You may have woken up this morning with a strange feeling in your gut. You are probably tired of the life you’re leading. You want to change your life, but you don’t know how to change your life. You’re not even sure what needs to change, but something has to give. Your mind is flooded with questions like: how did I get here? Is this all there is? Am I doing it right? These kinds of open ended questions tend to overwhelm us and don’t lead to any concrete plans on how to make positive changes in your life.
In this three part guide we will dive into the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself and then divulge what to do with all of this insight. Get ready to open the window to endless opportunities, to breathe a breath of fresh air, and know that you are all you really need to begin to change your life around.
If you don’t like where you are, change it, you are not a tree. – Jim Rohn
In the words of the late David Bowie: “ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn to face the strange.” Part of the journey of growth and change involves looking at some of our stranger places, places we probably tend to avoid on a regular basis. It’s time to shine the light on the shadows and get a better grasp on what has led you to this point in your life.
Behavioral scientists Prochaska and DiClemente founded the concept of the Trans-theoretical model (TTM). The Harvard Women’s Health Watch states that, “TTM presumes that at any given time, a person is in one of five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, or maintenance. The idea is that people move from one stage to the next. Each stage is a preparation for the following one, so hurrying through or skipping stages is likely to result in setbacks.” It’s safe to say that if you’re reading this, you’re in the contemplation stage. This stage implies that you want to change your life in the near-term. What is your goal? Your goal is to get to the last stage of maintaining the changes you’ve put in place. Let’s start with a self-assessment.
To start, you will want to answer the following questions and write down your answers. Therapist Elizabeth Sullivan explains, “Writing helps us track our spinning thoughts and feelings, which can lead to key insights.” By answering the following questions, you can hope to find some key insights to on your inner self.
Are you feeling trapped? Helpless? Overwhelmed? Underappreciated? Typically, when someone is looking to make a change, he or she is faced with many challenges. When faced with a challenge, dig deep and be honest with yourself as to what is inspiring you to make a change in your life.
Are you unhappy with your job? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to go back to school? Are you having trouble in your relationship? Do you want to save more money? If you could think of three things that you want to change in your life, what would they be? Again, you need to be honest with your answers. Only you know in your heart what it is that you want to change.
Is there something you find yourself wishing you could do? Somewhere you are dying to visit? Do you wish you had more time to perfect a certain skill set? Are you longing for a new friendship? How about a closer relationship with your kids? Pinpoint the thing or things that you find yourself desiring the most to change or accomplish.
As much as we want to do something new, the idea of life changing experiences can be scary and keep us from taking the first step towards change. Are you willing to move to a new city for a dream job? Would you hire a life coach to give you that kick start toward your goal? What about decluttering and minimizing your belongings? Try to picture your ideal situation and determine the extent to which change is necessary to get there. Are you ready?
At the end of the day, change is uncomfortable but necessary and provides us with a way to which we can learn more about ourselves.
So, now you have a better idea of what and why you need to make a change, you need to get down to some basics before you make any changes. You need to get down to your basics. You need to find what makes you tick. Finding a sense of purpose in your life can be the difference between reaching your goals and just going through the motions of everyday life as if you are stuck on repeat. Without clarity and without a vision of the kind of life you want, how are you going to get there? It’s like hopping in a car on the way to a place you’ve never been without a map. You would end up driving around in circles, stopping to ask for directions, and hopefully, if the stars align – you’ll make it. But the goal isn’t to depend on hope to make your life changes, it’s to find solutions.
How many successful people do you know that just wing it every day? More often than not, you will find that successful people have done some soul searching and found who they are, where they want to end up in life, and then made a plan geared toward success. Starting by clarifying who you are will help you to make decisions that are focused on shaping your future self.
Below are some questions that you should answer before beginning life changing experiences. You will want to write your answers down for later reflection. Keep in mind as you are answering the questions: there are no right or wrong answers.
Asking these big questions will help you gain a deeper insight into who you are as a person. There are two different types of belief schemas: the beliefs we tell ourselves about ourselves and the beliefs we have about others and the world.
