When I was in those really dark places, I realized pretty quickly that something needed to change. The problem was I would fixate on the things or people around me and think, “Well if this person did this,” or “If this thing would happen”, my darkness would start to lift. It took me a bit to realize that no one and no thing was going to save me. I was the only one that could save me. I was the only one that could do the life change I needed.
The real change that needed to happen was really within. To do that, I needed to get brutally honest with myself and go deep within to really shine a light on my own shortcomings. I needed to get face to face with my own demons.
Write It Down
I spent a lot of time thinking about those demons and figuring out how to beat them. One day, I grabbed an old journal that I hadn’t used in years. I wrote down 13 things that I wanted to change about myself. Some examples included “being more social” and “stop being so emotional.” Over the next couple of weeks, I would add things to the list as I thought of them. At one point, the list got up to 19.
Writing these things down, rather than keeping it in my head, was so important. Seeing the actual words helped me visualize the broader problem and allowed me to take a step back in an objective way. I started to notice patterns and commonalities. I also noticed that I would write items as something that would happen in the future. For example, “I need to lose weight.”
At this point, I did two things. I combined the common items into broader narratives and I wrote them in a way that said they were already happening today. As an example, “stop being so emotional” and “I need to lose weight” became “I live a healthy lifestyle both physically and emotionally.”
The broader narratives are helpful to visualize where you want to be. The power, however, is writing it like its already happening, now in the present. Often times, when you think about something in the future, the fear and doubt that it will never happen start to creep in. But if you flip your mindset and think its already happening, then it becomes more about what am I doing in this moment, in the present, to make this happen. It makes it feel more real and obtainable.
Its a subtle yet important mindset shift in how you approach a problem. Don’t get me wrong, the shift in mindset doesn’t happen instantly. You have to make revisiting your list part of your daily routine. But with the repetition and visualization, the new mindset will start to take hold. Things that seemed unachievable before now become within your reach.
So my list became what I affectionately call “The 14”. Its the 14 things that I determined to need focused investment of my time and energy in order to be good with myself. I have them up on my wall in my closet for me to read everyday. Here are 5 of my 14 for you to use as examples. These aren’t necessarily in priority order:
- I prioritize myself and my happiness first.
- I speak my truth with strength, dignity, and compassion.
- I don’t need the reassurance or validation of others.
- I live a healthy lifestyle both physically and emotionally.
- I foster strong relationships with those that bring happiness and value to my life.
I know you are probably thinking that some of these sound super selfish. The context is that I don’t do any of this at the expense of others. They all feed into each other in a way that allows me to be the best version of myself, everyday.
Think about it. If you are happy with yourself internally, good with your physical and emotional well being, don’t need external reassurance and are comfortable with speaking your compassionate truth, imagine what all that can do for you and all of your important relationships? GaryV calls it “being selfish to be selfless.”
To be clear, I’m not completely good yet with all 14. Its a daily work in progress. There’s a lot of trial, error and missteps. I can’t invest in all 14 everyday but they have become the basis for me to set goals around. We’ll talk about goal setting in a future post.
Your Life Change List – 5 Steps To Get Started
This sounds like a lot of work. I get it. I’m not going to lie. It is. But you can’t half-ass real change. If you looked at my “7 Steps To Invest In Yourself” post, all this is step 1, “Identify the things you want to change.” If it feels daunting, start out small by doing these 5 steps:
- Write down 3 things you want to change about yourself.
- Look for any patterns or commonalities.
- Visualize that your ideal end state for each of these would look like.
- Re-write each of them in the present.
- Look at your list everyday and refine it as needed.
If you did all this, you finished step 1 of investing in yourself. You defined your life change list. Be proud because most people won’t actually do this. But you aren’t most people any more. You are committing to making a change and I am rooting for you. I’ll be your biggest fan.
Be Real With Yourself
Real change requires a level of honesty that most people aren’t willing to get to. Its scary and the fear of change will often stop you dead in your tracks. Fight through the fear and get to that level of real honesty. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to take ownership of your life by defining your list and working on each item daily. Watch how your life transforms.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you found this helpful or if you have a different approach to tackling life change. I’d love to hear more about it.