Changing your life for the better is about you, the details of your life, your specific environment, your goals and aspirations, and your motivation to continue to strive for a fulfilled and healthy life.
Becoming the best possible version of yourself isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a life’s work.
At the same time, it’s perhaps the most worthwhile way to spend your limited time on this earth.
Realizing that you need to change your life is the start of a grand adventure. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise it will be worthwhile.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that even some seemingly simple changes can have a positive effect on your life.
As life coach Talane Miedaner writes, “The key to making a big change is to make a small change first.”
And over time, it can be astonishing how these small changes can add up to change your life forever.
Here are some small steps that can help you make big changes in your life.
1) Know what you want
This can be harder than it sounds.
Some of us are fortunate enough to know exactly what we want out of life, even from an early age. Others only have a vague idea of what they want, or may only understand what they don’t want.
As psychologist Jennice Vilhauer writes, knowing what you don’t want can guide you toward what you do.
It may help to write down what you don’t want and reflect on how it shows what you do.
For example, if you don’t want to live in the city, it indicates you might be happy in the country. If you don’t want to be poor, you need to find a way to make more money.
The more clarity you have about the life you want, the easier it will be to go out and get it.
2) Identify what keeps you stuck
Why aren’t you where you want to be?
That’s a question that is going to have a different answer for everyone. Oftentimes, we can’t help the things that hold us back.
However, once you start thinking about it, you may be surprised to find that many of the things holding you back from the life you want can be changed.
Clinical psychologist and author Deborah Serani recommends three steps to identify where you are stuck in life:
- Stop. Taking time to think about your actions and motivations can make everything clearer to you. Before choosing a course of action, take a minute to think things through.
- Look around. Take stock of how your problems are affecting you. Is it just at work, in school, or home? Or is it every aspect of your life?
- Listen to yourself. Your heart and mind will tell you what you really need. You need to trust your instincts to guide you toward the life you want.
3) Manage your time
Once you know what you want and what is keeping you from getting it, it’s time to start going after it. But you won’t get very far unless you learn how to manage your time.
Managing your time efficiently means devoting the appropriate amount of time to the tasks you need to perform. This can help you stay motivated and, over the long-term, can produce incredible results.
If you have difficulty finding time for everything you have to do, you can try several time management strategies. For instance:
- Use a paper or online calendar to block out time for projects that are important to you.
- Find ways to use dead time. For instance, you could listen to audiobooks to learn things on your commute to work, or walk on a treadmill to improve your health while you are at the office.
- Keep track of what you’ve accomplished. This will help you stay motivated.
- Take on your most challenging tasks at the time of day when you have the most energy.
- Schedule time for rest.
4) Get enough sleep
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that being productive means you need to always be on. Two hours of unfocused, unproductive work are less valuable than one hour of focused and efficient effort.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you can’t function at your best. And if you want to make major changes in your life, you need to be functioning at the very top of your game.
Getting enough good quality sleep – anywhere from 7 to 9 hours – means putting the phone down, switching off the TV, and committing to one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
And working on the quality of your sleep is a simple but incredibly effective way to change your life.
5) Stay healthy
Look, I get it. You don’t need another article pestering you about eating more leafy greens and staying more active.
But it’s a cliché because it’s true. Health is wealth, and if you don’t have it, you’ll always struggle to live the life you want.
The good news is, you don’t need to be an athlete. Even small increases in your physical activity or changes in your diet can have big effects.
Studies have shown that a brisk 20 minute walk every day is all you need to reduce the risk of early death by as much as 30%. That’s an astonishing result for not much effort.
Take a walk on your lunch break. Use the stairs at the office. Or do what I do and use a treadmill desk to get that daily step count higher. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference in your long-term health.
6) Be grateful
No matter where you are in life, there’s always something to be grateful for.
Maybe it’s the fact that you have a roof over your head, food in your fridge, or a support network of people who care about you.
Maybe it’s something as simple as your health and physical capabilities.
Here’s the thing: people who regularly think about the things in life they are grateful for show a higher level of overall happiness.
This doesn’t have to be a big thing. You could take five or 10 minutes once a day or once a week to pay attention to the aspects of your life you are grateful for.
You can write them down, or just whisper them to yourself in a quiet moment.
It’s a small change that can have a huge effect on your outlook in life.
7) Maintain your social networks
We all have different needs when it comes to socializing with others. But even the biggest lone wolf can benefit from having a support network of other people to cheer them on.
Here’s why: study’s show that social isolation may be as dangerous as smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. People with weak or nonexistent social networks live shorter and less fulfilling lives.
That doesn’t mean you should cultivate a lot of fake friendships. It’s not a question of quantity, but of quality.
Even one or two people that you can really rely on can make a positive difference in your life. So focus on maintaining and strengthening your relationships just as much as you focus on other aspects of success.
8) Practice mindfulness
Speaking personally, one of the most effective ways I have found to improve my quality of life is by practicing mindfulness. And it’s one of the simplest things you can do.
Mindfulness has become something of a trendy buzzword lately, but at its core, it couldn’t be more simple. It simply means paying attention to the moment you are in now.
Instead of dwelling on the past or thinking about the future, take a moment throughout the day to fully experience the moment you are in.
Listen to the rain on the roof. Feel your weight on the chair underneath you. Experience the breath filling your lungs and expanding your chest as you breathe in and out.
You can do this as a formal meditation, or you can just take a minute in the middle of your day to do it.
It sounds like nothing, but it is been shown to have major positive effects, such as:
- reducing stress
- improving focus
- boosting memory
- enhancing creativity
- helping build better interpersonal relationships
As psychology expert Cynthia Vinney writes, mindfulness is a practice that goes back thousands of years, but modern science shows that it really works.
9) Avoid comparing yourself with others
Here’s the thing: we live in a world that is constantly encouraging us to compare ourselves to others. With the advent of social media, that kind of comparison has only gotten worse.
But it can be extremely harmful to your mental health.
It’s vital to remember that you are running your own race, and not anybody else’s.
And if it seems like other people have everything they want while you are still struggling, look closer. Most of the time, you’ll find the people whose lives look great from the outside have their own problems that may be even worse than yours.