Finding Zen Calm in the Midst of Major Life Changes (Like Quitting Your Job)

Leo Babauta Zen Habits the Man

Finding Zen Calm in the Midst of Major Life Changes (Like Quitting Your Job)

 “Today isn’t preparation for tomorrow, today is the main event.” —Leo Babauta

The Challenge Every One of You Will Face

Today we’re bringing in an uber expert to help us with a topic that every single one of our 100,000+ Live Your Legend members will face at least once – and likely a lot more.

I’m grateful to have a good friend and mentor who is much more qualified than I am to cover this topic.

Leo Babauta

In most online circles, the man needs no introduction, but I can’t help myself…

Leo is the master of habit change, and he’s also the person who kills every single excuse you could muster for not pursuing your dreams.

Eight years ago, Leo was deeply in debt, 70 pounds overweight, keeping a terrible diet and smoking a pack a day, all while trying to support his family of 6 (now 8) in Guam while working a job he hated.

Over the next few years he systematically transformed every one of his life-threatening habits. He lost 70 pounds, quit smoking, became a vegan, started running marathons (even a 50-mile ultra with me last year – see below), got completely out of debt, became a published author and built Zen Habits into one of the biggest single-author blogs in the world with millions of readers. Time Magazine ranks Zen Habits in the Top 25 blogs, and that success happily supports all eight Babautas.

And he did most of that on the side, while he still worked his full-time job he didn’t like.

North face 50 mile finish line Scott Dinsmore Leo Babauta

Scott (age 31 – on left) and Leo (age 40 – on right) crossing the 50-mile finish line of the North Face Endurance Challenge, moments before Leo’s 6 kids and wife swarmed him in awe, as if he were superman.

Leo defines possibility – and in a very personal way for me.

You see, if I hadn’t crossed paths with Leo in 2010, Live Your Legend wouldn’t exist. Or if it did, it certainly wouldn’t be in the surreal capacity that it does today.

When I knew nothing about the online world, Leo was my Roger Bannister benchmark.

When he moved his family from Guam to San Francisco, I nervously showed up to his blogger meetup, kinda star-struck (okay, a lot star-struck). But somehow that first interaction turned into an incredible friendship.

I looked up to him as I took his online trainings, his personal advice and his encouragement to create what I didn’t know was possible.

Our friendship started on running trails throughout San Francisco, talking about life, ideas, business – you name it.

When I decided to completely rebrand my first blog, ReadingForYourSuccess, Leo was the one who first suggested it. A few months later, Live Your Legend was born.

When I was tossing around the idea of creating my first product, Leo gave me detailed instructions on his process — including hurdling roadblocks and defeating fear. And when it felt completely overwhelming, he showed me his exact routine for getting the writing done in 20-minute increments. And he kicked my ass during many runs to be sure I actually got it done.

The result was 250 pages of my best work, compiled into Live Off Your Passion, LYL’s first product, which has sold thousands of copies.

A year later, as we were having tea at Samovar, Leo said, “You know, Scott, you should really create a product on how to build relationships, teaching people how to make the kind of connections that you and I have built.”

Leo gave me a jump-start with an all-day writing session to get my ass in gear. He offered feedback throughout the process, even doing his own work alongside me so we’d both have momentum.

Nine months later, I broke ground on How to Connect With Anyone – our flagship course and community that’s helped more people in huge ways than anything I’ve ever created.

I’m telling you this story for two reasons:

1. Because Leo deserves tremendous credit for showing me a world I didn’t think could exist, and showing me the exact steps to build the dream I’d always had (and overcome a ton of fear and BS limiting beliefs in the process).


2. Because it’s important for all of you to know that no one does anything on their own. No one. That’s why community is at the center of everything we do at LYL.

So with that rather long-winded and very well-deserved intro, I’d like to hand it over to Leo.

His below article is the foundation that allowed me to turn LYL into what it is today and the core of his new book, Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, which just went live for discounted pre orders on Kickstarter a few days ago.

In true Leo fashion, he reached his Kickstarter goal in less than 24 hours of launch and now is well over triple his goal. But I think that’s all the more reason to support his new book project – get in on the ground floor of what’s already an incredible movement. Plus, you get some really cool bonuses, like actually getting to contribute to the book. I love how he brings his community into his projects in such a huge way.

Click here to watch his sweet video, pre-order a discounted copy of his new book and support his Kickstarter campaign.

Now, enter Leo Babauta. We’ll start with an image of his “sexy face” from his book website…

Leo Babauta sexy bad ass face

Finding Zen Calm in the Midst of Major Life Changes

By Leo Babauta

There was a period in January 2008 when I was scared breathless: I was on the verge of quitting my day job and relying entirely on my online business.

This is scary enough for most people, the idea of not having a regular paycheck… but for me, it was enough to make my blood run cold. I had 6 kids to feed.