The beliefs we have about ourselves can propel us forward in life or hold us back. Saying things like “I’m a failure,” or “I don’t deserve happiness,” write a script for our lives that keep us from being successful. One of the first things you can do is think, “I’m just as worthy as anyone else to find happiness,” or “I may fail, but at least I have the courage to try.” When we shift our attitude (which will be addressed at length in another section) we can find more success.
What beliefs do you have about yourself that limit you? Have you ever asked yourself why you feel this way? Does this reasoning make sense to you?
To get a better idea on how to do this, let’s look at a woman named Nancy. When she was ten she had a bad experience giving a class presentation. So bad, that for the next twenty years she repeatedly told herself that she couldn’t speak publicly. It affected her school life, her work performance, and even her social life. The belief that she could not speak publicly was really a product of her own imagination. The fear she had about public speaking became so fierce that she actually believed public speaking was an impossibility for her.
So to change her ways, Nancy has to answer the following questions:
First, Nancy wants to overcome her fear of public speaking. She hasn’t been able to do this because she told herself she couldn’t and she unintentionally trained herself to feel anxiety whenever the idea of public speaking arose. Her belief that something “bad” would happen has kept her from even trying. By doing this, Nancy may feel a sense of encouragement. Now that she knows the “what” and the “why” – Nancy can begin to undo the beliefs by carefully retraining her brain to acknowledge her worth and ability to conquer the challenge of public speaking. She will discover she can speak publicly.
Nancy is able to make changes when she tries to change her perceptions.
Most organizations and businesses have a clear vision for why they do what they do and how they intend to do it. This is the organization’s mission statement. It captures their overall goals and sums it up in a nice, neat thought. It’s important for individuals to have a mission statement that can guide them as they look to make life decisions.
Creating a personal mission statement gives you clarity and provides a motto you can integrate into your day-to-day life, even when you feel as if you want to give up. This personal constitution will help you to find a new drive in life.
Identify your value (what you bring to the table), your goal, and the why. Use some of the information you wrote down from the previous section to help write your mission statement. Below are some sample mission statements that can help to get you started.
You want your mission statement to inspire you.
Expect your mission statement to change throughout your lifetime as you change certain aspects of your life such as your career, your interests, and your skills. Write down your mission statement as a goal for your future self. Each day, going forward, ask yourself if what you’re doing helps you reach your goals.
The additional questions below can help you to get a deeper understanding of your self and how to make the right changes in your life.
You may be surprised when you re-read what you wrote down as you discover new insights about yourself. You now have a good idea as to where you are and what you know you need to work on.
As you reflect on these questions, think about making a vision board for yourself. In the same way that writing helps us visualize a goal, crafting a collage of magazine clippings, printed material and other tidbits can be a daily motivator and a way to sort out your thoughts. To begin creating your own vision board you can use a piece of paper, poster board or a cork board as backing.
There will always be seven million and one reasons why you can’t, won’t, or don’t do something. Don’t let transforming your life be held back by these negative words. You may feel scared, angry, or tired. You may also feel like you don’t have enough time to get anything done. Obstacles like fear, poor self-image, low energy, discomfort, procrastination, perfectionism, lack of support, timing, no motivation, or uncertainty all play a part in your struggle to really commit to change.
Fear is often the first obstacle you may encounter when thinking about how to change your life around. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of embarrassment, and even fear of fear itself can all stand in your way of making any changes. Where is your fear coming from? Are you afraid of failing? So what if you failed at something in the past. Think about what you can learn from it. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that do not work.” Without failure, we never learn how to better ourselves. Without making mistakes, we have nothing to learn from and cannot get any better.
Another source of fear can come from being afraid to step out of your comfort zone. The days you are most uncomfortable can be the days you learn the most about yourself. If you go to the same coffee shop, work the same job at the same desk, and go home to the same house thinking the same things, you will find very few opportunities to learn something from yourself. You have to create the conditions in which change and growth are possible for you. Go to a different coffee shop, join a club, or start recycling. In other words, change your story by making small adjustments in your daily life. These small steps will empower you to no longer tell yourself “I can’t, won’t, or don’t do that.” Instead you will be the one who says, “Hey, I can, will, and do that.” The only limitations that exist are the ones we impose on ourselves. Family therapist Roger S. Gil explains, “When we experience the world or ourselves in a certain way for an extended period of time, we develop core beliefs that make up our paradigm for how life is supposed to be.” That paradigm becomes our story. Take it by the reigns and improve your life, you got this.
