Let’s Talk About the Life You “Used to Live”

Should we talk about you and your heyday? Those years or activities you look back on with fondness or pride? Those years that are (*insert audible wince*) . . . behind you?

In workshops I often ask participants to play the Time Machine game with me, where I ask them to transport themselves back to the high points in their life. Some ride back in their imaginary DeLorean to an entire era, and for others they time travel back to a discrete moment in time. It’s fun to watch people light up when they talk about the things they “used to do” that breathed so much life into them.

I then ask the participants, “what were you actually doing in those peak moments?” See if any of these real-life examples sound familiar to you:

  • “I used to be so fit—I was able to do a step class and then run home afterwards. I felt so energetic and in shape.”
  • “I was working at a job that was everything. I was so plugged in! I was learning a lot and I felt so successful. The bosses were noticing me. I used to be ultra-engaged.”
  • “I used to go out for cool date nights and excursions with my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time. We’d do appetizers at the bar at one place, then jet over to a place for dinner, and then go to a show.”
  • “I was organizing trips and events for my group of friends. I used to be like the entertainment director; I’d create itineraries for weekend getaways, and we’d do neat things like wine tours and go to book readings.”
  • “I used to meditate every morning. It made me feel so centered in my life.”
  • “In my 30s I was balancing so many things and feeling vibrant while doing them. I had a young kid, a busy job, and crazy-fun friends. It wasn’t doing it perfectly but I felt like I was accomplishing so much and like there was an energetic hum going on in my life.”
  • “I was so good managing my money in those days; I saved a lot and felt in control of my expenses.”
  • “I used to take monthly classes at the community center that were so interesting—stuff like sketching, sign language, coding, you name it. I was always learning something.”
  • “I was eating so well back then. I used to plan my meals out for the week, make healthy dinners that were still exciting, and feel good about myself for being healthy.”

All Sorts of "Used To" Lives

Most of us have memories of “us at our finest,” and we pack them up as though that ship has sailed—as though we can’t be that person again. We look at the ship setting off to sea, waving at it wistfully from the dock.

We don’t have to look back on the good times of our lives like a “best of” highlight reel. We can reactivate the things that used to be sources of joy, fulfillment, inspiration, zaniness . . . whatever feeling you got from the things that made you feel like you were participating in your life.

You can reignite your heyday by time travelling backwards.

Ask yourself when you felt most alive. What were you doing? What kind of routine did you have then? What actions were you taking in your life? What would it take to recreate what worked then, in your current life?

  • One woman I worked with remembered she used ride her bike to and from work twice a week, and she rekindled that activity. Poof—she felt more fit, energized, and happy about herself the first week she got back on the saddle.
  • Another client committed to getting her in-person book club up and running again, which checked her important boxes of reading, being social, and having excuses to make all kinds of cookies again. Win, win, WIN.
  • A workshop attendee made the fabulously simple observation that she was drinking a lot more water during a particularly healthy-feeling time in her life. “I’m going to start drinking like I used to,” she declared. Living a better life doesn’t have to be complicated.
  • “I used to get seven hours of sleep, and it was amazing. Now I’m up late fiddling around on my phone, and I’m waking up tired. I’m going to go back to getting a full night’s sleep again.” This was what a colleague of the water woman said, after being inspired to look for do-able edits in life.

My favorite meditation/ hypnosis expert in Chicago used to say that “when you’ve fallen off the wagon, the good news is that it’s right there waiting for you where you left it.”

I have gotten back on my wagon So. Many. Times. Not just with overcoming ten years of eating disorders, but by recommitting to things that used to make me happy, that used to make me laugh, that used to make me feel fit, that used to make me feel un-dead.

That’s what life is: a consistent endeavor of getting back on track with our hopes and dreams and goals and simple pleasures and activities that give us a shot at more joy.

Life is a multi-tentacled distraction that gets in the way of living the way we’d like to live if we didn’t fall of track all the time.

Go back to the things you’ve already proven work for you. If they worked then, they’ll likely still deliver the life-gratifying hit today. If you used to love to golf, go book that tee time. If you used to snort-laugh with the gang, go reserve a table for 6 for a friend-filled brunch. If you used to love to play the flute, go pull it out from the storage bin.  If you used to love a good murder mystery, go buy a book and then crack it open.

Let’s get chronically alive. Life’s too short to dick around thinking our good days are out to sea. The best is yet to come (famously etched on Sinatra’s tombstone . . . had to get a death reference in there somewhere).

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: Let’s connect on Instagram!

P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!


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