What I know to be true after 38 years


This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy.

What I Know To Be True After 38 Years | www.downshiftology.com

Have you ever reached a birthday and thought to yourself, “geez, I thought at age XX, things would be so different?” I thought I would be more this. Less that. And way more (insert goal) – richer, happier, healthier, less-stressed, established, successful, traveled, confident, secure and so on. 

It’s something we all think. Every year. And yet we still think it. 

Yesterday was my birthday. And while I have much to celebrate (like launching this website!), I for one never thought I would be 38, single, child-less and starting down a new career path. And yes, I just put that all in writing!

Yet given all of that, the big doozy that it is, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to turn a year older. I’ll even go out on a limb and say this. I reckon 38 may very well be my best year yet!

So how can I still be so flippin’ excited (given my current societal shame status)? 

Because I’ve realized a few things in the last year. Beautiful gems of knowledge that have been life altering. Think cloudy skies parting to blue. And thunderstorms giving way to double rainbows.

Yes, they really are that good. So without further ado…

Progress is a series of small steps. Sometimes they go sideways, even backwards. But with time, they move you forward.

When I was diagnosed with celiac, the first of my four autoimmune diseases, my doctor told me that within three months of eating gluten-free, my lab results would be back to normal. 

The reality? It took two years. A wee bit off I’d say! And my health went sideways, backwards and somersaulted upside down during that same period of time. 

But I kept taking small steps every single day. 

And thank goodness for that! Because had I stopped at any one of those steps, frustrated, annoyed, deflated or depressed, I would have missed out on the progress.

The progress that doesn’t happen overnight. The progress that isn’t flashing in neon lights. But rather, the progress that comes with continuing to step forward, even through the failures, to end up further along.

Life is a journey. Wellness is a journey. And neither one is a straight path. But continuing forward with each little step, you’ll see in hindsight that your progress is far greater than you ever imagined. 

Life never turns out how you think. But sometimes the alternative isn’t half-bad. 

When I was in high school, I remember vividly envisioning my life. And it went something like this. Meeting the tall, dark and handsome man of my dreams by age 26. Having beautiful children (maybe 2 or 3) starting around age 28. And then living the rest of my life in domestic bliss.

Oh, to be a teenager! I laugh and smile thinking about that now. 

Because as a teenager I also didn’t envision the amazing experiences, career successes and global adventures that others only dream of for their life. That I’ve done and accomplished. The alternative that happened because I didn’t meet the man of my dreams and have children at age 28. 

Do I still want a partner and children one day. Of course! But here’s what I know to be true. If we dwell on everything that we’re not, we forget to remind ourselves of everything that we are. And how amazing that unexpected alternative can be.

A stop-doing list can be more important than a start-doing list.

We all make lists, whether literally or figuratively. Maybe it’s a weekly to-do list or maybe it’s a bucket-list of dreams. And those are great. But how often do we make a list of the things we should stop doing?

In the last year, I’ve realized that a stop-doing list might be just as important, if not more. What are the behaviors, habits, thoughts and words that we want to stop doing or using? 

For me, tops on that list was to stop working in a job that was burning me out. Ironically, the universe stepped in to handle that one! 

I also wanted to stop interacting with chronic complainers and glass-half-empty people (ain’t got time for that!) and to stop using self-limiting phrases, like “I’m the type of person who…” or “I’m no where near as confident as…” or “I’m an introvert, so…” 

These phrases were the “disclaimers” I had attached to my life. And to me as a person. But they had to go! So I added them to the stop-doing list. 

Once completed, the stop-doing items seemed to impact my life in profound ways. Perhaps because they were more internally focused. They also created the space and freedom I needed to start checking off more of the start-doing items.

And wouldn’t you know it, my start-doing list just got way more exciting! 

All the things you think you can’t do, you really can.

When I tell people that I plan to work in Thailand for a few months, I always get the same response. “That is AMAZING! I would love to do something like that. But I just can’t because….” 

And while those reasons might be valid (e.g. husband, kids, job, finances, etc), I’ve learned that there’s always a way. It’s just a matter of choice. And you have to choose that doing it is more important than not doing it. Once you do that, you’ll figure it out. 

When I created Downshiftology, I’d never started my own business before. I had no idea that I’d need a fictitious business name license, privacy statements, Canada Anti-Spam statements (who? what?) and about a gazillion other things. 

