How To Actually Change Your Life

Change can be a difficult thing to instigate in our lives.

We think about it. We talk about it. We make big plans for it.

But we don’t actually do it.

Why is that? At this point we should all know the steps for changing our lives, right? We have read the books, watched the YouTube videos, studied endless courses, and made lists of everything we want to change.

So why isn’t it happening?

Three words: Lack of action.

We are all planning and no doing. And I can attest to this fact. My last decade has been one long (ever changing) plan to better myself. My intentions are true, but the end result always falls flat. 

After much thought and reflection I finally discovered why this keeps happening to me.  I bet you will find your reason(s) below as well.

  1. You Are Not Ready

I always think I need just a little more information before I take action. (The next book I read will give me the last piece of the puzzle to be successful, I just know it.)  But in this age of information there will always be something new to learn, so you can never learn everything needed to get started. So just start where you are. 

2. Need For Perfection

You will never be perfect, no matter how hard you try, so why does your plan have to be? Life is messy, period. Some of us know this (me included), but we still let small details hold us back. This is just another excuse for not going in the direction of a better life. Set a goal and align your actions in a way to direct you toward that goal.  If something goes wrong, simply readjust your plan. Sometimes when plans go awry, the end result is better than our original plan. Go for action, not perfection.

3. You Might Fail

The one and only reason this matters is you care what other people think. And when this happens you have given power over your life to other people. Usually, these are people you either don’t like or don’t know. (The ones you DO like and DO know will love/like you either way, and you know that.)  Don’t let other people dictate your life.  Besides, other people are rarely watching us as much as we think. Put on your blinders and go for it.

4. Change is Scary (Even If It’s Successful)

Humans are creatures of habit. Familiarity feels good to us. That is why abused children often marry abusive spouses, or why we often stay within the socioeconomic class of our parents when we grow up. It takes courage and determination to change any fundamental element in our lives. However, NOT CHANGING can be even scarier when you think about it. You don’t want to look back on your life with regrets. Suck up your courage and start today.

5. The First Step is the Hardest

A plan of action is only as good as its implementation. The only way to get started is to get started.  Take an action today. Any action is better than no action at all because it sets up momentum.  Small steps lead to great change without you even realizing it sometimes. So take the first step today, no matter how small it might be. 

One of my favorite quotes:

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”

– Sean Patrick Flanery

6. You Try To Do Too Much at Once

Trying to change a large behavior in a short amount of time almost always fails. The key is to change small things over time – which will lead to big changes in the long run. 

For example, instead of making “lose weight” your big change. Decide to leave the sugar out of your morning cereal or oatmeal every morning. Once that has become a habit, move on to the next small change. See the video below for a full explanation. (This may be the best TED Talk I have ever seen because it is so valuable!)

 

How I Got Started

My own personal goal for change was to  become happier and feel better both mentally and physically.  So I printed out a table and listed all the things that would move me toward that goal each day. This checklist included  things like meditation, gratitude, prayer, specific exercises, etc. Altogether, I have nine separate things I strive to do each day.

Do I check off every one of them every day? 

No, but some days I do. Other days I do most of them. And occasionally, I do none of them. But I am definitely moving forward and already reaping the benefits of my plan.  

Because of this I am more organized and calm, which leads to doing more of the things on the list since I have more time. It’s a big, beautiful cycle. The steps are beginning to become habits and it feels strange on days I don’t do them.

So decide your first step and do it before you go to sleep tonight. Then do another one before bed tomorrow night. And so on and so on. (Feel free to borrow my check list idea. Get it here.)

Within a short period of time, your life will begin to change.  Congratulations!

Here is a resource I recommend:

 

The One Sneaky Thing That Steals Your Joy: Forgiveness

The One Sneaky Thing That Steals Your Joy Forgiveness

Things in life can easily sneak up on you. I think most responsible adults know this.  But the thing that steals your joy most often can be a real trickster. And no one is too young or old to learn the lesson below, so please read it, use it and pass it on.

