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Quality of Life: Sometimes a small change is all you really need

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Quality of LifeDid you ever notice the amazing difference that a fresh coat of paint can make for your house, or a single room, or even an aging piece of furniture? A fresh coat of paint can rejuvenate your surroundings and make them seem brand new.

Think about what it felt like the last time you painted a room in your house. You were probably astonished at the transformative effect of a mere coat of paint. Suddenly, you no longer minded spending time in the room. Maybe it prompted you to add some coordinating window coverings or some interesting artwork. You probably ended up seeing the room in a whole new light.

Not long ago, I had one of “those” days — a day when you get into the car after work and start driving, and somehow it seems like a good idea not to stop — ever. You reach your driveway and instead of pulling in, you contemplate driving on-and-on-and-on hoping that eventually you’ll arrive at a life that’s different from your own. I think everyone has felt that way from time to time. But it isn’t very realistic to think that you can completely escape your life; and truthfully, you don’t want someone else’s life anyway. But there may be some things you can do to make your life come more into alignment with your own image of yourself, your hopes, dreams and values.

The next time you feel like you need a whole new life, consider that perhaps what you need instead is a fresh coat of paint. You may not need a drastic life overhaul. So, before you quit your job, or end your relationship, or sell your house, or drive off into oblivion, think about other ways that you could breathe new life into, well, your life. If you could hit a “refresh” button on your life, what would it do and where would it take you?

Take some time to reflect on your life and identify those aspects that may have stalled, or for one reason or another have grown stagnant for you. What is the source of the stagnation? Is it something that you can change?

Do you work 24/7, without ever taking a vacation? Do you fear that if you take time off, the Machiavellian types at work will plan a coup in your absence? What keeps you from taking steps to bring balance into your life? If you take some time to answer these questions thoughtfully, you may be able to create scenarios where you can find some “you” time. Everyone needs to recharge the batteries.

Not long ago, I had a doctor’s appointment on the north side of town. At this particular doctor, it usually takes about two and a half hours, start to finish, to get through the appointment. Last week, however, I was out in 45 minutes! It was 4:30. I had options: I could drive back downtown and work until my normal quitting time around 7:30, or I could go home. That day, I opted to go home. It was like getting a three-hour gift in the middle of the week. I was home by 5 p.m. Of course, I checked my work email, but I also did four loads of laundry and started dinner. It was amazing. It was broad daylight and I was home. Talk about fresh paint. Something that small can make a huge, positive impact.

Maybe, however, lack of time is not a problem, but your personal life is so boring that it even puts you to sleep. What can you do to bring more joy, excitement, or fulfillment into your life? Just because you never considered whitewater rafting or skydiving in the past doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore it now. There are art classes and ballroom dancing classes and yoga classes just waiting for you to sign up for them. You only live once. If you don’t try something different now, when are you going to do it?

Maybe your work life and home life are both fine, but you feel as though you aren’t making any kind of positive difference in the world. First of all, there is a strong chance that you are, but you just don’t realize it. Remember George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”? He thought his life was meaningless, but learned that he helped people in ways that he never dreamed. You are most likely doing that too. But if you want to do something more definitive in that arena, there are many ways, through volunteer work, that you can make a significant contribution to the lives of others. Or, you may want to start closer to home. There is no better time to become reconnected with friends and relatives who might need your help.

It is possible that just changing your routine slightly can make a significant difference in your overall outlook. Or perhaps you need something more concrete, with immediately visible results — in which case, you could always paint a room in your house.•

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Jonna Kane MacDougall is assistant dean for external affairs and alumni relations at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law. A professional career/life coach, MacDougall can be contacted at 317-775-1804 or whatsnextcoaching@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.

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