But I knew I wanted to create this online health and wellness space more than anything. Because my desire to spread this knowledge and help others was burning deep inside me. So I stopped saying “can’t” and figured it out. And step-by-step, day-by-day it started coming together. 

The old saying “you can do anything you put your mind to,” while perhaps cheesy, is true. But first, you must choose that you want it. And by that, I mean openly declare it, share it, believe in it and scream it from the mountain tops. 

Once you do that, you 100% can do it.

It takes some mental training, but you should try to find the good in everything.

When I was diagnosed with one autoimmune disease after another, I was bitter and angry. And when I was unexpectedly let-go from my job this year, I was shocked and in disbelief. Both circumstances were unexpected and whacked me pretty good!

So what did I do? I did what every normal gal would do. I wallowed in those crappy emotions for probably far too long.

And when the self-pity finally ran out, I realized something great. Even though it can be challenging sometimes, we really can find the good in everything.

Prior to my autoimmune diagnoses, I shiver to think of the path my health was on. I was silently harming my body through diet, stress and lifestyle. And the culmination of several more years of that path could have been far more detrimental. 

So now, I choose to be thankful. Thankful for the warning signs and ability to revamp my health and wellness. To feel the best I’ve felt in years. And to live another day, basking in the glow of one more glorious sunset. 

As for my job, I know this to be true. If I hadn’t been let go, I may not have had the guts to choose passion over fear and vulnerability over stability. To create an online business where I wake up every day energized to help others. Where I have the freedom to work from anywhere, anytime and can lovingly foster a community of like-minded, radiant living soul-sisters.  

Many of life’s curveballs are out of our control. And if you’re a type-A, control freak like I am, it can be hard to reconcile that. But once you do and learn to find the good in everything, to make the best of everything, you’ll be far less stressed.

And I promise, you will start to see more of those double rainbows. 

Let’s hear it for 38! 

Has your life turned out how you thought it would? What would you put on your stop-doing list?


About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before appearing on the site. Thank you for sharing your feedback!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Thank you for inspiring me to stop the self pity act, and to be thankful for who I am now! No excuses!!
    You’re amazing..

  2. Thank you Lisa for sharing beneficial topics and recipes for wellness.Love all of your videos especially the meal plans.Saved a lot of cooking hours.

  3. I came across your website by chance yesterday, was totally inspired by your approach to healthy eating and love the recipes. For someone who isn’t that interested in making food I have amazed myself by just buying the ingredients for your cauliflower houmous.
    Thank you

    1. Welcome to the Downshiftology community Gill! Hope you find tons more inspiration through my website to create easy and healthy meals with me. Also, be sure to join fellow Downshifters in my Facebook Community Group. We’re all in this together to get back into a healthy lifestyle.

  4. I love you, your ability to multi-task, enjoy God’s produce and creation and show others how to eat well, live a healthy lifestyle, only thing missing is spirituality and I am sure you are a believer! (wink) <3

  5. We need positive pep talks even when we are in our 70’s! By this time we are supposed to have arrived. Several times in my life I have had top put my health first, but then life happens, and we get sidetracked and overwhelmed. Now retired, children raised, and husband and daughter with health issues, I am determined to take control again. Covid has been mentally brutal to everyone, we need to see the beauties around us, and feel peace of mind and heart.
    Your video’s and recipes are helping me. I bought nutritious food this week and meal prepped. I realized I needed the glass containers, which just arrived. Now just have to prepare meals that are healthy for picky eaters! Not me. I love all the foods you display! So, thank you!

    1. Hi Arlene – I’m glad you’re taking the initiative to get back on track, and that my recipes and videos have been able to help along the way :)

  6. Lisa,

    What an article! You are an amazing person – so talented, smart, unique, gifted and what can I say about your recipes — that every single recipe is restaurant quality, So happy I came across your site and you inspire me every day.


  7. Hi Lisa!
    You are an amazing human being 💕 Your life story is very empowering and I just love the fact that you refuse to give up and always move forward!
    It would be great to meet you in person one day!