You may still feel as though you are freaking out and that’s okay. In fact, freaking out is encouraged, let me explain why. Let’s start by comparing our complex brains to that of a computer. For those of you that are unfamiliar with some computer speak, a “source code” is the language a human uses to communicate with a computer about how a piece of software, a website, or an application should operate. Family therapist Gil explains that, “Rewriting your own ‘source code’ is supposed to be hard. It’ll get harder to rewrite over time but if you don’t do it, you’ll eventually be left with a bunch of useless code that can’t run on current platforms. Give yourself permission to feel the change-related distress and all of the associated emotions that come along with it. It sucks but not allowing yourself to process those emotions will prevent you from moving forward. If you don’t process them you’ll have to isolate yourself from all things that represent the “distressing” change just to be able to function.”
Remember to tell yourself “I’ve got this,” even if at times you feel like you don’t. The more you positively reinforce yourself, the more you will begin to believe and therefore live out your dreams.
If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.
Want to know how to change your life for the better? If you are serious about creating a life changing experience, you must first change the ways in which you operate. Attitude is arguably the most important factor in your journey; it has the power to create a ripple effect on everything else in your life. Have you ever smiled at a stranger on the street? Try it sometime and see what happens. Have you chosen to give someone a hug instead of a judgmental look? Stress hormones, known as cortisol, decrease and positive hormones, known as oxytocin, increase when you give or receive a hug. “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” explains Dr. Matt Hertenstein during an interview on NPR. He continues to explain, “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.”
Extending simple gestures like smiles and hugs to individuals around you in your day-to-day routine can make all the difference in the world around you and not cost you much effort. As the Law of Attraction states, “like attracts like.” In other words, if you’re giving out positive energy, more of it will tend to find its way back to you. Think positively and experience positivity.
Emotional intelligence is a measurement of your ability to understand and take charge of your emotions, as well as your capacity to recognize the emotions of other people. You’ve probably heard of an IQ, which measures cognitive intelligence, like how able you are to formulate algebraic equations and dissect The Odyssey. However, studies have shown that your IQ is less than 20 percent effective in predicting job success. EQ, on the other hand, was found to be a 27 to 47 percent predictor of job success. Dr. Stein and Book, co-authors of The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success explain that EQ “is made up of short-term, tactical, ‘dynamic’ skills that can be brought into play as the situation warrants. Thus, the individual building blocks of emotional intelligence – and its overall structure – can be improved by means of training, coaching and experience.”
Emotional intelligence researchers recognize five main areas of EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy. and social skills. How you operate within these five areas dictates how effective your performance is at work, at school, and in life.
Self-awareness allows you to be more in tune with yourself, creates self-confidence and increases self-worth. Forgive yourself for past errors, develop your strengths and practice self-love. Create healthy boundaries in life with friends, work, and family. Learn that it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. Saying yes all the time can burn you out and make you resentful.
Self-regulation means exhibiting self-control, being honest with yourself and others, being conscientious, maintaining an open mind, and remaining flexible when change presents itself. Focus on complaining less and focus more on finding solutions.
Motivation is your drive to achieve, your ability to commit to a goal, your initiative to be ready when opportunity comes knocking, and your power to remain optimistic.
Empathy is crucial. To demonstrate empathy, you should be observant of others needs and help them to achieve their goals without feelings of jealousy or bitterness. Learn to recognize when people are happy, sad, frustrated, or confused and use this information to discern how you should interact with them. Sending the wrong signals to someone because you aren’t able to read them can sometimes cause unnecessary conflict.
Social skills are a culmination of empathy, self-regulation, and self-awareness. Learn how to effectively communicate, manage conflict, build bonds, influence, lead, and inspire people to have successful social skills. Be a catalyst for change, be patient, be a team player, and cooperate with others to achieve shared goals.
