Embracing Change: How To Choose What Truly Makes You Happy

I never imagined living abroad.

Not even when my sister left Canada in 2009 to pursue her dream of living somewhere with warmer weather. Now, as an official citizen of New Zealand, she only ever returns to Canada to visit.

This past April, we decided to take a trip to the Dominican Republic together. While there, I took advantage of the time away to reflect and arrived at the realization that it was time to uproot my life and live my life as an expat.

Is Your Environment Holding You Back?

If you’re unfamiliar with my story, at 23, I suffered a T12/L1 spinal cord injury after a motocross accident. Since then, I’ve lived with permanent nerve damage that affects my complete lower body.

Although I’m fortunate to still be able to walk, every day I experience muscle atrophy, muscle spasms, and pins and needles in my legs, while both calf muscles, along with my toes, barely work at all. 

(To learn more about my experience learning to walk again, watch this video detailing my journey)

While at home in Toronto, I spend most of my time indoors, while in the DR I spend most of my time outdoors, walking around barefoot. The interesting thing about walking around with your bare feet directly on the ground is that it fires up the nervous system. Within weeks, or rather literally within days, my legs were being activated in ways I hadn’t experienced in years. I was experiencing toe and muscle movement that, until this trip, I thought might never happen again. I started developing strength in ways I’d only felt while competing as an athlete full-time, which had become unrealistic for me to maintain.

The daily mundane experience of walking throughout the DR has somehow filled me with the kind of fulfillment I no longer experienced in Toronto. Each day, I look forward to the prospect of new muscles and nerves being fired up, simply because the environment I am in is breathing new life into my body!

(If you’re adjusting to a big life change, or just want helpful tools on how to manage change effectively, read more here.)

What Catalyzed My Move

My decision to leave Canada was fueled by the sheer number of times I bragged to my sister about how much better I felt while on our vacation. With each passing day, I grew stronger and more energized. Here, I was able to experience deeper sleep, which left me feeling more rested each morning. I’m also taking less supplements, resulting in a happier, healthier, and stronger me.

Despite all of these advantages, when my sister asked me, “Why don’t you just move here?” my knee-jerk response was to laugh. She then asked again, with a pragmatism I’d clearly overlooked the first time,“No, seriously, what’s keeping you in Toronto?” 

This time I thought about it before responding,“But what about my team building business, the Sledge Hockey Experience?” To this, she plainly said, “I guess you’ll have to figure that out.” It was obvious she’d ignited something within me, and she knew it, too. All it took was a nudge from my sister to get the ball rolling. 

(If you want to learn more about letting go of control and embracing change, read more here)

Reframing Success

As I thought about the implications of giving up my business for good, it surprisingly only took about two weeks for me to come to terms with the decision. When I thought about what my objective was when I started the program, I can admit that I’ve since transitioned. Many of my realizations on these developmental stages, and how I found peace thereafter, can be found in my most recent blog, How I’ve Dealt With Loss Using The Five Stages Of Grief.

From day one, the Sledge Hockey Experience was created to help bridge the gap between able bodied people and those with disabilities. I wanted them to get #buttdown on the ice for a new perspective on sports, life, and people with disabilities; over the course of the past six years, I believe we’ve fulfilled that task. 

Sledge Hockey Experience Achievements

Since 2016 we have:

– Had over 1,200 people in sleds who have never played before

– Created over 40 instructional sledge hockey videos for the world to learn from

– Raised over $30,000 and donated 31 sets of sleds, sticks, and hockey gear to children with disabilities

– Created a VIP experience for the Invictus Games athletes while in Toronto

– Been featured on Hometown Hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs, The Morning Show, and had a mini-documentary created by Accessible Media Inc.

– Supported several non-profits, such as Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, while growing the sport, in the process

As I proudly reflect on all that my team and I have been able to accomplish, I feel confident in my decision to end this chapter of my life. Like everything else I’ve faced, I’m now onto something newer, bigger, and better.

Walking away from the Sledge Hockey Experience has honestly been liberating. Although it’s been part of my identity for many years, letting go allows me to become laser-focused on becoming a better keynote speaker, as I aspire to speak more, coach more, create more impactful online programs, and truly build a life that offers me the freedom to work from anywhere. Trusting my intuition has incited more confidence in myself to know that I have what it takes to make yet another major leap in my life, even without knowing all the twists and turns in advance.

So, if you find yourself dreaming of the beach one day, here are five things I challenge you to consider before taking a leap of faith into expat living:

1. Do the math – Ask yourself, “Am I living above my means?” Are you willing to adjust your lifestyle so that you have greater work/life harmony? I do already live within my means, but have decided to take a step in another direction to help create more bandwidth. What would that look like for you? If you were to write down your current living expenses and analyze them, what could you do without? What adjustments could you make to live differently?

2. Reverse engineer – What steps can you take now or put in place for this to be a reality in the future? If you are not able to make a move today, what do you need to put in place so that you can in the next 6 months, 12 months, 36 months? As I often preach, write these ideas down on paper. By doing so, you help make your ideas tangible, more of a reality.

3. Re-evaluate what success means to you – Is it material possessions? Status? Health? Or is it defined by more meaningful experiences? Has this definition changed for you over the years? Have you paused to truly reflect on this? Perhaps, it’s time to, as we may often subconsciously make these decisions to live out someone else’s dreams. What does success mean to you, today?

(If you have the opportunity to work abroad, learn more about how to how to meaningfully connect while you work remotely)

4. Be Honest with yourself – Reflect on why you earn money. Money is a tool, so take the time to think about how you’re using it, and determine if you’re using it wisely. Are you chasing more money to feel good, or so that you can use it for something? Can you use that money now? How much do you actually need? Even asking yourself questions like “Why am I in this particular career?” can help you reflect on this subject.

5. Carve your own path – Maybe your dream isn’t a beach, but a cottage on the lake. Maybe it’s living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, or in the mountains of British Columbia. Wherever or whatever it is, think about what you want, and let that be your driving force. Be conscious that you aren’t chasing someone else’s dream. Focus on your dream.

(For more insight on how to believe in yourself and overcome limiting beliefs, click here.)

At the end of the day, I hope you’re inspired to reflect on your own life and consider what truly makes you happy. Hustle culture can be great for some people – at one point, it was for me. But not anymore. Today, I am officially beginning a new chapter.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you succeed:

How to be Patient Managing Change

Success is the Payoff From Your Focus, Time, and Effort Invested

How To Let Go Of Control While Managing Change

Whenever you are ready here are the 3 best ways I can help you:

  1. Get a FREE copy of my autobiography (click here)
  2. Looking for a speaker for your next event? (Contact Kevin)
  3. Learn more about The Resilience Toolbox Workshop (click here)

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