Wanna learn how to change your life? How to totally change your WHOLE life around?
If so, I’m qualified to be your guide, not because I have managed to make my own life perfect in every possible way, but because I have managed to screw it up in every possible way and then figure out how to slowly climb out of the hole of desperation I found myself in. Climb out of that hole with sweat beads on my forehead and dirt under my fingernails.
Many years ago when I first started suffering from depression, I thought my depression was a disease of the brain that had struck me out of nowhere. I just wasn’t happy with anything even though I had everything. I didn’t know why I was unhappy or how to stop being unhappy. All I knew was that I was so unhappy I barely wanted to be alive anymore.
So I went to the doctor and got a prescription for antidepressants. And I got myself a therapist and talked about my life for 50 minutes every Wednesday at 7pm.
And I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more.
I had my medications adjusted. Again. And again. And again. And again.
My unhappiness wouldn’t lift.
Until I finally came to realize that my unhappiness was not a disease that had struck out of nowhere like the flu virus does every fall.
My distress, my exhaustion, my hopelessness, my unwillingness to continue living… All of it was a result of living the wrong kind of life. The kind of life that a person like me wasn’t well suited for.
It would have been the perfect life for many – maybe even most? – other people. It was the life society tells us to want.
But it just wasn’t the kind of life I needed or wanted in order to be healthy and happy.
And the only way for me to get better was by letting that life go. Completely dismantling it.
My life needed a gut-job renovation – one room at a time.
And that’s what I have been working on for a few years now. Slowly nudging my life into the direction that works for me. Slowly learning how to change my life. Rebuilding it little by little.
I have done this in so many areas of my life now that I feel like I have become quite the life improvement expert. 🙂 I have a method nailed down. I have figured out what works and what doesn’t work.
So today I wanted to share with you my method for making life changes in case your life is in need of a little (or a big!) sprucing up too.
Here are seven steps to change your life:
How To Change Your Life Around
1. Make A Detailed List Of Everything You Are Dissatisfied With In Your Life
You can’t fix a problem, if you don’t know what the problem is. So the first step in transforming your life is to become crystal clear about what the problem areas are. What are you unhappy with exactly?
Here is a list of possibilities to get you started.
- Sleep/Energy levels
- Stress levels
- Significant other
- Extended family
- The kind of work you are doing
- The place where you work
- The people you are working with
- How much money you are making
Hobbies & Interests
- What you do for fun
- How much time you have to devote to your interests
Where You Live
- Your apartment or house
If these prompts don’t get your wheels turning – if you just have a vague feeling that you are unhappy, but you are not sure why – then work on #2 first and come back to this step.
2. Create A Vision Of Your Ideal Life
You will never be able to build the kind of life you want to live if you don’t know what that life is like. So the next step is to figure out what exactly you want and create a detailed vision of your ideal life.
How do you want to feel? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be with?
In order to complete this step successfully, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Self Awareness Is Key
- You need to find your authentic self. You need to become aware of your true preferences, your personality traits, your strengths, and your weaknesses. This is the only way to create a life that is a good match to the unique person that is YOU.
This Is About What YOU Want
- The only way to create a life that YOU are happy with is to focus on what YOU want from life. Let go of other people’s expectations from you or for you. Let go of what you have been taught you should want and figure out what you actually want.
Liking Something In Theory Is Not The Same As Liking Something In Practice
- Liking the IDEA of something, is not the same as ACTUALLY enjoying it. Given my interest in psychology and helping people, I like the IDEA of being a therapist, but I know that IN PRACTICE interacting with people all day long would be way too exhausting for a highly sensitive introvert like me.
Admiring Someone Doesn’t Mean You Would Be Happy Living Their Life
- We can have great regard for some people and admire what they are doing with their lives, but know that we would be miserable living their lives.
Settling Will Put You Right Back To Where You Started
- You want to change your life, because you are unhappy with it as it stands. So as you create your vision, let go of self imposed limitations that will leave you settling for just a different variety of unhappy. Let go of “normal”. Let go of “reasonable”. Let yourself aim high. Let yourself dream.
You Are Allowed To Keep Adjusting Your Vision
- As human beings, we are changing, growing, and developing all the time. We are constantly learning new things about ourselves and the world. Don’t be afraid to keep course correcting and adjusting your vision, as doors open to opportunities you didn’t even know existed before.
Exercises And Articles For Brainstorming Your Ideal Life
Here are some resources on my website that might help you get started with creating a vision for your ideal life:
3. Put The Life Areas To Be Changed Into Priority Order
You absolutely CAN change your whole life, but you can’t change your whole life overnight. Whenever I have tried to implement too many changes at once or whenever I have tried to achieve too much in too short of a period of time, I have ended up right back in square one: overwhelmed, stressed out, and unhappy.
So put the problem areas in priority order and work on them in that order.
We all have our unique priorities in life and you should stay true to yours. In my own life, I have found that physical well-being has to remain priority number 1. If I’m tired and not feeling well, it’s very difficult for me to work on reaching any of my other goals. So sufficient rest, good nutrition, and regular exercise are kind of the foundation on which everything else in my life is built upon.