I just learned this lesson that I must say keeps popping up over and over in my life. No matter how many times I “discover” this answer to all bad things in my life, it seems I must go down that road again.

Let me explain.

Yesterday was Easter and we (my husband, children and myself) attended church with my mother in law and extended family rather than going to our regular church, which just five minutes (or less) down the road. This church is much like home to me, since my husband grew up there and we have attended it for several years (off and on) while we have been married.

The service was lovely with a mixture of candlelight, spoken parts and musical performances. Everyone was well dressed and cordial. The coffee and donuts during intermission were fresh and tasty. But yet something did not feel right.

Somehow sitting among my family members and friends while holding my baby niece did not give me the peace I was expecting. It was a beautiful, sunny day and all was right in my world, so why did I feel anything other than peace?

Then, somewhere between pastor’s words and my niece plunging her new teeth into my hand, I had a revelation:

I still held bad feeling toward certain people in my life.

There is was. Plain as the nose on my face. In fact, some of the those people were sitting in church with me at that very moment.

Now, let me insert here that I thought I had wiped the slate clean and forgiven everyone in my life for every wrong (or perceived wrong) they had ever sent my way.

Then, a few years later I did it again.

Was there a third time? Hmmm………..

Anyway, while sitting in church I realized two things:

  1. I had not truly thought of everyone I needed to forgive. I needed to put in more effort and not forgive people in small batches, but forgive everyone. Even those I felt did not “deserve” it.
  2. Forgiveness is an ongoing thing.
  3. People are usually not against you, they are just for themselves. Just trying to survive, nothing personal.

So I made the decision to look around the church and make a mental inventory of every person I needed to forgive, then I did just that. I opened my heart and gave the forgiveness and love that was needed to make me feel harmonious.

The people who received my forgiveness never knew the difference. They felt no different after my epiphany. But I felt like a new person. In fact, the weight of the world lifted from me while I sat in that padded seat.

So here is my question to you: Do you need to grant forgiveness to people in your life?

If so, don’t follow the same misguided path as me.

Instead, make a list of every single person you have ever had a negative feeling toward. (Yes, even the stranger who skipped line at Starbucks this morning.) Take a couple days to compile this list if needed, because you want it to be complete.

Then, sit down and make the deliberate decision to forgive every one of them. And don’t just say it. Really mean it. Forgive every person for being human and not being perfect.

Sometimes it can be difficult to forgive people when they have done heinous things to you. When that happens, try to imagine them as a little baby that has not yet faced the trials of life that build up over time and cause people to mistreat others. Or imagine them in their underwear. Whatever it takes to grant them the forgiveness and you the serenity that you need.

Because you need this.

When you talk of simplifying our lives and minimalism, there is nothing better to throw in the trash than resentments and other bad feelings towards others.

I had this in my life and didn’t even see it right in front of my face. Could you be doing the same? Don’t let this be the thing that steals your joy.

Further reading:

No Self Control and No Limits = Misery

no self control no limits

Today I would like to talk about having no self control and no limits.

(Heads-up: I don’t usually write posts this long, but this one just kept growing!)

This is reality of most people in our modern society, but it has happened so slowly that most people don’t even realize it. People have no self control and no limits and, although that sounds a lot like freedom, it is really misery.

Why? Well, here is at least part of it…..

There is too much noise in our would today, and it drowns out all the important things we need to learn to be happy and instead elevates the worst things in this world.

Just think about how much media/water cooler attention is given to a school shooter or serial killer. Or Youtube videos/television shows where people are acting badly.

Now, think about how much media time is given to stories or people helping other people. Or people doing good deeds for mankind.

It’s all about ratings. And money. Which translates to greed. But I digress…..

But just think about it: We can now buy almost anything imaginable 24 hours a day online (no waiting ever). Most brick and mortar stores are now open on Sundays (no waiting till Monday).

