hot air ballon

Bob and Bubbles were our turtles. I was seven, and I thought they were the coolest pets ever. My brother loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, and I'm not sure if our ownership of these amphibians was related but I suspect it was. I remember taking them out to the deck in a little kiddie pool while my mother cleaned their tank. I was only allowed to touch them then, and only if I washed my hands right after. They didn't move around much. Bob stayed small. He was this cute little dude, about the size of a sand dollar and grew to maybe the size of a Subway cookie. Bubbles, though. Bubbles had aspirations. He grew from being a little pipsqueak, about the size of Bob, to the size of a side plate, and then bigger. We couldn't keep them. We didn't have the aquatic means. Not even Bob – Bob and Bubbles were quite attached (like brothers), so when Bubbles outgrew his container, Bob went with him.

How to Know When You Outgrow Your Container

I was three when we moved to my hometown. It was a small town. It's grown substantially since, but when we moved there, it didn't have much. A library, an Overwaitea, a couple of gas stations. Not exactly a thriving urban metropolis. I was nineteen when I left, about to turn twenty. For years before – five, six, who knows – I'd begged my mother to let us move. We did, shortly (though certainly not because of my pleas), but we boomeranged back to this tiny little town that I had come to resent. I resented the heat in the summer and snow in the winter. I resented the customers at my retail job who were just people I'd known my entire life and Albertan tourists. I resented the lack of opportunity small-town Canada provided. I felt suffocated by my surroundings. Like Bubbles, I'd outgrown my container.

How Big is Your Container?

A funny thing happened the year I moved. As my container got bigger, so did my life. Previously demotivated, disconnected, and unhealthy, I suddenly felt unstoppable. I got fit, started a blog, reconnected with long-lost family members. I explored, made new friends, and enrolled in a degree program. I hauled lumber for the better part of a year to pay for it, which was the best-paying job I'd had in my life. I became interested in finance and savings. I went on a vacation. I began to fill my new container with bigger and better things. Perhaps you haven't thought of it, but you're in a container, too. We all are. Sometimes, the container is the one that society puts us in. The expectations that we're supposed to fulfill. The expectation that we need to go to college, get that diploma, get a job with a pension and benefits, and retire at 65 or 55 if we're lucky. That's a container. The idea that we need to have 1.6 children, live in a big suburban house and new cars parked in the driveway. That's a container. Sometimes, we put ourselves in containers – containers around the beliefs we have about ourselves, our abilities, and our destinies. My container was very much self-imposed. And sometimes, containers are good. They help us know our limitations, our boundaries. They prevent us from growing too big, too soon. They lessen the growing pains. But you choose the container you're in. Unlike Bubbles, you have control over your container.

You'll Outgrow Some Containers

Have you ever heard that fish grow to the size of their tanks? That's what Bubbles did. You're a lot like Bubbles. You'll fill the space of your container. If you expand your container, you'll rise to the occasion. You won't have to try – you'll just continue to expand and broaden. If you stay put in a small container, you'll quickly run out of room to grow. So give yourself a big container. And don't be afraid to upgrade your container once you've filled it.

How to Increase the Size of Your Container

Maybe you've had a hunch that your container is too small for awhile, but you find yourself swimming circles around it trying to find a way to knock down a wall without much luck. How can you increase the size of your container?

  • Start something. Anything. Prove to yourself that you're an action taker. Start a blog, a fitness program, or a business, start something on the side.
  • Travel. When you travel, you make the entire world your container. You begin to see what's possible.
  • Shake things up. Find a new job. Move to a new city. Take on a new hobby.
  • Face a fearDo something you are scared to do. Start putting words out there. Start a blog. Approach somebody you admire for coffee. Book a one-way ticket to Europe.
  • Achieve something. Anything. It doesn't matter if it's something small, something huge, or a quick win for the day.
  • Surround yourself with big people. They'll pull you out of your small container. A rising tide lifts all boats. Bubbles outgrowing his container benefited Bob, too.

The idea is to stretch yourself out of your comfort zone to expand your container. The more you do this, the bigger your container will become, and the bigger you will grow to fill it. Try to do one thing each day to expand your container. You'll find yourself swapping out for larger containers constantly. Imagine how big your life could become. So start with today. What will you do today to expand your container?

