Life Lessons: Events that Changed Your Life

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When you seem to be stuck in a rut, ‘one day’ can become an all too comfortable mantra that lets you off the hook of making change. Sometimes it is just a whole lot better to act first and reflect later than to continue piling up dreams without doing anything more about them. Changing your life around is somewhat of a journey but it has to begin with the first steps and that can be done immediately provided you have made the decision to do so. Whether you’re fed up with what you’re doing now or you really want to improve on a mediocre existence, you can make an instant decision to change now and to get the momentum started for a longer-term better approach to life.

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Stop thinking about what you could be doing. Ruminating can be a source of procrastination, avoidance-by-perfectionism and just an excuse to feel sorry for yourself. The more you think over what you wish you could be doing, the more you’re spending time in your head and thinking about what might go wrong than actually setting forth and doing something. The answer for a quick change is to just stop all that thinking and get active. Realize that it doesn’t have to be anything big, just as long as you choose to do something active and do it now.

Tell yourself that it doesn’t matter what time of day or day of the week or month of the year it is. There is a saying in start-up companies, which is basically that there is never a good time to start a new business. There are always going to be problems in the way and there are always going to be challenges you didn’t foresee. However, sitting in one spot isn’t going to make those problems and challenges go away and there isn’t going to be a ‘perfect’ time ever to change yourself. The best time is the time you decide to start making changes and that can be absolutely any time, like right now. If you have the will, you have the motivation. If you have the belief that you can change your life around, you will do it. Despite the challenges that will present themselves.

Tidy up your environment. It’s hard to fly when your wings are pinned down by the clutter of your life. Ask yourself if you really need those piles of papers, those unwatched DVDs, the unworn clothes. Everything that takes up space in your life and covers up action zones is a source of distraction and deterrence. Clearing things away to leave gaps and space will help to free up space in your mind, letting you soar again.

Start with your desk, your bedroom, your bag, your digital mess, or another small clutter problem. Remember, this is about getting started, not about winning a medal in cleaning everything. Although your ultimate aim might be to declutter the house or office from room one to room ten, begin at room one and make a small difference that lets you feel good first. Then, you can build on the good feelings and keep clearing away in small increments.

Whenever you feel like giving up and sitting on top of those piles of things again, remind yourself that a clean and tidy living environment will bring greater relaxation and help you to focus more on the important things such as school, work, business planning, exercise, writing reply emails, and so forth.

Sit down in a piece of your tidier environment and write out what you’d like to change. Sometimes change is so big, so amorphous and so scary that you simply don’t want to contemplate it at all. But you can do something about that, and you can do it right now. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write down the following things without too much thinking:

What do I like about myself right now? List at least five things - you can do it, indeed you must do it because these are your strengths on which you’ll keep drawing.

Write down the things you don’t like about yourself or your present situation. Be realistic and kind here - it’s pointless writing down something about hating your big nose and blaming it for stopping your promotion possibilities. Write down real barriers, like your inability to make interviews on time probably being the cause of missing out on promotions.

Pick out the top three to five things you’d like to change. Again, quickly and without too much thinking it over, write down what things you think you can do to make changes. Do not overwork this - there is plenty of time for fine adjustment later.

Look at what you’ve written down. You’ve just written yourself a quick, personal roadmap. Over time you can refine this roadmap but for now, you’ve broken down those large and looming ‘it’s all too hard to change’ feelings and turned them into some concrete issues. If you haven’t done that, go back and quickly try it again. If you’re trying too hard, you’re overthinking it - let your first thoughts and feelings do all the talking for now.

Reflect deeply later. While it is commonplace to suggest that you should think long and hard about making big leaps such as a career change or moving cities, sometimes this simply turns into an excuse to not ever do what you’re longing to do. Given our increasingly extended lifespans, many people are discovering that it’s okay to take the leap of faith and try new things, then to reflect on the change later. It might be an approach that sets you free.

Start doing. Without reflecting over it too much, begin working on some of the things on your list. For now, that could be as simple as facing fear by acting. For example, someone afraid of getting heart disease might feel snowed under by all the possible causes of heart disease that he or she feels that it’s an inevitable consequence of the stressed-out lifestyle he or she is currently leading. Such a person could begin somewhere very small but very doable - namely, by beginning to floss every day so that the gums stop bleeding. Dental and medical advice has shown a correlation between bad gums and heart disease - by starting to floss, right now, this person evinces an intention to do it every day from now on and this is life-changing, all within a few hours. What small thing can you do right now, to get started?

Whatever it is, break each to-do down into smaller steps. Just say you want a promotion. The first thing is to head to the library today to borrow a book on getting promotions. Then call a friend who always seems to get promotions easily and ask for a chat to get tips over a beer together. Block out 10 minutes a day for the next week in your calendar to read that book and go over the notes from your conversation with your friend. Review what you’ve learned by the end of the week, then consider amping it up to 20 minutes of effort that includes roleplaying and cover letter writing, etc. Set a target that at the end of a month, you’ll begin applying for promotions, building on your 10 to 20 minutes a day of effort.

Make use of supportive systems. Choose your support according to what works for you but whatever it is, make sure that you have something in place. Right now you can make a decision as to what will work for you - to-do lists, calendar or phone reminders, affirmations stuck on the mirror, a friend or family member giving you supportive reminders, a diary/journal, a public promise online, a forum support group, whatever. There are as many ways to derive support as there are ways to deny yourself the chance to make much-desired changes. Pick what works for you and let it continue to support you as you keep implementing the changes.

To-lists seem to help many, many people and fortunately, there are many ways to make them - digitally on a computer, phone or electronic device, by hand on paper, a whiteboard, chalkboard or pinboard, on sticky notes or, if you’re into craft, you could even stitch yourself a to-do list for the upcoming year! A to-do list is helpful because you can check off the achievements as you reach them, giving yourself a sense of satisfaction that is second to none.

Take good care of yourself. Perhaps one or more of your changes is about your personal health, be it physical, mental or emotional. But even if it isn’t, taking good care of yourself goes hand in hand with making any successful transition because it’s a way of saying to yourself - ’You really matter and I am taking the time to care for what matters.’ Good grooming, regular exercise, healthy food, regular medical care, etc. are all ways of ensuring that you remain healthy, fit and in a good frame of mind. You deserve to take good care of your body and mind, so don’t neglect this aspect of yourself.

Be realistically patient. It might take a week, a month, a year or even more to achieve all the changes you’re after. But you’ve changed in just a few hours because you started and that’s really the whole secret of change - surmounting the hurdles of psychological fear of change and actually doing something more than worrying, ruminating and mulling it all over to excess. Work methodically at making change a daily part of your lifestyle, embracing it as a part of who you are and what makes you a constantly improved person. It’s an opportunity, not a threat and it begins now by accepting that you can change your life around simply because you want to. Most of all, bear in mind that change is a constant. Changing yourself will continue as a lifelong journey, for the person able to best embrace change will also be able to best grow into who he or she really is for that point in time, only to expect that this too will change as more time passes.

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