EQ is something that evolves with you. It’s not just a byproduct of your gene pool. To improve your EQ, start by taking one element from each of the above five categories and try to incorporate it into your life every day for one week. Pay close attention to how being intentional with your thoughts and day-to-day choices contributes to a more positive lifestyle. Intentional thinking is much like a lost art. In an era of action-packed and information filled days, we have a tendency to react versus slowing down and intentionally responding (more on that in the next section). The more that we stop and absorb the moment we are experiencing, exercise self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy, the more likely we are to find that familiar stressors become non-existent (like miscommunications and jealousy) and optimism is allowed to blossom.
Let’s next talk about one of the most important aspects of attitude: reaction. Have you ever been faced with a situation in which you have feel you have no control? Such a situation could be when someone cuts you off on the highway only to slow down. That person, of course, makes the light but you don’t. We’ve all been there. You have a choice, even if you don’t feel like you do, as to how you will react in every situation.
Using the above road rage example, here are two possible reactions:
Think about this situation as if it were to happen to you. How do you think you may react?
The first response, in the above example, illustrates someone who feels like they “deserve” better treatment, that fairness in life is something they expect at every turn. This high standard will undoubtedly lead to feelings of disappointment and frustration throughout everyday interactions. Unmet expectations often lead to tomorrow’s frustrations.
The second response in the example comes from a person that realizes simply: it is what it is. Instead of stressing out over what should have been, this person employs a positive response which is something they can control and surely benefits them. Some people may consider this as too passive, but really, what are you gaining by freaking out over something that you have no physical control over? By continuing to argue with reality you are only adding fuel to the fire. You may not like what transpired, and that’s fine. But, wrestling with what should have happened is never going to change the past. So instead of saying, “I wish that person hadn’t of cut me off, now I’m going to be late,” try to say something more along the lines of, “I got cut off, and now I’m going to be late, let me call my boss and let him know.” This demonstrates an acceptance of what happened and a solution to the problem it caused.
It’s hard to stop these negative feelings from stirring up because we are just so used to responding in this way. The goal now is to recognize when we feel wronged or upset and decide how we can better react to the situation. Remember, you cannot control what happens to you, you can only control how you react to it. And that is wherein your true power lies. Your reaction to a situation can actually change the situation itself.
The truth is, it’s hard to change the things we do unless we see how they are negatively impacting us and impacting those around us. And that is why working with a third-party, such as a life coach, can be so beneficial. The next time you are faced with a situation that frustrates you, upsets you, or makes you feel like you were treated unfairly, stop and ask yourself, “why do I feel this way and is this reaction helping me?” If the answer is no, then reevaluate and respond in a way that is not negative.
How often do you reflect on an argument and think to yourself that the argument wasn’t even worth it. Some things are worth fighting for and others just simply aren’t. Social workers Linda and Charlie Bloom believe that the key to successfully eliminating battle baggage from your life is simply knowing the difference between what’s worth the fight and what isn’t.
When faced with an argument, you should first express that you want to provide some sort of clarity into the argument as long as it continues to support a respectful dialogue. Alternatively, you should not react in an argument in ways that generate opposition and defensiveness. In other words, if you are trying to clarify a point so that the other person can understand better where you’re coming from, you should go for it. But remember to do so in a calm and collected way. If you are finding yourself getting defensive and worked up on the subject, stop.
Whether you feel as if you are about to get into an argument with someone or you’re actively in the midst of one, try to do a silent evaluation. Try asking yourself the following questions: What are you hoping to come from this? Is this a matter of pride or proving a point for the sake of proving it? Are you defending yourself or just arguing for the sake of argument?
Learning how to be unapologetically self-aware is a weapon to transform every interaction, intention, and outcome of our life. Instead of spending nights arguing with your partner over who said what and when, realize that the result will be the same: you disagree because you see it from your perspective and them, theirs. You can’t change the way they process information or how they view your body language or words, but you can change how you act or react.
If there is no reasonable resolution to the situation take a deep breath and let it go. Spend that time doing something beneficial instead of arguing. Remember how positive energy also attracts positive energy? If you continue to employ these new tactics they will began to change the relationship you have with those around you and most importantly, yourself.
Have you ever experienced a time when you’ve thought something over and over again but never spoke it aloud? And when you finally did, it somehow felt more real? Like that awesome and weird feeling you got the night of your wedding when you finally vocalized your new name “Mrs. Higgins,” even though you had thought about it a gazillion times.