15 thoughts on “The Secret to Living a Big Life

  1. Daniel @ SaveWithDan.ca says:

    Wow, Sarah! This is a really, really nice article! (not that the other ones are not, but this one is above your always high average).
    I expanded my container a couple of years ago when I moved from Brazil to Montral, and last year when I started SaveWithDan, and this year again when I decided to start Money Coaching. I think that when you start doing these things you cannot stop anymore, and there is no container big enough for everything I want to do in my life now.

  2. Meggan | Culinary Hill says:

    Good morning, Sarah! Great article. It took my husband dragging me cross-country against my will to Los Angeles to find out that what you are saying about finding a bigger container, rising to the occasion, and getting more out of life. I miss my home, but the idea of moving back often seems STIFLING. And now I know why. I have no idea what the future holds, but you’ve given me a great container for having these tough conversations. Thank you so much.

  3. Sheila Amir says:

    I absolutely love this article! I expanded my container last Valentine’s Day when I gave up everything (including a thriving nutrition business and non-profit I founded) to head out to Phoenix. To say I felt trapped was an understatement! I took only what fit in my car. To say that freeing myself from that container solved all my problems would be a lie. Phoenix has been a struggle, but each day I am pushed to do more than I ever thought I could. Life gets better each day and more and more of my dreams are coming true. I spent my whole life wanting to write and help others. I’m now writing articles that are read by over 100,000 people! Never in my wildest dreams…

  4. Tracy says:

    Great article Sarah – I love the story of Bob and Bubbles, illustrates your point perfectly. My husband and I have shed a lot of containers, living in 4 countries and the idea of moving home is somewhat scary – you’ve made me realise why. It’s like expanding your comfort zone – most people’s get smaller with age so when yours gets bigger you can feel out of place. Thank you for a brilliant article.

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for reading Tracy. You and your husband no doubt have expanded your horizons far beyond what others might ever do in their lifetimes.

  5. Liv says:

    Great inspirational article, Sarah. I just recently expanded my container by moving in with my boyfriend, beggining a fitness (and yoga) routine, learning how to sew, dramatically improving my healthy eating habits and beginning to prepare for my blog launch. I still want to expand my container so much more!
    Btw, this phrase is repeated.
    “Perhaps you haven’t thought of it, but you’re in a container, too. We all are. Sometimes, the container is the one that society puts us in. The expectations that we’re supposed to fulfill.
    Sometimes, the container is the one that society puts us in. The expectations that we’re supposed to fulfill.”

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Liv,
      Wow, you’ve been busy with container expanding, that’s for sure. I have no doubt it will all pay off. You’re going to conquer your container.. and then expand it even more =)
      Thanks for letting me know about the repeated phrase. It’s that silly Grammarly extension. It does silly things.

  6. Becca says:

    This is just what I needed to read to give me a kick in the butt! It’s a great read. I know that I need to switch to a larger container I am totally where you were feeling like I need to get healthy, motivated and so much more. I know and need to do.

    • Sarah says:

      I’m so glad it helped! Hopefully you have some clarity on how to expand your container 🙂

  7. Cathy Goodwin says:

    Loved this piece! I’ve written a book about relocation (the new edition is on Amazon as a kindle book). Doing my research, I learned that sometimes the grass really IS greener! It’s related to size of container but also to how you resonate with your environment. I would love to be a country or small town person, but I belong in a city.
    Sadly, a lot of people are ridiculed when they say they want to move. They get bad advice, like, “If you can’t be happy here, you won’t be happy anywhere.” Nonsense! People have changed their personalities and expanded their horizons by moving.
    The only time I discourage moving is when someone’s looking for romance. Moving “to meet someone” usually doesn’t work out. Moving for adventure? Go for it!

  8. Tammy says:

    I have a fear of starting when… I already have so many obligations as a mother to 4 and a husband who works full-time as a Professor. I don’t know how to make this work but…I need to! I’m 41. yrs young and am very “unsettled” in my life. I love my family dearly but…I have given them so much of me and my time that…I don’t know where to start on ME?! I tried that 5 column interest list from your one article (topic ideas, platforms, etc) but….still feeling lost. I read the ideas in this article… and still don’t know what to do? Any suggestions?….I feel like I’m going through an identity crisis! Yikes 🙁

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