Member Spotlight: Ana Santos


By Leo Babauta

Ana is a 24-year-old south Brazilian medical student (almost graduated!) with a love for nature, fiction and simple living. She lives with her mom and a friendly shih-tzu named Nina.

And she’s been with the Sea Change Program for two years now, with incredible success. Today I’m going to share her story as she answers a few questions from me, in hopes that her story will be inspirational and instructive for others.

Leo: What kind of habit successes have you had so far?

Ana: Since 2012, when I joined Sea Change (uff! Has it been that long?) I have changed a lot. I have understood how I think and live and what I really want in my life. I have decluttered, let go of expectations, learnt how to deal better with anxiety and conflict, disconnected more, stopped my shopping habit, learnt to love exercise (that was a great one!), started meditating everyday and eating way healthier than I thought I could. I also feel way more flexible, able to change ideas and routes as I feel they would make me happier.

Leo: How does that compare to where you started before you were in this program?

Ana: I joined Sea Change after discovering Zen Habits, in a desperate way to control my consumerism. I was very addicted to shopping, as I had the unhealthy tendency to obsess over stuff to fill my needs. I spent hours online browsing for stuff I didn’t need, spending an awful amount of money and being away from my family and friends. I used to say I loved reading, but I did that less and less. I was sedentary, had lots of pain for someone my age, and was so attached to my expectations of how things should happen that I would get mad when they didn’t cooperate (“the universe is not following my plan! Bummer”). So it has been a lot of change…

Leo: What have been the most important strategies that have helped you make changes?

Ana: Start small. Yes, it’s been said over and over again, but it doesn’t work until you try it. Take your chances. Experiment. Have triggers. Have substitutes (“no internet this time, instead I’ll sit and read for a while”). Think about what kind of life you want for yourself. Just start. Make pauses. Have rewards. Ask for help (and make people watch you and send you back to work). See the effects. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Leo: What are your biggest obstacles so far? Any success in finding ways to overcome them?

Ana: Time. It’s been a rare commodity as graduation approaches. So I’ve been adjusting my triggers and trying not to punish myself when I can’t do it all (“it’s ok, you can exercise for 20 minutes today.” “No, you don’t have to read x amount of pages. Read as it feels interesting and let it move you forward”). Also I have understood that habits are a series of reiterations. So I can get sick, or travel, or have a family issue, but I’ll come back, as the sun always does after a dark night.

Leo: What changes in yourself have you seen from the habit changes that you’ve made? Any big changes in your life result from this?

Ana: I’m feeling so much lighter! I feel I can be proud of myself, as I’m approaching the life I wanna lead. I know there’s a lot of work to do, and some of it can’t happen right now due to my circumstances (depending on my parents, not living where I’d like to), but I can see I’m moving forward. I can relax and smile, as I know things will work out even if I have a lot to do. I feel healthier than I ever was. And I know I can change, and that change is good. Nothing is set in stone. And if I keep learning, I’ll be good.

A short true story on accountability:

“5:30 am. I’m going to the kitchen, thinking I could skip Tai Chi practice today.

Mom appears on the stairs. “Aren’t you going to practice Tai Chi today? You said you would”.

Mom wins.”

Ana added one last, but important note: “I feel so grateful for the people I met through Sea Change. I love the forums. I love sharing and learning from others, and I’d like to thank you for that.”