Here are my simple rules for how much change to take on at any one time:
Work On One Habit At A Time
- If you are changing a habit, work on ONE habit at a time. When that ONE habit has become automatic, work on the next one. For example, when my babies weren’t babies anymore, I wanted to start exercising again and improve my diet. I focused first on establishing an exercise routine. After a few months, it had become second nature for me to go for a run first thing every morning and only then did I start making changes to my diet.
Don’t Compromise Your Health Or Relationships That Matter The Most
- When working to achieve other life goals, only take on as much as you can without compromising physical well-being and relationships that are most important to you. For example, I’m working on changing my career at the moment, but it’s happening very slowly, because I’m a wife and mom first and foremost and because I make taking care of myself (sleep, exercise, and food) my number one priority.
4. Learn How To Transform Your Life – One Area At A Time
One of the biggest obstacles to changing your life for the better is not knowing exactly how to go about it. This has been a reoccurring theme of my depression as well: I’m unhappy, but I don’t know how to change things. And when I don’t know how to change things, I start thinking it’s probably not even possible.
But here’s the thing. Whatever problem you are struggling with, someone else in human history has struggled with as well. Actually a whole lot of someones have likely struggled with the same problem. And some of those someones are out there talking about overcoming that problem. Or recording podcasts. Or crafting blog posts. Or even writing entire books.
Take advantage of those people. Learn from them.
Start with your life area priority #1 and research how other people have managed to make a similar change. Google it. Pinterest it. Order a book from Amazon. Check out my growing library of life change “how to’s”:
Some advice you run into won’t work for you, but some of it will. Keep what works for you and ditch the rest.
5. Set Specific Goals And Create Detailed Plans For Achieving Those Goals
You know what you want and you know how other people have gotten exactly what you want. It’s time for you to start taking action.
But action can be scary. It’s new and different and OMG what if you fail?!
Here are two things I have learned to do to make action less scary:
SET SMART GOALS
SMART goals are:
For example, “to get in shape” is not a SMART goal. “To be able to run for 30 minutes three months from now” is a SMART goal.
CREATE PLANS WITH ITTY BITTY BABY STEPS
Big goals are scary, because they are BIG. They are GIANT and OVERWHELMING! But they become a lot less so, if you break everything into itty bitty DOABLE baby steps. Let’s take the “run for 30 minutes three months from now” example. Here are the first itty bitty baby steps one could take to achieve this goal:
- buy a pair of good running shoes
- find comfortable clothes to run in
- make a play list of music to listen to while exercising
- day 1: 3 minutes of running + 15 minutes of walking
- day 2: 4 minutes of running + 15 minutes of walking
- day 3: 5 minutes of running + 15 minutes of walking
See the post below for more advice on goal setting:
6. Take Control Of Your Time
Making life changes takes time. If you want to lead a healthier lifestyle, you probably need to find more time for sleep, exercise, relaxation, and cooking. If you want to change careers, you probably need to find time for learning new skills. If you want to connect with your significant other more, you probably need to find more time for hanging out. And so on and so on…
Here are three ways to deal with the inevitable time issues:
Start Time Blocking
- Here’s what I mean by time blocking: Start planning your days out in advance by writing down how you will be spending each half-hour block within the day. It sounds super simple, but it works magic in terms of helping you be more intentional about how you are spending your time.
Stick To Your Priorities
- Always keep YOUR personal priorities in mind when you are setting up your daily schedule. When you don’t have time for everything, the things that are not TOP priority need to be cut. And yes, this means that you need to start saying no to some people and activities you used to spend time on.
Slow Progress Is Better Than No Progress
- Sometimes you won’t be able to spend as much time as you would ideally like on whatever life goal you are working on at the moment. When that happens, just do what you have time for. Remember that slow progress is better than no progress! Even if it takes you ten years to get to where you want to be, it’s better to get there in ten years than to not start at all and still be stuck ten years from now.
7. Keep Yourself Motivated
Making life changes is hard and takes time. How do you stay motivated to keep going?
In my experience, here are the conditions that need to be present in order for you to stick to it for the long haul:
You Are Excited About Your Goal
- When you nail down #2 – creating the vision for your ideal life – it becomes a lot easier to find the motivation to take the steps you need to take. You will be EXCITED to do what you need to do, because this is something YOU ACTUALLY WANT. More than you have ever wanted anything else. (And if that’s not how you feel about your vision, then it’s back to the drawing board!)
Your To-Do List Is Doable
- The more you are able to break the tasks ahead of you into baby steps, the more doable they become. Set outrageous end goals, but break them down into itty bitty baby steps.
You Have A Growth Mindset
- Make the words YET, BUT your new mantra, as in “I don’t know how to do this YET, BUT I can learn.”
You Have A Plan For Beating Self Doubt
- If you are struggling with self doubt, read this article:
Yes, changing your life is hard. But it’s even harder to stay stuck in a life you don’t like.
Start working on your new life today!
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