How Did You Know?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

~ Anais Nin

I was recently honored to receive an email from an old colleague who had seen my profile on LinkedIn and reached out about my adventures in South America and my book. She asked a question that I’ve been asked before and one that I have been on the asking end of, so I thought I’d answer it here…

The question: “How did you know ‘enough was enough’ to follow this path?” I’m going to draw the conclusion here that “this path” is in reference to my decision to leave the corporate world and to go wander in South America…to make a big change and do something different.

I love hearing stories of people’s adventures. My favorite question might be “What’s your story?” and then to wait eagerly to see what they’ll say and what they’ll highlight. While it’s natural to focus on the outcomes and the “highs” of a journey, I am constantly fascinated by the spark that ignites the chain reaction in someone’s decisions, priorities and path in life…like asking someone how they met their true love. Did you know right away? What did it feel like? How did it happen? Tell me everything!!

When I trace back my own story, the starting point could be in any number of places really. My memory, which is often selective, tells me that the final trigger came most strongly after returning from the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. My close friend and I had gone there for a month to celebrate our 30th birthdays after planning for four years and it was like a sneak preview into what could be.

We came back from South Africa changed. It is not an exaggeration to say that everything felt possible after that. Having that dream for four years had kept us exploring and growing and learning through the challenges and barriers we had both encountered during that time. There was a goal and a dream, and it was undebatable.

There’s a quote from The Alchemist where Pablo Coelho writes, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and we had directly experienced this. We had tasted what it felt like to be whoever we wanted to be, laughing, dancing, singing, exploring, embracing every present moment and we were rewarded tenfold.

With this came a big responsibility. How would we keep this alive?

When I went back to work in a tiny office that we were not so affectionately calling “The Cave”, I knew that I had to decide to live differently. I didn’t know what career I wanted to move to and so I decided I needed to go figure that out. I started with what I did know…I love to travel and I learn a lot from getting out of my comfort zone.

That is how I knew. And once I knew, I didn’t really have the option to turn back and ignore the feeling. In full disclosure, it took two more years of preparation before making the leap, but I always knew I would and I was working towards it that whole time.

Anyone else out there have stories of big life changes and how you knew when “enough was enough”?


If you like this post and want to talk about this topic together, I am now offering sessions in 30 minute chunks of time to do just that. Think of it as targeted coaching. 

The same goes for other topics addressed in previous blogs. Sessions are $20/30 min and can be scheduled by filling out the form on my website.

Please consider following the blog and checking out the rest of my website. You will find photography, writing focused on travel, transformation and gratitude, as well as updates on my upcoming book.

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Countdown to 2015 – 7 – Passion Play

As the countdown to 2015 continues so does our opportunity to focus on what we want out of the coming year. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

10 – Setting intentions – thoughts and questions for inspiration

9 – Gratitude – an absolute must

8 – Wandering in Nature – taking a look in the mirror via the wilderness

And now for number 7, how about a bit of passion play.

I’ve been focused on “passions” maybe more than anything else in the last 2 years as I’ve been trying to pursue my own. My working definition of passion is something that goes beyond a hobby or interest; something that we want to dive into and get lost in; something we want to learn more about and explore and share; something that lights us up inside and makes us feel so alive.

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~ Roald Dahl

With vulnerability, I admit I used to get jealous of people who were living their passions or who were doing things that I wanted to have as my passions…the people who were born on top of a mountain and have been climbing them ever since. I thought of them as a different, untouchable race.

Honestly, when discovering how much I love to climb mountains my first feeling was despair for the lost years growing up in the anti-mountain midwest.

This has really changed for me the last 2 years as I decided to focus my whole life on finding my passions. I shifted my perspective and realized that I want to live in a world where everyone is living fully and passionately and connecting and supporting each other in this. With all of my attention there, I became a student of passion.

I got outside my comfort zone. I looked at the things I was interested in and made a point of doing more of those things and noticed how I felt…treating them more like a right than a luxury. In doing so, I met others doing similar things and often doing related things that were bigger, bolder and creative…things that hadn’t even tickled my consciousness.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from those interactions:

It helps to become an admirer. Seek out people doing things that make you say “wow. I wish I could do that.” And then rather than taking the role of bystander…be inspired to take action. Court someone as a mentor if possible. Study what they do. Be curious and ask questions…to them directly or to the great all-knowing google.

Seek out resources. Seek out community.

Keep trying new things. When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

The imagination is key here…even with an inkling of what your passions are, you can start to play around with them.

Pick an interest or passion and brainstorm, without restrictions or judgment, different adventures to have with that activity. Write out goals, possibilities, things to explore. Dream big and broad and then pick one of those dreams and start pursuing it.

What would it take? What would it look like if I wooed this? What do I need to know? What do I need to do to make this happen?