I remember the adrenaline pumping as the days led up to my resignation from the desk job. My heart felt like it was pumping in my throat, and my hands were sweaty, and my spine was tingly. I turned in my resignation, told my boss I was quitting, and felt like I was breathing hard as I walked away.

I was full of joy – and full of fear.

It took me a year of wanting this day to come, of putting it off because of fear, of wanting and dreading at the same time. I was more than ready, and yet I was overwhelmed with uncertainty.

I made it, though. One day at a time, I woke up and figured out what to work on, and not once did I feel like I knew what the hell I was doing.

Some of you are going through a major life change of your own: you’re thinking about quitting a job, or you just did; you’re starting a new business or project; or perhaps you’ve been fired, lost a loved one, suffered a major illness or injury, lost a home to financial or natural disaster, started a new school, became a new parent… these are all incredible transition periods that can be filled with pain and fear for many of us.

How do we keep calm and carry the hell on? How can we find strength in the middle of fear? How do we focus when all we can think about is the discomfort and doubt?

I got a lot better at dealing with this fear and disruption, and now I’ve gone through a bunch of changes much more calmly: moving my entire family from Guam to San Francisco in 2010, then moving three more times since then, scrapping my old business entirely and starting a new one in 2011, self-publishing and launching a new book this year, and much more.

I’m going to share a method that has taken me from shaking in my sneakers to being calm in the midst of change, and staying focused even when overwhelmed.

The Core of Life Changes

Let’s briefly take a look at what a major life change is, at its core:

It’s anything that takes a major shift in mindset, that gets you out of your comfort zone in a drastic way, that scares and confuses you and fills you with uncertainty.

In any of these changes, your idea of who you are is forced to shift. If you move to a new place, you’re no longer “Annie from Ohio” but now “Annie who is a newcomer in New York City”. If you lose your job, you’re no longer “Frank, the ad salesman at the Chronicle” but now “Tim, the unemployed ad salesman who was fired”.

This shift in your identity is often the hardest to deal with, greater than the actual loss in income or difficulties finding your way in a new city.

We get used to who we think we are (our image of ourselves), and the scared child inside our minds doesn’t want the change. We all have this scared child inside us, who likes comfort and dislikes major changes.

So how do we deal with this shift in how we see ourselves that we’re resisting? We let go of the old image, and embrace the new.

A Method for Zen Calm

The method that I’ve learned for dealing with changes is simple, but it’s easier said than done. It takes practice, just like any skill, and you shouldn’t expect to be good at it right away.

But if you practice this method, you’ll be able to take any life change in stride, and you’ll be happier and calmer in the middle of change that used to scare the living daylights out of you.

Here’s the method:

Mindfully see your self-image and the inner child that wants to hold onto this ideal — and the fear and pain that results.

Now loosen up on that attachment to your old self-image… and focus on the opportunity right in front of you, embracing the changing nature of life, appreciating what you have, and finding gratitude for every moment of this short life.

There’s a lot packed into this, so let’s take an example: I’m quitting my job and starting a business. And it scares the hell out of me.

If I apply the method, I’ll start by taking a look at the fear that’s holding me back and causing me stress, and noticing how it feels in my body. Then I’ll see that at the heart of the fear is that I think of myself as safe, secure, with a job, not a risk-taker – someone who doesn’t want to fail and embarrass himself.

Next, I’ll see that my inner child really wants to hold on to this self-image, and really doesn’t want me to fail or have financial insecurity with an uncertain future. This is causing the fear and stress, and holding me back from taking calm action.

So now I loosen up on that old image of myself, which is completely made up. And I turn my attention to what’s in front of me: a new opportunity to start a business, an opportunity for re-invention of myself, for starting anew with a blank slate, for learning to be okay with uncertainty and risk and change. This is a wonderful thing in front of me.

And immediately in front of me is a single task that I need to focus on: maybe registering a domain, maybe writing a blog post, maybe changing a few things on my website… but whatever task it is, it’s not that scary. It’s simple and doable.

All of this in front of me is something to appreciate and be grateful for. What wonder, to be able to reinvent myself and create something new! How awesome is it that I get to be afraid of an uncertain future, that isn’t safe and already determined, that will surprise me with new things I haven’t even thought of yet, that will unfold in front of me like a new sunrise!

And with this gratitude, I decide to make the most of this precious moment in front of me and get to work. Take action. Be present with this task, right now.

I embrace this uncertain situation as the great opportunity and gift that it is, and focus on one moment at a time. What an amazing moment this is.

Leo Babauta is the creator of the Zen Habits blog, father of 6 kids, Scott Dinsmore’s ultra-running partner, and author of a new book, Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change.

Ok guys – now go check out and support his new book and Kickstarter project here – before it’s too late. 🙂

And if any of you have questions for Leo, leave them in the comments and he’ll chime in and do his best to get you answers!