  8. Wow, it’s a great article. You don’t know how much you have motivated me with your words. Since years I was thinking about changing my lifestyle, habits, to live true life full of self care, healthy food, open minded. Especially, that I was also diagnosed with few diseases. There was always something standing on the way, permanent roadblocks, interruptions. I spent hours and days on thinking what I should actually do, what I really want, and year after year I continue to make the same mistakes, I am overloaded with tasks and I still do not know which exact way to go. But your text gave me so much power to continue what I started in December 31st, 2017. That day I have purchased a domain for my own place in the internet. Until today I was struggling what it should be about, I wasn’t posting there for a long time, I was also a part of mastermind group, to help me to find out which way to go. And your page, your videos and especially this article helped me to put all the bricks into place. You are such an inspiring person, I love to listen to you, to watch your videos and read your blog. I wish you all the best, and sending greetings from Poland :)

    1. So glad I can provide a bit of inspiration Ewa! The transition stages are always difficult – which I understand because I’ve been there before. But don’t worry, you’ll be just fine in the end :)

  9. Life is a journey of enlightenment and your journey to date is an inspiration to me and all of us. 

    It takes courage to fight for your beliefs. 

    Thank you for sharing. 

    Good on you. 😃

    P S I found you and your healthy lifestyle on YouTube. 

    1. Hi Marvin – I’m so happy to hear that. I hope I can inspire everyone to live a motivational and healthier lifestyle.

  10. Have only just stumbled this site and your amazing videos. You are going to change so many people’s lives! Like you my whole world changed in my mid 30s, I got divorced due to the stress of infertility issues, gave up my job, sold the house, went travelling and ended up meeting someone and moving to France where I have been ever since! I’ve since come to terms with not having children and sometimes feel quite relieved that fate didn’t lead me down that path. The freedom to reinvent and develop yourself is amazing and you always have the kids in your family to hang out with if you get the urge ?. My newest challenge is trying to improve my (and my partner’s) diet with healthy dishes that I can make in France without too much effort, as opposed to relying on prepackaged healthy foods in the UK which don’t really exist here, so your use of fresh basic ingredients is an inspiration to me. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much Ceris for your kind words and that’s wonderful your path led you to something more amazing than you’d imagined! Life has a funny way of doing that, doesn’t it. ;) I hope you can find healthy inspiration for both you and you partner with my recipes!

  11. Thank you for this blog post. It is so inspiring as I’m listening to your authentic and vulnerable story. Thank you for being courageous and inspiring. You’re helping me to be the same. 

    1. I’m so happy you’ve found inspiration in this post Linah! Continue to follow your own path. :)

  12. You are SO inspirational. I am in awe. And grateful to have received your wisdom here. Thank you.

  13. I found your site today via your recipe shared on ThePaleomom. Your paradigm shift is fully resonating with me and I love everything you have to say in this post. I have nearly 20 years on you and even though I’ve done some amazing things in my life and by most standards my career shouldn’t be a stressful one, I managed to burnout and implode. I was at my most ill and overwhelmed at the end of last year and since then have been taking steps physically, holistically, spiritually, and emotionally with focus, patience and joy.
    If I had simply changed what I ate (which I have and now embrace AIP!) my nervous system would still be on fire. Undoing has taken a systematic approach but focusing on being well and happy beats white knuckling it through my life. And even though I’m still in the two steps forward, one step back phase I’ve come really far!! The shifts in each area have resulted in a healthier, happier, calmer, grateful human.
    Congratulations on this new life/business and I’ll be watching it grow as there are so many more like me who are searching or in the process of finding the keys to this freedom. I’d rather it happened for them in their 20’s or 30’s rather than their 50’s like me but I can tell you from here, what I thought was impossible IS my new reality.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing a piece of your story!! You’ve hit the nail on the head and quite succinctly summarized what this site is all about – wellness…which is so much more than just food. Bravo to you for deep diving internally and taking those steps forward. I just know you’re gonna keep on rockin’ it! Here’s to you basking in the glow of your new reality and celebrating all the wins along the way!

  14. I must do my own “stop doing list” immediately!!! A very good Idea. I also noticed we have almost the same birthday- mine is the 29’th of august :)

      1. It is, I’m always preaching to clients about creating to do lists! I’m actually planning a blog post in the next few weeks about an app that I’ve started using, it’s predominantly about to do lists but I’ve just made a note in my planner to link back to this article and mention the stop doing list. Love it :)

  15. Lisa, good to hear you managed to get your health under control! Happy belated birthday, and you might want to change the “to” to “do” under the stop doing list section.