Blueprint for a New Life

When it comes to fulfilling goals, following your dreams, or making major life transitions, Erin Moran McCormick ’83 says, “It’s not magic, it’s momentum.” She shares her insights and life lessons in her new book.

by Jane Falla

At the age of twenty-five, Erin Moran McCormick ’83 took a radical step: She quit her job, traveled around Europe, and fulfilled a desire to live in Paris. She didn’t have much money, speak another language, have jobs lined up or have friends waiting for her overseas. She simply made a decision, and then figured out how to make it happen.Erin McCormick
Fast-forward twenty-five years: Looking over her travel journals, McCormick realized she had lost touch with her twenty-five-year-old self, and she wanted to get her back. She wanted to lose weight, get out of a toxic job, spend more time with her family, write a book and find work that she loved.
She didn’t waltz into her next decision cavalierly. As the family breadwinner and mother of two, she mapped out a strategy that ultimately took two years to start. Then, despite a terrible economy, McCormick left her job, and A Year of Action: How to Stop Waiting & Start Living Your BIG, Fabulous Life was born.
Her book is part memoir, part inspirational self-help book, and it has kicked off new creative and entrepreneurial endeavors for McCormick. Her can-do advice and action steps are distilled into three simple ideas: See the moments. Believe in the possibilities. Take a step . . . and then another one.
Year of Action starts with what you describe as “moments.” How do we develop a radar to see the moments and seize the opportunities?
Stepping back is a good way to start. When I was at Smith studying art, something I learned from my beloved professor Elliott Offner was to consider the question: Have you stepped back from your painting lately? In other words, you need to pause and change your perspective. You need to pay attention and actively listen. We all have a gut instinct, and it’s a muscle that you need to regularly exercise. Also, we’re in what some people have called a connection economy—the world is becoming a much smaller place, and we’re much more connected. Ask yourself, “How do I first connect with myself?”
On taking risks
We often let money be the easy excuse. We go through life thinking we will have magic someday. You have today and you need to make the best of it. You can believe that there is something possible out there. You can say to yourself, “I can wake up and be happy.” You don’t have to have all the answers and you don’t have to have it all mapped out. You simply have to start, and you don’t have to be afraid to ask for help.
Year of Action book coverLoving your work
Creating work that you love is really about seeing again. At Smith, my dad kept trying to get me to take economics, because he wondered what I was going to do with a major in art and psychology. But art showed me how to look at the world around me, and psychology helped me to understand people. It was actually the perfect mix. In my career trajectory, I would get into a company, look around and say, “Where are the problems?” I might have come in as a temporary employee, but when I saw a need, I would say, “I can do that; I’ll go fix that,” and that’s how I advanced. You don’t have to wait for permission to take advantage of your talents.
Creating and nurturing relationships
I was Chief Information Officer at two companies, and I never took an official computer class. I found what mattered were the relationships I developed and the trust I had in others. Why do companies have boards of advisers and teams of staff? Because one person is not expected to know everything.  Help others, contribute without motive—and it comes back in droves.
Action hero revelations
An action hero is someone, who, in spite of incredible challenges and fears, still believes in the possibility enough to take a small step, and then take another one. Everyone is that hero.
A life of action
A Year of Action is a way of living. It’s helpful to follow it in manageable chunks of time, whether it’s a year or not—whatever time frame works for you. Then you need to act, assess, adjust, repeat. Look at the positives of what you have accomplished, rather than focusing on the obstacles. Set lofty goals, dream big, and then take small steps for a big life. It’s a mindset. It all comes back to why—why are you doing what you’re doing. That becomes your motivation. Believing without doing is just dreaming. In order for things to happen, you have to take a step.
Year of Action U
One of my ideas is to bring out what I’m calling a Girlfriend MBA, what I describe as part business school, part self-improvement, part girls’ weekend. As it evolves, this will involve women sharing their ideas, expertise and resources with one another.
Action Steps You Can Take Right Now
  • Over the next month, try one new thing each week. Anything. Try something you think you’re too old, too clumsy,  too whatever to do. Get off the sidelines and jump in.
  • Create something this week and sign it—give it your all. It could be a great report, a meal, or a small part of a project. Feel good about putting your name on it.
  • Ask for what you want at work. It doesn’t have to just be about salary, either. It could be different hours, a flexible schedule, more vacation, a bonus, etc.—show your employer how it benefits the company.
  • Write the five top things you love doing.
  • Thank as many people as you can today.
  • Do something today to help someone.
  • Tell those you love how you feel. Don’t wait.
  • Take a break; it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Relax, recharge and rejuvenate.
  • This week, say yes to something to which you would usually say no.
  • Imagine your dream happening. Say it out loud. Believe it.