Not only can we shop all the time, but we can also:

  1. Spend all we want via credit cards
  2. Eat all we want from 24 hour restaurants
  3. Download unlimited books online and never have to wait for the library to open
  4. Download unlimited music and never have to walk into a music store again
  5. See unlimited amounts of advertisements that trick us into “needing” whatever they are selling
  6. Change careers a gazillion times because it’s so easy to get student loans
  7. Have as many partners/relationships as we want because no value is placed on loyalty or stability
  8. Get married/divorced as many times as we want because there are no consequences
  9. Try to be an expert at EVERYTHING so people will think we are impressive and cool
  10. Have a greedy, self-interested attitude and be popular for it
  11. Have so many choices for EVERYTHING  that our heads explode!

Nothing in the above list supports setting limits in any way. In American society especially, individuals are encouraged to do whatever feels good or makes them happy, with little or no concern with the impact on those around them or society as a whole.

Hence, we have Jerry Springer type shows and people who complain about having to step over homeless people to get to their six figure jobs.

Is it just me, or is our current mode of operation NOT WORKING?

It seems like we are inundated with limitless amounts of everyone else’s problems on a daily basis because we are all so “connected” by social media and and the greater media in general. However, this is a very superficial sort of connected-ness.

I would like to offer an alternaitve way to live. I know many people are already promoting the idea of leaving social media and unplugging the devices, which is obviously the first step. But I would like to offer a few other suggestions:

1. It’s okay to have some secrets.

You don’t have to tell EVERYONE EVERYTHING that happens in your life. I truly believe the first step to gaining some self control would be to stop believing you have to tell the world all of your personal business and air every bad thing that has ever happened to you.

In this post Phil Donahue and Oprah Whinfrey world we now know that telling the country every personal secret you have will not solve your problems. If it did, antidepressants would be a thing of the past by now.

2. Consider how your actions will impact others.

This does not mean you should give away all of your money and live a deprived life. It does mean think about how your decisions today might affect your children tomorrow. Or the world.

Some people seem to think that as long as they do some recycling they can basically do anything else they want with their lives. Family responsibilities seem to be a thing of the past in many communities.

For example, the number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is staggering. Occasionally, this is due to parents passing away or being ill. I’m sure there are other legitimate reasons as well.

However, when parents consciously leave their children to be raised by grandparents because they simply do not want to do that, there is only one word for that: SHAMEFUL. There was a time when there was lots of stigma attached to not taking care of your family responsibilities. Apparently, those times are gone. I propose we bring those times back.

On a simpler not, If you have a loved one in need, go see them. Call them on the phone. Don’t just send a text or like their latest post on Facebook. Show them you care enough to give them some of your valuable time. Nothing shows love and caring more.

The same goes for your children. Give them your time more than your money. Memories mean more than stuff. Always.

3. Keep your opinion to yourself.

We have become the most opinionated bunch of people on the planet.

Everyone on Facebook and Twitter gives their opinion about everything everyone does. I can’t even imagine being a celebrity these days. I remember when a star recently posted about her young daughter trying a certain food for the first time and many people shamed her for feeding her child that particular food.

What was meant to be the sharing of a sweet family moment with her fans was turned into a shaming session instead.  Seriously? Stop the negativity.

When I was young we were often told to “hold your tongue” or “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. This is some of the best free advice you will ever hear.

4. Concentrate on ways to help others.

The people on this planet have had a monumental shift in how they view helping others. I truly believe that the United States is the worst offender. Yes, there are still people who frequently help others in this country, but the overall feeling of community and helping those in needs for the sake of helping has greatly diminished.

Our world is about ME, ME, ME!

You know the saying, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins”? That seems to be the American motto more and more these days. Hence, the shrinking of the middle class. The super rich are controlling the way money moves, both in and out of our country. This has forced many to either become savvy and join the super rich, or fall behind and become part of the growing poor population.

Greed has never been attractive on anyone. I don’t care what the situation.

Celebrate kindness in your circle and your world.

5. Give yourself some quiet time.

This is crucial in our modern world. Give yourself quiet time each and every day. If you are not into mediation, then turn the music off in your car while driving to work. Or have lunch by yourself in your office with all electronics off and a table top water fountain running.