Sometimes our truths aren’t gleeful. Sometimes, they are tragic, woeful, and all too painful to speak aloud. These are the pieces of ourselves that are the most important to release. For as you let your truth escape your lips you may finally find peace or an answer that you have been painstakingly seeking. Perhaps, an answer to a question that has ultimately been holding you back from making progress. You vocalizing to a friend that you are terrified of working a dead-end job forever when your heart lies somewhere else isn’t going to make the life-change fairy appear. What it can do, however, is free you of an underlying notion of discontent and allow friends and family to help steer you in directions to solve your problems.
Expressing the truth can also take other forms, like, upholding, or learning to create, personal boundaries. Instead of saying ‘no, it’s fine’ when you feel otherwise, be truthful with yourself and others. Instead of telling a white lie to a friend to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, tell them the truth. Not only do you deserve the chance to express your feelings and vulnerabilities, others deserve to hear how you really feel. Being more real leads to more genuine relationships, a more honest approach to your own life, and a weight lifted off your shoulders.
When we experience how speaking our truths can transform our lives, we learn that even if our voice shakes, speaking our truths helps us lead a more fulfilled and authentic life.
How often do you express your gratitude? You may say thank you when someone holds the door for you at the store or when someone compliments you, but when was the last time you expressed gratitude for having food on the table or a roof over your head? These “givens” are just as worthy of gratitude as a lottery win or a promotion at work.
Take a few moments every day to be thankful for what you have, instead of always focusing on what you don’t have. You can try to keep a gratitude journal. The grass is always greener where you water it.
During a study at the University of Kentucky, participants were asked to respond to a writing prompt and then they were either praised or scorned. Those that received praise experienced a decreased desire to seek revenge and they were less likely to retaliate, even in the face of future negative feedback. Gratitude has been proven to reduce depression and stress, and increase happiness. Through happiness, we will be able to view our lives in a better light, be grateful for the little things, make better choices, and ultimately change the course of our future. So, in the end, an attitude of gratitude tends to lead to positivity.
You are probably familiar with the glass-is-half-full adage which illustrates two archetypes of people: pessimists and optimists. Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, says, “If we habitually believe, as does the pessimist, that misfortune is our fault, is enduring, and will undermine everything we do, more of it will befall us than if we believe otherwise.” In other words, self-fulfilling prophecies are real. The more we reinforce positive thinking, gratitude, and optimism, the more likely we are to look at the world around us through a different lens, which ultimately affects how we act, interact, and react. Remind yourself through daily affirmations that you will let positivity win every time and watch that notion manifest before your eyes.
Dr. Seligman, found after 25 years of studying optimism that, “changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism.” Practice this: every time an event happens that is less than desirable, instead of focusing on what went wrong, focus on what good can come from it.
Some of life’s lessons are learned at the worst times.
As we dig deeper into the things we can do to change our lives, we realize that we have to change many aspects of our lives, not just one part. It’s a combination of treating and analyzing our mind, body and soul. Below are 10 ways you can do that.
What interests you? Admittedly, basket-weaving isn’t the most trendy of past times but I assure you someone, somewhere, right now is really getting their weave on and they are genuinely happy because of it. Maybe reading a book, re-arranging the furniture like the amateur interior designer you are, or going mushroom hunting are things that tend to interest you. Maybe you like to sing like a maniac while gardening or you like to handcraft hipster jewelry. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the fiddle and join an alternative country band. Now is a better time than ever. Embrace your current interests and try to find new ones that will engage you. You could find your inner artist. Step outside of your comfort zone and shake it up. Being surrounded by those who appreciate the same things you do is going to help you to pave the way for new friendships, new skills, and a sense of community (which is very important and is on the decline in our age of social media-dom. That conundrum is here).
Part of the reason you’re seeking a life change is because what you’re doing isn’t working. The goal is to find your basket-weaving and then find your basket-weaving people.
It may sound silly but the very idea of self-expression, in whatever form it may take, can be the difference between destructive behavior and a cathartic release. Now, art doesn’t necessarily mean creating your own rendition of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Artistry can take the form of music, web design, DIY projects, photography, pottery, writing poetry, woodworking, and the list goes on. Any one activity that you put your heart and soul into, that you feel like is an extension of yourself, that you turn to when you need an outlet, and that others can view as a piece of you, and relate to is your art.
