Make small steps before making huge life changes

Evaluate the small parts of life before making big changes

Q: When I'm unhappy, I tend to want to change everything — job, relationships, etc. — at once. It's hard for me to decipher where I'm unhappy and what the best ways are to change things, rather than blow up my whole life. Are there ways to start to unpack all of this?

Time to Leave?

A: When you have the urge to blow up everything, the most prominent common denominator is you. So, the question is, why don't you feel like you're living the right life for you?

Big stuff. That's why the best place to start is with small steps toward getting healthy. Are you getting enough sleep, being conscientious about health issues, eating well, making an effort not to be sedentary?

If you're maintaining your physical health, then move on to your emotional health: Are you putting effort into the people who are good for you, and distancing yourself from takers, criticizers, enablers or those who otherwise bring out your worst? Are you saying "yes" when you should, and "no" when you should? Are you using time productively? Are you playing to your own strengths?

If your physical and emotional habits are solid, then move on to temporary rut-busting: vacation, a weekend road trip, a day trip, or just lunch with a friend you haven't seen lately.

If you have the persistent blahs, then it's time to weigh the big, external pieces of your life, like where you live, what you do for a living, whom you befriend, date and trust.

But even then, start small: Can any of these be tweaked? If tweaks don't work, are there any changes that can be easily made or reversed? Can you walk away from anything temporarily, via sabbatical, temporary reassignment, trial separation, "a break"?

Should you get this far without relief, you'll still have information toward understanding why demolition is your first impulse when you're unhappy. After all, the blow-up solution pretty much assures that you can avoid facing that thing, whatever it is, you so badly want to avoid — whereas a methodical approach, honestly executed, will take you right to its door.

How to tactfully ask for money instead of wedding gifts

Q: My fiance is European, I am from the United States, and after our fall wedding we will be living in a different country. Our wedding guests would like to know if we are registered anywhere for gifts. Since where we live next depends on where both of us get our next jobs, we can only specify two continents with any certainty. That is why I would like people to make a donation to our relocation fund.

My fiance says he feels uncomfortable asking for money, but I feel like that would be the best use of our friends' and family's generosity. Is it ever okay to just ask for money? If so, how can we do it without sounding tacky?

International Affairs of the Heart

A: Since you need to provide some kind of answer to gift inquiries, you have a practical option: "Thanks so much for asking — we didn't register, because we've got an international move (or several) coming soon." In this case, saying "4" may be rude, but saying "2 + 2" is appropriate.

You can also ask your close relatives and friends — i.e., those whom guests traditionally approach for gift ideas — to convey that no-registry message. That is, if they even need to. An international crowd is more likely than a strictly American one to equate "wedding gift" with "cash."

Make small steps before making huge life changes 06/16/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 16, 2012 5:31am]

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