By: Alexa Goins
If my 2020 had a theme, it would be “the year of moving backward.”
I spent the first half of my twenties embodying independence — traveling, working abroad and in corporate America, living alone and with roommates all while trying to get my financial shit together and “adulting” like the rest of my millennial counterparts saddled with mountains of student debt.
On the other side of five years, I’ve traveled all over the world, chipped away at my student debt and moved into my own apartment. On the outside, it would appear like I’ve got a solid handle on this whole adulting thing.
But now at 25, I’m getting ready to take a giant step backward, by society’s standards: I’m moving back in with my parents and taking a job in my hometown.
This might be a huge step back for many millennials, but it’s gearing me up to make my ultimate dream of permanently moving to Europe a reality in the next couple of years.
Realizing that’s what it would take to reach my dream felt, honestly, like a relief. I love having the independence that comes with living alone, but I feel so lucky to have parents who acknowledge the systemic problem that student debt, inflation and higher living costs have given my generation, holding many of us back from fully pursuing our goals. Frankly, I was overwhelmed and frustrated trying to achieve my goals while living on my own, knowing that I could be making faster progress in paying down debt and saving while living with my parents.
I feel so lucky to have parents who acknowledge the systemic problem that student debt, inflation and higher living costs have given my generation, holding many of us back from fully pursuing our goals.
Taking a job in my hometown will allow me to cut my expenses by more than half, double my salary and save; which means, my dreams of debt freedom and a life abroad are so close I can almost touch them. Taking this step back also means getting to reconnect with my friends and family before I do make that big move abroad. I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for the world.
When I first graduated from college, I had a very different dream. I wanted to chase the American dream at one of the top magazines or newspapers in New York or Los Angeles. I also wanted to ditch my debt ASAP.
I spent that first post-grad summer doing an incredibly rewarding, yet challenging fellowship at a top newspaper that ultimately showed me I don’t want to spend my whole life chasing money, fame and bylines. I was exhausted. I also spent that summer job-searching so I could line up my first full-time journalism gig.I don’t want to spend my whole life chasing money, fame and bylines. - Alexa Goins Click To Tweet
The job search was dismal; but one day, I opened an email saying I’d been accepted to teach English in France, where I studied abroad the year prior. Taking that job in France meant a smaller paycheck and putting off the start of my career in corporate America for another year. It looked like a step back, but I took it and it was the best decision I ever made.
Taking a step back presented me with different dreams and ideas. I realized success meant something different than it had before. I didn’t want a fast-tracked, fast-paced life. I learned to take life by day and to stop and smell the roses on the way to the vocational high school where I worked. I was forced to slow down to keep pace with the retirees who populated the French beach town I called home that year.
After I returned, I took another “step back” and accepted a job at my alma mater. I never thought I’d be the alum who got a job on campus after graduating, but the opportunity provided the chance to work with the university’s study abroad program in Paris, giving me space to further nurture my passion for working with students and my love for European culture.
Looking back, I know that if I’d gotten to pay off my debt and make a career in journalism straight out of college, I would be a completely different person. I would’ve missed so many opportunities for personal growth and learning and would probably be incredibly burned out.
Now I know that a step back can lead to abundance, love and light in ways we can’t always see; and sometimes, we need to take a few steps back in order to turn our dreams into reality....a step back can lead to abundance, love and light in ways we can’t always see; and sometimes, we need to take a few steps back in order to turn our dreams into reality. - Alexa Goins Click To Tweet
Society and progress
What society deems as a “step back” could be the very thing that brings you closer to your dreams. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rat race and beat yourself up when you aren’t following the culturally approved map to success.
The reality is that it’s up to us to draw our own maps, to figure out what makes us as individuals feel happy and successful and to know that half the fun is getting there. Your map can have as many steps forward, backward and sideways as you need. Progress is for you to measure, not your friends, colleagues or society as a whole. A perceived failure could actually just be another step in your plan. It’s progress in its own right and it’s keeping you motivated to move in the direction of your goals. That’s a pretty good move in my book.Your map can have as many steps forward, backward and sideways as you need. Progress is for you to measure, not your friends, colleagues or society as a whole. - Alexa Goins Click To Tweet
A new year always brings with it a sense of urgency and forward motion, but what if we approached our goals with more nuance in acknowledging that sometimes the first step is one back?