Not only is art an emotional outlet, it can help us develop personally and socially. Newcastle University researcher Anne Goulding elaborates by saying, “Art can take us out of our normal lives and enable us to change our thinking, which can have a profound influence on how we relate to the world around us.” Art serves to challenge us, allows us to be authentically ourselves, and provides a safe space to emote.
So, if you are finding yourself agreeing with the above, and realizing that you feel more connected, more alive, and more relatable when you do a specific activity, you have found your art. Now, the next step is to make time for your art. Perfect it. Share it. Have fun with it! If you haven’t found your art yet, then consider this your call-to-action. Pick up an instrument, a paintbrush, or a hammer and see what inspires you.
Carve time out every week to practice your craft; use it as a way to work through tough situations, as a channel to create change, and as a tangible force for self-awareness.
There is no surer way to increase your mood, your self-esteem, and your health than to get out and sweat. If gyms aren’t your thing, that’s fine. Instead, try doing a simple physical change like taking the stairs instead of the elevator every day. Instead of binge watching Netflix tonight, maybe try out that new Zumba class you read about, and then you can watch an episode when you get home. This decision not only engages you in new activities and teaches you a new skill, it also gives you the opportunity to meet new people while adding a stress release to your day. And you’ll feel great doing it.
Researchers from the Beckman Institute found that increased physical activity actually increased the integrity of white matter in the brain. According to Psychology Today, “white matter integrity is linked to faster neural conduction between brain regions and superior cognitive performance.” In other words, every time you do a crunch you’re just getting smarter. How’s that for motivation? Start with a simple workout twice a week. Make it a hike, a bike ride, a swim, a long walk, a dance class, Pilates, working out on the farm, or etc. The point is to work up a sweat, get your heart pumping, and ultimately reap the rewards.
Physical activity is a very positive and rewarding life choice. It can increase your self-image, make you healthier, improve your outlook and make you feel more accomplished. It’s like a checkmate to your old self.
It’s no secret that our diets can influence our life. Whether you’re a vegan, you’re gluten-free, you’re on the paleo diet, or you have eliminated sugar and upped the kale in your diet, your diet affects how you live your life. But, how does what we eat affect our lives in a much broader sense?
Of course, when it comes to dieting, many people think of their desire to lose weight. When we commit to shedding pounds we are also shedding our poor self-image, lack of confidence, and harmful habits that can lead to other health problems. If you have considered weight loss as one of your what-I-need-to-change stressors then make a plan to start addressing it this week. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.
Other diet related changes to consider are increasing your water intake (our bodies love water), balance your gut flora with probiotics, be aware of possible food intolerances (lactose and gluten, for example) and take daily vitamin supplements to ensure you’re getting all of nature’s goodies each and every day.
Just as Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle from the hit series Parks and Recreation often did, you need to remember to “treat yo’self.” Splurge and get that haircut and color you were hesitant about. Buy that expensive pair of Italian leather shoes. Hell, treat yourself to a banana split if that’s what makes you happy. For some of us, splurging is the antithesis of self-love, and that’s okay. Caring for yourself comes in many different forms.
How is your sleep schedule? If you’re thinking, what’s that? Maybe invest some more time in getting some shut-eye. You will be surprised what a well-rested mind is capable of accomplishing. Or maybe it’s not unusual to put in 50+ hours at your job. How often do you take a break? Sometimes just taking a brief timeout from your job can be the reset button you need to be more productive.
Treating yourself is self-love, it reminds you that you are important, too.
Contrary to what most people interpret this Timothy Leary quote to mean (do drugs and drop out of productive society), this famous counterculture phrase is actually exactly what your new life mantra should be. Why? To “turn on” in essence means to utilize the genetic tools you already possess. Are you naturally a go-getter? Hone it. Do you possess the ever-so-desirable ability to just listen to a friend in need? Hone it. Do people think you’re an organization freak? Hone it. Recognize these traits and then use them to your own advantage. To “tune in” simply means: be present. Live harmoniously with the world around you, engage, theorize, laugh, and bring the skills you “turned on” everywhere you go. Now that you’re in tune it’s time to “drop out.” Detach yourself from involuntary commitments and create healthy boundaries.