Any way you can find to shut off the noise is effective at clearing your mind and allowing you to be more peaceful.

Your brain needs to rest, just like your body.

6. Guard your time and thoughts.

Examine your principles and morals. Don’t let everything you stand for be swept away by all the noise in the world. Many people’s principles and morals have changed with the times.

If these are so wishy-washy that they change with the times, then I don’t believe them to be true principles and morals. They shouldn’t be like manners, which do change with society. (Although I could also make an argument for bringing some of those back, too!)

Also, be aware of your thoughts and make sure you are not absorbing any of the “me, me, me” thoughts that are out there. In fact, feel free to imagine how you look to those around you and decide if you like the image you present to others.

And if you really want to be truly avant-garde and stand out in a crowd, then bring back things like caring, honesty, integrity, and honor.

7. Find ways to set limits and teach self control to your children.

Things are already out of hand with this generation, so let’s find ways to reel things back in. Teach your children that it’s okay to guard their time and thoughts, just like an adult. Habits are best formed when we are young, after all.

If you will put all the above into practice with your children, then they are almost guaranteed to have a happier experience than most other kids today.

Get back into nature and find ways to enjoy the world away from all the noise. One day your children will thank you for it.

Further reading:

Why It’s So Hard to Become a Minimalist

Why It's So Hard to Become a Minimalist

Okay, let’s face it.

It’s hard to BECOME a minimalist. It is much easier to BE a minimalist. So what’s the difference, you might ask….

Momentum. That’s what.

When you first make the decision to become less stressed, less hurried, less pressured – less everything bad –  it is difficult to really get started. Things go through your head like, “What will my friends think?” or “My mother-in-law will really have bad things to say about me now!”

It goes on and on.

You suddenly freak out because everyone will know you are different, and not different in an avant-gard, hip sort of way, but DIFFERENT!

To that, everyone who has ever become a successful minimalist would say, “Who Cares?”

As it turns out, the most difficult part of becoming a minimalist is not doing without things (which can actually enhance your life), it’s worrying about what other people will think.

However, it is much easier to ignore that opinions (and perceived opinions) of others after you have been living the minimalist lifestyle for a while.

Minimalism: The Art of NOT Caring About What People Think

Not caring about what other people think (or say) is an art in its own right. It takes some practice to get really good at it, but with a small amount of effort you can live completely free from the worries of other people’s hang ups.

There are several things you must consider that will help you get over this hurdle.

  • People are going to talk no matter what you do. This is true about most people on the planet because people just love to talk about other people. Simply file this knowledge away and decide there is nothing you can (or should) do about it. Then do whatever makes you happy.

 

  • You don’t know most of what they say, so it doesn’t hurt you anyway. As far as I know, no one has ever fallen over dead because someone talked about them behind their backs. Sticks and stones, baby!

 

  • Most people don’t mean most of what they say anyway. It’s true. I truly believe that people rattle on half of the time just trying to make conversation and give little thought to the potential impact of the conversation on those around them.

 

  • Once you get truly engaged in your minimalist lifestyle, you will be so happy that you won’t notice any of the talk (or other negativity) around you.  I realize that humans have a built in trait that makes us want everyone to like and approve of us all the time. Let’s all acknowledge right now that it’s not a possibility. Once you make that conscious realization, your happiness meter will start to rise.

 

  • You might be paranoid. People might not be saying as much as you think. After all, everyone has their own life to live and your life is probably not as important to them as you might suspect.

 

  • If people ARE talking, it’s probably because they are jealous. It’s true. Jealousy is the Number 1 reason why people talk about other people. In other words, if you are living a successful, happy minimalist life and others are talking negatively about you, its likely because they want the same life you have and probably don’t know how to attain it for themselves.

 

So you see, there really is not good reason not to jump headfirst into the minimalist lifestyle if it appeals to you. Just put everything in perspective about those around you and all the fear melts away. You really DON’T have to consider what other people will thing, say, or do when designing your perfect (or close to perfect) life.

 

Advertisers Lie

advertisers lie

Advertisers lie.

That’s not news to most people.

