How can you possibly learn from doing nothing? The past 6 months of my life have been filled with upheaval and change. My husband received a job offer out of state, I quit my main job in a local private outpatient counseling practice, and we sold our house.

Surprise! His job offer fell through and we moved to a temporary apartment for 3 months while we decided what the next move was. The experience totally turned my life upside down, but through tears, I moved on with my second job doing online counseling (I always have a backup plan!) and immediately began a website and blog to market for my next second job. You see, I have always considered myself ambitious in the sense that I am constantly pushing myself to achieve goals.

After deciding to stay in the same area we were already living my husband and I purchased another home; requiring me to unpack and decorate while trying to increase my caseload for my online counseling practice, get credentialed with yet another online counseling platform (new 2nd job), and start my 2 kids back to school on the same day we moved into our new house.

After finishing the enormous task of unpacking and decorating a 5 bedroom house I began to find myself angry and stressed (1st world problems, I know!). As a counselor, I seek to understand myself by exploring my emotions, thoughts, behavior, and motivations but even I was perplexed! I came to realize what I already know: change is difficult and stressful, even positive change. In addition, I came to understand I was immediately pressuring myself to figure out my next goal. I decided to give myself another 2 weeks with the goal to NOT HAVE A GOAL.

Rather than rushing through one task only to start another, I began to focus on being present, reconnecting with myself by simply being (mindfulness). This process allowed me time to heal from all of the stress and rediscover what makes me tick. I rediscovered I am in fact motivated by helping others and I need social contact daily, which fits perfectly with my job as a counselor. Also, more importantly, I began to become interested in reading educational information and watching deep movies again; something I had begun to lose with compassion fatigue from work as a counselor and mom. I also rekindled the desire to give my husband affection because I actually regained the energy to do so.

Instead of goals to accomplish something, I began to focus on what not to do.

Here is my To-Don’t list:

1) Don’t try to be somewhere you’re not: Accept where you are and what you’re doing rather than resisting. (Ex: I really wish I were at the pool! You’re not at the pool so why make yourself miserable by trying to be somewhere you’re not!)

2) Don’t try to change yourself: Embrace your strengths and build on what you love about yourself.

3) Don’t feel guilty: It’s ok to let yourself engage in tasks that bring you joy and rejuvenation, this may mean the laundry or dishes stay dirty for an extra day and that’s ok.

4) Don’t convince yourself you are too busy for yourself: You’re not. Just because you are busy does not mean you are focused. Take a technology break and just be.