If you’re like me, the answer has always been to do more. But in this chapter we want our lives to feel as good on the inside as they do on the outside. And to do that, the answer is no longer about doing more. It’s about doing less but taking more intentional, purposeful, and aligned action. Once you know how you want to feel and what drains your energy and what gives you energy, then you can make some powerful decisions for yourself and design a life that’s even better. I’m walking you through the simple steps for how to audit your life in your 40’s so you know what’s working for you right now and what isn’t, and you can decide what changes you want to make.
My 37th year was THE year. I’d set some big goals for myself and my husband and I had some big projects we were tackling together too. Think master’s program, house remodel, and career move all wrapped into one – did I mention that I was also a mom with a full time job as a teacher? I was. But I was on a mission to have so many of these big boxes checked by the time I turned 40, and the heat was on.
So of course sitting in the doctor’s office and hearing him tell me I had shingles and needed to take some things off my plate and do less didn’t make any sense to me. “What would I possibly take off my plate?” I asked him. But seriously. The woman I was when I received that message nearly 8 years ago couldn’t even comprehend what he meant by doing less. It just wasn’t an option. “What else can I do? Tell me what more I can do. I’ll do it. And I’ll do it perfectly,” I thought.
My mind took it from there and went wild. Tell me to get up at 4:30 to make sure I get more movement in. Or tell me to cut anything out of my diet. Tell me to create a better time management plan. Or tell me to get to declutter everything. Tell me to prep meals differently, manage the laundry your way, create a different cleaning schedule, and get to work earlier and I will do all of it perfectly.
But don’t you dare tell me to do less. The one thing I can’t do is less. Things won’t get done. Nothing will get done. I won’t get things done. And then who will I be? A woman who can’t do all the things? A woman who doesn’t do all the things? Just a woman? Impossible! Not an option! You have to tell me what else I can do!
But as I pleaded with the doctor through my tears to tell me what other options I had, he shared only one – I could go to therapy. So to therapy I went.
And little by little I began to unwind, unlearn, and untether from who I thought I had to be and what I thought I had to do.
Resource (blog post): Turning 40 and Becoming the Writer of Your Next Chapter
The answer for me in my late 20’s and 30’s had always been to do more. But this time I learned to throw away the playbook I’d been operating by and create my own. My new playbook became centered around how I wanted to feel. And this has led me on a forever journey of creating a life I don’t want to escape from, a life I love more than the vacations I take (and believe me, I love those too).
It started with pausing, zooming out, and going through the steps to audit my life and see the truth about who I was being and what I was doing.
A life audit is a tool to help you look honestly at what you’re currently doing and how you’re feeling in all the areas of your life. It can help you see which areas are working well and those that need some improvement and changes. Doing a life audit gives you valuable information so you can be more intentional with how you spend your time, money, and energy. Because the more you use those to focus on what you truly value, the more fulfilling your life becomes..
If we’re not taking inventory and getting honest with ourselves about what we’re doing and why, the odds of us spending time on things we don’t actually value go up. It’s easy to slip into doing things because they’re socially accepted, comfortable, or what everyone around us is doing. But doing a life audit helps us really check in with ourselves so we can make sure we’re being true to who we are and what we value.
First of all, you want to be really intentional with this time. You’re going to want to schedule time where you sit down with a journal and pen and have some quiet, uninterrupted time. This way you’ll be able to look honestly at what’s happening in your life and make some purposeful decisions to help you move forward.
Make a list of all the areas of your life. The are some of the areas I like to make sure to include:
Go category by category and rate your level of satisfaction for each area on a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
Then go through and explain why you scored each one as you did. The more detailed your response, the better.
Explain what’s working well right now in each category and what isn’t and how you feel and why.
Now put yourself in the shoes of your future self, the woman who rates each category at a level 10. Close your eyes and think about how you feel. Notice what you’re thinking. Pay attention to what you’re doing and not doing. Get really clear on the details of your life from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Explain in detail everything that’s different and everything that has changed.
This is the category that I like to spend the most time on. Most of us are used to looking around at what other people are doing, listening to what other people tell us we should do, and making decisions based on what we see and hear from others. This time you’re doing this differently.
This time go inside and ask yourself how being at a 10 feels. Then describe in detail how you’re spending your time, money, and energy in a way that allows you to feel the way you want to feel. Take time to really listen to your ideas, tune into what feels right for you, and dream bigger.
Once you’ve explained in detail what’s happening in each category right now and what it will look like when they’re all at a 10, it’s time to choose an area to begin to work on. I suggest choosing only one area to focus on first. You’re going to eventually set goals and make changes in each area but we want to start small, make it doable, and create success that builds momentum.
So choose the area you want to start with. If they all seem important, then it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Just choose one and go!
Choose one things you want to focus on changing within the category you chose. This might seem ridiculous to you and your brain might be telling you that you’re never going to get anywhere if you start this small, but I assure you, this is the way to create sustainable, life long change.
So choose one thing you’re going to focus on changing within that one category, just one!
Now it’s time to decide what action you want to take and what habits you want to begin building to increase your level of satisfaction in that area.
Write down the actions you’ll take. Write down the habits you’ll build.
Once you’ve done that, write down all the excuses or things that will get in your way of taking action and building those habits. Then become a problem solver. For each excuse or barrier you wrote down, create a solution.
My Example: I like to have a morning routine that sets me up to feel good throughout the day. If I hit the snooze button in the morning, that doesn’t set me up to follow through with the morning routine that I like. So, I set my alarm the night before and make sure to put it across the room. That way I have to physically get up to turn off my alarm and the distance between me and my alarm becomes a barrier to me snoozing. Problem solved!
You made a decision about what was best for your future self. You created a plan. You found and solved any potential problems so you know you have everything in place to be successful. Now it’s time to honor your word and show up for the woman you want to become.
You’re a human who’s always in the process of becoming. This means that the woman you are right now isn’t the same woman you’re going to be 6 months from now. You’re unlearning, unshaming, and letting go of all the things you thought you were supposed to be and all the things you thought you were supposed to do. Like a flower that’s given what it needs to grow and bloom, you’re learning little by little to open yourself up and become all that you’re meant to be. So come back to this life audit every 6 months and you’ll see that you’re never the same woman you used to be. And you’ll be amazed at what your future self has in store for each up-level.
Resource (blog post): How to Do a Life Audit and Let Go of What Doesn’t Serve You
If you’re wanting to understand more about who you are and what you’re craving more of in this season of your life, head below and grab these journal prompts to help.
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