Lately, there has been a new trend towards being more present and being more mindful. Detractors think it’s too much of a new age belief and won’t give it a second glance, but actually, it’s worth your attention.
“Mindfulness is simply the perception of what’s fully happening in the moment not distorted by bias, playing old stories, usually that have something to do with regret, over and over and over, or anticipating future events that most likely will never happen,” explains meditation teacher and best-selling author Sharon Salzberg, she goes on to say that, “mindfulness helps relieve anxiety and can give us a real sense of connection and fulfillment, as well as insight and understanding. The idea is, by developing a different relationship with our experience, we get to see it differently.”
So how do we cultivate mindfulness? Through regular meditation, breathing techniques, yoga, and self-awareness. What exactly is mediation? In essence, it’s the cessation of thought. Shutting off our thinking brains to create inner peace is no easy task. At any given moment we may be thinking of a dozen different things and trying to turn that off is wildly challenging. As with anything, practice makes perfect. Often times, focusing on our breathing can channel the energy of our wandering mind to be more present to our body and consciousness.
Meditation might seem boring, especially if you’re not used to slowing down until you’re face first on your pillow at night. But give it a chance. Even if you don’t see a change in your behavior others may.
One of the biggest obstacles to being present is our ability to multi-task. You may be sitting on the subway, drinking a cup of coffee, listening to music, and reading the newspaper all at once. Do you think you’re fully enjoying any of those things? Probably not. This isn’t to say that those moments aren’t allowed, but it is to say that on occasion, if we mindfully do one thing at a time, we can reduce our stress and generate a more fulfilling life experience.
Unplug. Yeah, it’s that simple. Take time every day to put your phone down, turn off the TV, walk away from the computer, and just BE.
As much as we may not want to admit it we probably spend at least an hour a day (that’s being conservative) scrolling through our newsfeed and quietly comparing our life to what we are seeing on our screens. Remember, people don’t post the moments when they are at their lowest points, they post the highlight reel of their lives. Don’t let their highlight reel go to your head. In fact, chances are, someone is looking at your selected reel and thinking the same thing.
Social media, entertainment news, politics, and article after listicle after meme, the information overload is draining. Often we spend too much time doing these inane things versus building intentional blocks of meaningfulness. Limiting your digital intake, or taking a full digital detox, can benefit your health and your mentality.
There is no internet in the middle of the woods, but it’s guaranteed you will find a better connection.
Not only is the everlasting digital information hangover a frequent leech, but negative or toxic relationships and friendships, bad habits like heavy drinking and self-medicating, and clutter can also literally suck the life right out of you. Don’t let your productivity get zapped by distractions. Weigh the pros and cons of every situation. If you are having trouble kicking some bad habits consider seeking help from a professional life coach, friends and family, or even a substance abuse counselor if that kind of help is necessary.
In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” Make your choices count.
Declutter your life emotionally and materialistically, too. Find a routine for yourself. Waking up early and maintaining a schedule is important to keeping commitments you’ve made to yourself and to use your time most efficiently. Declutter your house or your workspace for positive results. Our minds tend to mirror our environment. If it’s chaotic and messy there is a high chance your thoughts will be as well. Minimalize belongings, have a yard sale or at the very least, reorganize. Productivity tends to flourish with organization.
As humans, we have a proclivity towards nurturing living things. It makes us feel good and exemplifies our capacity to empathize with another being. The practice of helping or caring for others can also increase our self-confidence and self-worth. Consider volunteering for a local organization once a month, or even once a week.
Some great groups to consider are Habitat for Humanity (they build homes for families in need), the Red Cross (they respond to disasters like house fires and floods), or a church that may provide meals for the hungry. When you volunteer, you gain a sense of community, empowerment, and that undeniable warm feeling that you’re helping someone in need. Participating with an aid organization can put your own life in perspective and make you more grateful for the things you already have. And it’s a great resumé builder. Volunteering just may be the boost you need to start making other changes in your life.