We all know that drinking a certain soda will not give you more friends or driving a certain car will not make you happier. (You can be miserable driving a Bugatti.)

So how is it that we all fall prey to a certain amount of their brainwashing?

It is repetitive exposure. They bombard us with a product or campaign over and over until it finally sinks into our brain. For example, how many times have you started to purchase a product or service and went with a company just because you had “heard of it” before?

We feel comfortable doing business with companies we feel we know. That’s why big companies keep getting bigger. We want to use who or what everyone else is using. On some level we feel there is security in numbers. Even in shopping.

But what does this have to do with advertisers lying?

Plenty!

For one thing, advertisers try to sell us things we don’t need. Period.

Here are a few thoughts for consideration:

  1. You don’t need a new phone (latest model) when yours works fine.
  2. Your don’t have to get a new car because your sister/friend/neighbor got one.
  3. Having more “stuff” doesn’t make you the winner.
  4. Nobody really cares how much your watch/purse/shoes/golf clubs cost.

The bottom line is: More is not better. It’s just more.

In fact, “more” gets a lot of people in trouble. More debt, more stress, etc.

But what does it do to advertisers when we decide to stop buying more of their products? It costs them money, of course. So what do they do in return? Advertisers lie. Some more.

They need us to keep buying so they can keep making money. And they will make you feel left out if you don’t purchase their product. They will pressure you into spending money you shouldn’t.

In my opinion, they really showed how low they could go when they started advertising directly to children. What person can market unhealthy foods and brain dampening toys to little kids and still sleep at night?

Don’t fall prey to their pressure. You are the boss of you. And you know what you need…..and what you don’t.

Don’t clutter you home or your life.

Why Too Many Choices Can Be a Bad Thing

why too many choices can be a bad thing

Today I want to discuss why too many choices can be a bad thing.

I recently decided it was time to purchase a new computer. So I did what most anyone would do. I went online and started looking for deals on laptops. But it soon became clear that I could not make a decision with so much information coming at me.

Then I decided to go to some good old fashioned brick and mortar stores. But every time I found a laptop that might be “the one” I would start to wonder what offerings were available at the next store down the street. I finally gave up and went home for the day – no closer to getting a new laptop and no longer wanting to deal with it.

I actually told my hubby I wished he would just pick one for me and buy it. He did not like that idea as much as I did, so I am currently sitting here typing this post on my old computer.

I am usually a quite decisive person. This is one of my better qualities (don’t ask about the bad ones), but sometimes the sheer number of choices in our world can overwhelm anyone.

Our super-consumer driven society would have us believe that infinite choices and possibilities equals infinite happiness, but that is truly not so.

For example, years ago when my grandparents wanted to purchase new furniture or appliances they went down to the local store (there was only one) and looked through the handful of choices . They picked what they wanted, paid for it, and took it home. It was that simple. And life went on as usual.

Similar purchases for us have taken weeks or even months.

Why?

Because not only are there lots of choices, but many stores carry the exact same thing and we need to make sure another stores doesn’t sell it cheaper, right?

But the endless choices don’t just extend to consumer goods. These days every choice becomes a process in frustration.

Career choices can be daunting with so many new fields emerging. I constantly hear about jobs that I never knew existed. (You can get paid for that?)

And how about that online dating? Now, you don’t just choose a mate from those in the vicinity of where you live. There are thousands or possibly millions of potential companions all around the world. No wonder so many people are single these days.

So how do we cope with all this clutter of possibilities? (And, yes, this IS a type of clutter.)

I think we must limit our pool of choices ourselves. We must be mindful of wanting to simplify the process of making choices.

I sometimes decide to buy something (after debating whether I really need it) and decide I will only shop on Amazon for that item. I usually find exactly what I need. I don’t check any other sites and I don’t second guess my choice. I give myself permission not worry about whether there is a better one out there. Or cheaper one.

Then I proceed to enjoy the new item without any stress attached to it.

It’s small things like this that have made my life more peaceful. After all, it’s the small things that usually impact our lives the most.

Further reading: