thoughts, experiences and consciousness could one day disappear. It absolutely BLEW MY MIND that this did not seem to bother her! I have struggled with this frightening and confusing piece of information my ENTIRE life as I remember it, and every time I lost a beloved pet, friend or family member, my world would be shaken to the core. So it was in June of 2015.
Kelley was my second Mom. She came into my life when I was a young girl and married my dad when I was 8 years old. That was the year I was blessed with a second mom and a new brother and sister, who each hold a great big piece of my heart. Our family was born and bound through love. Over the years Kelley fought her own mental battles with bipolar disorder. Our family struggled through many trials and tribulations of life, but ultimately Kelley was our rock. She tied the family together and showed us all how to live a fiercely passionate life with compassion for others. She had an infectious enthusiasm that would spread to those around her.
On June 15th of 2015, I came home early from my job in banking to go to a doctors appointment for an issue I was having with my hand. What a relief that I happened to be home after my appointment, when I received a call that Kelley along with my Dad and 2 younger sisters had been in a white wafter rafting accident which had flipped both of their rafts. Kelley was missing for 2 hours before she was found and rushed to the hospital. I waited without breath for the next call. I remember when that call came and my partner Michael was there to catch me as my body crumpled and fell to the floor... Kelley was gone.
Turning pain into motivation:
This shocking loss left me broken and grieving in more ways than I realized I had to grieve. But one thing that continued to pain me was that Kelley's life, although it which was rich and full in love and relationships, closely followed mine in many ways, and mine was NOT fulfilled. I have always had a deep love for horses and Kelley shared that love, pursuing horses in her own life shortly after I did. I was fueled by my accomplishments in veterinary medicine working as a veterinary technician and I saw that same pride in Kelley when she treated her horses or animals.
I finally switched career paths and pursued banking as something more financially stable and Kelley soon found an identical position just up the road. We shared a LOT in common, and had cried together over our joys, heartbreaks and journeys through life. She was reaching for greatness and wanted to conquer the world in her own special way. I screamed and cried in anger and grief with the knowledge that Kelley would no longer be making new experiences on earth and creating new milestones to be proud of. Eventually I came to realize that much of that pain was a reflection on myself.
Kelley and I shared a parallel path in many ways and we had a lot in common, but part of my grief after her passing was over my OWN life and realizing how fragile and precious it is. Seeing her life cut short while we were both in such a similar place in life made me realize that mine could be over just as quickly, and led me to re-prioritize my values. THIS is the gift of grief.
Looking at my own journey I saw that I was held back by fear and comfort. I had dealt with issues of self worth and financial struggles as someone who never completed a college education and worked in low/mid level careers while living in a highly educated area. I watched my friends with their masters degrees and aptitudes for math and engineering raking in high dollar salaries and I stopped believing in myself. I felt that I needed to conform to my "limitations" and stayed "safe" by living in stagnation with the "reasonable" and comfortable life I had. But grief gives "safety" as we know it a big slap in the face. I was finally confronted with mortality in a way that showed me how much more important it is to be passionate and fulfilled than "safe" in discontent.
It is still a struggle every day not to fall into the trap of security and comfort. Believing that I am not strong enough to put in the uncomfortable work of change, but then I remember how rare and fragile my life is and I realize that I stand for passion, joy and the freedom to live life fully. So I have given up on fitting into the same mold as those around me and I have forged my own path.
At 20 years old, I spent my savings to buy a house instead of furthering my college education. Powered by my shame and lack of faith in myself, I knew that I needed to accomplish something big and bold to boost my confidence. I also knew that I wanted the freedom to live my life fully and go after experiences that would fill me with joy and awe. So in exactly 6 years, while I was earning about $25k per year, I paid off my mortgage. I have also kept horses and other animals in my life, and prioritized travel as much as possible.
Now at 29 years old, with the added fuel of loss to redirect my priorities I have become a Strategic Goal Setting Coach to help other women realize their OWN potential to accomplish big goals and find fulfillment in life. I am also two weeks into my new freedom without a "day job" after leaving my "safe" job in banking. I plan to take some international trips over the winter while pursuing bucket list items and soaking up sunshine by the beach!
I still deal with anxiety, self doubt, grief and fear but I know how important it is to take action towards my goals regardless. Mindset is very valuable, but to accomplish your dreams it must be combined with action and is always more powerful with support. When shame, depression, or self doubt creep in, remember that they sometimes show up as motivators to help us re-direct our path.
My experience of anxiety and shame when I struggled with academia fueled me to accomplish something else I could be proud of, and my depression and grief gave me perspective and drive to set myself up for freedom and fulfillment in life. Perhaps your stressful or negative emotions can hold a hidden motivator for you as well, but whether or not you find that motivation, know that taking action is what moves you forward.
Often a positive mindset is actually the result of taking action, so don't get caught in the trap of believing that it is the other way around. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is put one foot in front of the other (metaphorically speaking) and take one more step. When you do that consistently, you will surely find that you are capable of more than you ever dream of.
You CAN live a life that is authentic and true to yourself! You CAN live boldly and experience freedom and pride! You CAN live a fulfilled and passionate life despite your fears, self doubt, or mental struggles and if you need to cry in your ice cream once in a while that's okay too!
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