It is magnetic to be around someone who is pursuing and living their passions. Opportunities seem to open up and connections are made. This is one thing that I love about travel…you often meet people doing something they love and you also encounter a lot of perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise in your familiar surroundings.

It is never too late to play with our passions and to pursue them and pursue them some more. I guess it would only be too late if we reach the end of our lives and realize that we never did.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

2 years ago (as of yesterday!) I left the USA for Argentina on a journey of self-discovery to design my life around my passions.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share in a book and guidebook that I plan to publish. What I love about Kickstarter is that it is all about bringing together people to support each other’s passions.

I have 7 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of thoughts on pursuing your passions, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They are focused on personal development practices, specifically around preparing for a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 7 here is focused on pursuing passions.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com.

Follow this blog to receive the others in this series. Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

You Can’t Change Without Changing

You can’t change without changing. Now that seems a bit obvious. I started using this phrase with clients though because I was discovering a phenomenon of sorts. The desire to change was there, or sometimes even just the realization of the necessity to change and yet they were stuck. I started witnessing this with friends in their personal lives as well. But really, let’s be honest. I started noticing this in me.

“Oh that’s not how we do things here.”

“That’s not me.”

“I can’t do that.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I would if I could.”

“It’s not working.”

It is natural to want to start making changes slowly and subtly while still hanging on to the comfort of what we know even if it is the very comfort that we wish to leave. The brain is an efficient organ that survives on recognizing familiar situations and putting the familiar responding circuit into action. Therefore, it actually experiences something new as a threat, or in the very least, something what it is: new! A new response is called for and this is outside of the majority of the tasks that the brain performs. Remember that we also have brain cells in our heart and our gut, which can explain the pangs of knowing that we get when you can “feel it in your gut” or your “heart is telling you to do something.” It really is a full body experience to change. So we need to break these old circuits to create something new, if you want to look at it from a neuroscience perspective.

I also like to look at it from a more emotional and/or spiritual perspective, and that is to say that we have to create the space for change…sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally, sometimes in our minds. At a minimum we need the space in our awareness.

personal example:

Stuckness: I have been dreaming and planning a move abroad, and I am ready, but I have this house and a mortgage. It would be great if the house could be a form of savings for me. It won’t rent for enough money; it won’t sell. This has been going on for months and months. I am stuck.

Letting go: The house represents my ego and my old way of being and is keeping me anchored to my old life. For what I am about to do, it is best for me to let it go and sell it. What do I need to do to get this house sold? Who can help me? It is possible. (and it was)

Now this is a personal example and I’m just giving the minimal details. It took me a lot of work to decide that was the right decision for me. As I sat and cried while writing out the check for the amount of money I lost. I thought, “Am I absolutely crazy? No, I just believe in my dream this much and I am taking the leap.” And imagine how tough it was one year later to hear of friends buying and selling houses within hours. When I tell people I meet here in Argentina, “I sold my house and moved abroad,” they often say something along the lines of “That’s incredible, but I just don’t understand why you sold your house??” I don’t know the Spanish yet for how to say, “Great question! Well, it represented my ego, my old way of living, an old failed relationship and I was ready to let go and create space for new!”

So a few simple thoughts to help trigger the unsticking process:

Play the “what would it look like” game. Let yourself dream and create a vision. When you make the change, what will it look like? What will it feel like? What will you be doing and how will your situation and people around you respond? How will you know when you are there?

Then look at what is standing in your way. What is in your control and what is out of your control? Be honest about this. Great news! You can’t change something out of your control so you can cross those items off of your ‘to do’ or ‘to worry about’ list. Rather, look at any road blocks and barriers you see and focus on how you can navigate them. Sometimes you can break them right down. Sometimes it involves much more work and you might even feel you are getting away from the original point. Go back to your vision exercises. Don’t try to skirt road blocks; they’ll show up again. That’s a promise.

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know” – Pema.

When taking the leap, acknowledge the role in your life that the state you are leaving has played. Creating space for new can often feel like a mini death of sorts. It is important to acknowledge what was good, what you can take with you and to grieve the loss.

Reach out to others for help.

Be honest with yourself.

Now jump.

I like to use the analogy that I had to use to try skydiving for the first time. Just jump out of the plane and then let the rest happen…let the view zoom by, let the parachute do its job and trust that it will, enjoy the float back to solid ground. You have to let go though. Now I’m not saying we should just run and jump out of a plane the second we realize we want a change. Rather, letting go and fully saying yes to the change is often the last part, the hardest part and what can keep us stuck. So get yourself ready, jump and enjoy the ride.

This can apply to tangible situations like I described for myself (selling a house), but also to growing yourself as a person, relationships and other less tangible transformations.