If you’re not up to volunteering, what about getting a pet? It doesn’t have to be an out-of-control two month old puppy either. A bird, a hamster, a cat, ultimately a living creature that relies on you for survival. You can gain companionship and learn responsibility from caring for a pet. For some of you, a pet is way too much, and that’s understandable. Another option could be a houseplant to care for. Research suggests that having plants around is a great contributor for productivity and your health. Plus, they can serve practical uses like edible herbs for cooking or Aloe Vera for a sunburn.
Think for a moment about where you live, where you work, your budget, and your appearance. How does it make you feel? Maybe upset, maybe indifferent, maybe frustrated.
In the beginning of this guide you were asked how far you were willing to go to make changes in your life. Now is a good time to reflect on that question. Would you consider quitting your job to find a new one? How about packing up the family and relocating to a new town? How about going back to school for a career change? What about crafting a realistic budget in an effort to save money, even if it means forgoing part of your current lifestyle? What about giving your appearance a complete makeover? Or, for some of the more adventurous people, putting all of your stuff in storage and heading overseas to volunteer for a while?
The thought of any of these options may immediately bring anxiety, fear, and a notion that “there’s no way.” And that’s okay. Getting out of your comfort zone and making a big life change is going to feel scary. But think of the benefits it can bring to your life when you make that big change. Besides the fear, you may feel a sense of thrill and fulfillment as the newness of the change and the excitement that you’re on your true life path.
Navigating these kind of extreme decisions will be challenging, but listen to your intuition, appropriately plan a course of action, and then go for it. Life is just too short to delay.
Your present circumstances don’t determine where you’ll go, only where you’ll start.
Don’t overdo it. Just because you feel energized to change your life don’t expect it to happen overnight. Big transitions take time, patience, and dedication. Set a realistic timeline for yourself, punctuated with relevant and attainable goals. Put your goals and timeline down on paper so you can hang it next to your vision board and cross off small goals as you meet them. Doing so will positively reinforce the choices you’ve made, increasing your confidence and strength.
One of the fastest ways you can overwhelm yourself is by trying to set massive milestones that even the most mindful, organized, and self-aware guru couldn’t accomplish. Be easy on yourself. If you are unsure if your goals and/or timeline is reasonable, reach out to your friends or family and have someone check it out. They may be able to help you adjust things to make your goals more manageable.
While this process will be difficult, don’t discount it as a chore! How to start changing your life is learning to love the little intricacies that make it yours. Enjoy the ride as you navigate your way over obstacles and find success. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but still take yourself seriously enough to make progress. Remember to laugh, love, and most importantly, live. Use your patience when necessary, forgiveness when you feel wronged, and to go with the flow. You will find when you employ this kind of jovial perspective on life – things seem to fall into place more often.
Deciding to make life changes is not something you should attempt to do alone. Everyone needs at least one person to bounce ideas off of and to share the happy moments of success with. Evaluate the people in your life, do they encourage you? Or do they hold you back? Civilly remove toxic relationships from your life. Keeping people who are only acting as roadblocks is going to drain you.
As you progress in your life changes, making moves to improve your mind and body every day, you will undoubtedly be drawn to like-minded people. Just make sure that you set a standard for the new people you bring in your life. Don’t allow those who reinforce negative behavior to get into your personal circle of wellness. You’ve worked too hard to let someone else drag you down.
If you don’t have anyone to reach out to, find a life coach to be your guiding light until you find the strength to change your life on your own.
Contrary to traditional psychotherapy, life coaches offer solutions for your future, rather than untangling your past. Life coaches deal with healthy clients who need a push in the right direction, not with illness and pathology. They deal with problem-solving on a specific timeline with an outcome in mind; psychotherapy tends to be more ongoing and open ended.
Life coaches create a synergistic relationship with their clients, empowering people to overcome bumps on their roadmap with confidence. Your life coach will use his or her “helicopter view” (outside perspective) to shine the light on some things in your life that you may have accidently overlooked.
When you decide to work with a life coach you can expect to:
You already have a head start on a positive life change now that you’ve read this guide. A life coach will stand beside you as you choose the path of change that resonates with you most. He or she will pick you up when you’re down and remind you what you’re fighting for when you’re too tired to remember. The mission is change, and you’re well on your way.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu
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