The universal law of gestation
Each of us spent nine months in gestation at the beginning of our lives, growing and getting ready to make our grand entrance into the world. Some call this the universal law of gestation and we can apply it to the creation or achievement of just about anything.
So often we want things instantly and give up when things get too hard or don’t come fast enough. In recognizing that our dreams need to gestate, we give ourselves grace and can go about achieving our dreams without involving unnecessary frustration and anxiety. When we acknowledge the law of gestation, we can take a step backward and see it as necessary for our progress, not detrimental to it.
Simply put, sometimes we just aren’t ready for what we want to show up in our lives. There’s a whole lot of growth and healing that we may need to walk through before we can really receive the thing we want, whether that’s love or a successful business. Taking steps backward can provide the space for proper self-reflection before we take that next step forward.What society deems as a “step back” could be the very thing that brings you closer to your dreams. - Alexa Goins Click To Tweet
If you think you might need to let the pot simmer before realizing your goals, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How will a perceived step back affect the progress of my goals?
- Will it speed things up or slow things down?
- Will it undo the progress I’ve already made?
- Am I willing to be a little uncomfortable in the short term in order to be successful in the long term?
- What would I be sacrificing if I made this step back? Is that a sacrifice I’m willing to make?
- What are the benefits of stepping back right now?
- Logistically, can I mentally, physically, spiritually and financially afford to take a step back right now? Does it make sense with the other things I’ve got going on in my life?
- How will I hold myself accountable and stick to my plan? How do I make sure I won’t become complacent?
Planning your step back
Whether it’s a bridge job or a move home, a step back will require some planning. Here are some ways you can get started:
- Narrow your vision through journaling: Before you can take any steps, it’s essential to get clear on exactly what you want. Put on a dreamy instrumental playlist, open up a journal and spend the next few minutes daydreaming about what it is you want your life to look like. Then, create your vision on paper. In your writing, be sure to capture how you want to feel. Once you have a clear picture of what you want, you can create actionable goals that will help you get there. Using this exercise helps to build excitement for your goals and returning to it can help keep you motivated on your way there.
- Figure out the logistics of your step back: If you’ll need to find new employment, begin your job search using job portals like Indeed and LinkedIn and revamp your resume. Check out podcasts like Bossed Up for tips on how to negotiate and interview well. Look over your budget and see how this step back will affect it. Do you need to cut some expenses? Will your step back require a move? Begin searching for a new place or someone to sublet your current apartment a couple months before your intended move date using Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. (See also: How to Manage Your Money and Get Motivated to Save).
- Practice letting go: When taking a step back, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on your goals and frustrated about where you are currently. Detaching from the outcomes of our goals can help us to stay present and appreciate the life space and moment that we’re currently in. You can do this through meditation and participating in activities that make you come alive in the present.
Tips to stay motivated while you let the pot simmer
- Create a vision board
Where your vision goes, your life will flow. Create a physical or digital vision board to amp up your excitement and encourage you to dream while you’re stepping back.
- Practice radical self-care
Activities such as therapy, yoga, exercise, eating well and budgeting to support your future self can keep you feeling grounded, present and joyful in the midst of your step back. (This might be helpful: 4 Ways to Create a Self-Care Experience).
- Get inspired
Take time to read success stories of others who have gotten to where you want to be in life. Chances are they took some steps back on the way to success too.
- Check in on your progress each month
Check in with yourself throughout the process. A yearly planner like Lavendaire’s Artist of Life Workbook is a great place to keep track of your progress on a quarterly and monthly basis.
- Reward yourself
Upon hitting certain progress milestones, be sure to take time to reward yourself for the small wins. This can be something as simple as a relaxing bubble bath or buying tickets to the movies or a concert.
- Stay present
Enjoy the life that’s happening around you, whether that’s time spent with family or the opportunity to meet new people and network in a bridge job.
Are you getting ready to take a step back in 2020? What self-care practices are you using in the midst of your transition? Let us know in the comments below!
If you liked this, you might also want to check out:
- What’s Holding You Back?
- A Sexologist Shares How We Can (Quite Literally) Love Ourselves
- How Fe Noel Built a Fashion Brand in 4,380 Days
- Don’t Worry if Everything isn’t Figured Out Yet
- Quit Your Job and Move to Paris, a Practical Guide for Following Your Dream
- Your Dreams Won’t Come True on Their Own