By Caroline Jordan, corporate wellness consultant, fitness professional, & Equinox instructor
I love spandex. There, I said it.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of career as a fitness instructor. My journals from high school described, in detail, my vision of becoming the next Jane Fonda. I was inspired by the idea of helping others find joy in movement.
While on my way to what I thought was success, a low point almost caused me to abandon my lifelong passion. Instead, something amazing happened.
I studied dance and fitness in college and taught classes at the gym throughout my time at UC Davis. My workouts were a great way for students to cure hangovers, work out exam jitters, and meet new friends. And my students loved me. My vision was starting to become a reality.
After college, I moved to San Francisco to work in fitness full-time. I was initially worried about how I could “break in.” Luckily, my experience teaching throughout high school and college helped me land jobs fairly quickly. I slowly began to gain a loyal following and felt like I was finally living my dream.
Or so I thought.
Despite my early success, I quickly started feeling disillusioned. I knew in my heart the positive power of movement, but something was off.
I found the industry to be more superficial than my high school self expected. The extreme, image-obsessed, “push yourself till you puke” messages seemed to be strong and celebrated. A lot of the industry reinforced a negative relationship between exercise, body, and self. In many cases, we were adding more stress than we helped to alleviate. I started wondering if this was the right path for me after all.
This was a really stressful period in my life. I felt lost. My lifelong dream was starting to become a nightmare. On one hand, I was nervous to abandon a path that seemed to be successful, but on the other, I knew in my heart I wasn't happy.
After taking a time-out to reflect and reconcile my childhood dream with my current reality, I found my way out by re-defining success. Being a fitness instructor was only a means to an end: my true calling was to positively inspire others through wellness. I decided I wanted to do more and earned my Health and Wellness Coach certification.
And then something amazing happened.
MY SECOND WIND
Studying positive psychology and wellness coaching lit a fire in me. Putting meaning behind movement gave me more direction. I discovered strengths and skills I didn’t know I had. My career blossomed and branched out as a result. I still held a space in fitness yet am pursuing new opportunities under the wider umbrella of wellness.
My mission is now "to inspire positive thoughts to enable positive actions that create positive outcomes in the world."
I do this through corporate wellness events, public events, articles, books, and yes… fitness classes. But now, I surround myself with those who share in my values and also promote positive change, like my awesome colleagues at Equinox. #committosomething
This tough patch in my life fuels my passion for what I'm doing now. But it could've easily gone another way -- lots of people stay in dead-end jobs or are afraid to change their lives because it's hard.
One of the things I love about my job is the ability to meet so many diverse people -- many who are totally different from myself. There’s a common thread among all of us. No matter how fit or successful we are, we often find change scary.
Letting go of a life we thought we wanted for a life we hope to have can be frightening. When we can move beyond that fear, we will truly live fulfilling lives. For me, it was about coming to terms with my career choices and redefining what success means to me. For you, it may be a new job, a new relationship, or something entirely different.
I’ve included a few techniques that helped me find the courage to change my life. I use them with my corporate and fitness clients, who find them really useful. They include a mix of tips to help you open yourself to new possibilities and others to set yourself up for success along that journey. I hope they inspire you too and give you the strength to make the change you want in your life.
1. CULTIVATE A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT
Change starts with your attitude. A positive one provides a solid foundation on top of which to build success. A negative one can ruin even the most well-established plans.
Who you choose to spend your time with and the input you get from your environment have a huge effect on your outlook. Change is hard enough; it’s important to have influences in your life that support you and lift you up, instead of drag you down.
Consciously decide who you choose to spend time with. This is sometimes hard to know and even harder to do, especially when negative influences might be college buddies, coworkers, or a significant other.
When in doubt, I ask, “After I leave their company, do I feel energized or drained?”. Leave toxic relationships and detox your life from negative influences. Make a healthy environment a priority. Work to surround yourself with people and things who inspire, support, and give you energy for your life. The ability to stay positive and healthy is essential to successfully achieving (and maintaining) your goals.
These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Let's be honest: most of it is noise. Deliberately taking a break from social media, email, blogging, and all electronics can help you recharge and give your brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level. Set a aside a specific time daily to log off and enjoy your life.
Unplugging also gives you time to reconnect with who you are and who you want to be, apart from all the noise of the world. It also gives you space to reflect and define the vision you want for your life. Stepping back from my career allowed me to realize possibilities that I didn't necessarily see at first. And the inspiration and connections I got through these new offline experiences helped give me the courage to change my life.
3. ENGAGE IN MEANINGFUL, CREATIVE WORK
Often the hardest part about change is imaging a new life because we can't see past our current reality. That’s why I encourage my clients to spice things up.
If you do technique #2, you'll have more free time on your hands. Do things that challenge your creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid for it or are even "good" at it -- things like gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or discovering a new hobby. When we open ourselves to creativity, it allows us to see new possibilities in our lives and the world around us. We become inspired. That is when the magic happens.
4. EMBRACE YOUR EMOTIONS
We're often told that strong people never feel anything. They just keep moving forward. That's a recipe for disaster. Bottling up your emotions puts a huge strain on your body and can lead to more serious anxiety and depression. It also only gives the temporary pretense of progress. Sooner or later, those emotions catch up with us.
The strongest people I know are the ones who embrace their emotions, not run away from them. Real change happens when we understand our blockers and truly address them. You gotta feel it in order to heal it. If you’re tired and sad, cry it all out. If you’re stressed, don’t try to put on a mask and hide it. Get it all out, all the frustration, the overwhelm, the anger, and the fear. Just don't wallow. You’ll feel much better after. And only then will you be able to move beyond them to what matters most to you.
5. GATHER SUPPORT
When you feel overstretched, lost, or burnt out, resist the urge to pull away. It's too hard to go at this alone.
Instead, surround yourself with people you trust who can help (see technique #1). Delegate, outsource, and have others help you manage the work that may be weighing you down. Call your mother and ask her to help you take care of the house, talk to your friends about what you’re dealing with, seek out others in the same situation as you, and make sure your partner is on your team. Not only can they help with practical tasks, they will give you lots of moral support, and you’ll feel less alone. And their energy will help you move forward.
In addition to friends and family, your support network should absolutely include a therapist, who can be an unbiased sounding board to help challenge you and hold you accountable. I’m obviously a fan of reflect (otherwise I wouldn't be writing this blog!), so I encourage you to check them out. We have trainers in the gym, why shouldn't we have them in our personal lives too? Click below to get matched today.
Caroline Jordan is a corporate wellness consultant, fitness professional, and community spokesperson. She's been a featured fitness professional in Shape Magazine, SF Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, and contributes regularly for other wellness sites. Her new book, Balanced Body Breakthrough, comes out October 18 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. You can find her teaching a variety of ultra-popular spin and aerobic classes at Equinox. For feel good fitness inside and out, check out Caroline’s website at: http://www.carolinejordanfitness.com.
Helpful tips for managing stress, incorporating mindfulness, and promoting a healthy lifestyle