To be satisfied with life, you need to change and adapt to changes. The good news? No one can do it for you but you. The first step is always the hardest, but with determination and the right mindset you can overcome just about anything. If you’ve had enough of how things are right now, what lies around the corner can (and will) be completely different.
1. Pinpoint the issues. Regardless of what’s going on in your world, you probably know why your life is stuck. Is it your job? Friends? Relationship? Bad habits? Your general outlook? All five of these and then some? Are you afraid to admit what’s actually the issue? You have to figure out what’s wrong before you can fix anything. Thankfully, you have all the answers.
It’s possible your answer is “everything.” All too often one facet of our lives bleeds into the other. Don’t be daunted by this. At the end of the day, you create your life. Whether one thing needs to be fixed or everything needs to be fixed, it’s all doable. It’ll just be a little more work. You’ll need some mental resetting, but it’s all doable.
2. Identify your mental blocks. Being stuck in a miserable job isn’t the problem—it’s a symptom of the problem. Being too scared to apply for a new job or being too lazy in your current comfortable, easy routine. You know that phrase “you are your own worst enemy?” That applies here. You are not to blame for the hand you’ve been dealt, but you are responsible for how you played it. What patterns of thinking have been keeping you from playing it better?
Being self-aware is the only way you can really change your thinking. Changing your thinking changes your behavior. Changing your behavior changes what happens to you. If you want a problem to stop, you gotta cut it off at the root. So while this may all seem like a long-winded, unnecessary approach to turning things around, it’s not (at least the unnecessary part). This (your thinking, your mental blocks) must be tackled before any change can really be had.
3. Question the thoughts and beliefs that are making you unhappy. Ready to have your mind blown? You live in a world of your thoughts. Think about that. Sit back in your chair right now and wrap your mind around that. Everything right now is a construction of you, of your thinking, of your mind. This should lead you to a couple of conclusions:
Awesome. You have the power to live however you want. If you wanted to believe you were the Queen of England, you could. If you wanted to believe you were happy, you would be. You are the only person that holds the power when it comes to turning your life around.
Those things that are making you unhappy? Some of them are imaginary. True, you might have a crappy job and that’s undeniable. You might be in a dead-end relationship, you might be unemployed, you might be addicted to hard drugs, you might be suicidal, you might be going nowhere. But how you view your situation can put a spin on things that will make them better. Will make them easier. Easy to know, sure; less easy to do. But knowing this is a fact of life, is half the battle won.
4. Put your attitude to work. In order for good things to happen to you, you have to be in the mindset of expecting success. Have you ever tried to walk up to that cute boy or girl with the belief that you’ll fail? Exactly. Either you just plain don’t or you do manage to walk up, nervous, scared and visibly insecure. All of life isn’t that different—to get success, you kind of have to expect it. So if you’re working with a negative attitude, that’s gotta change.
Start working on positive thinking. It can be quite the chore, so just start with 15 minutes a day. When a negative thought creeps up, take the time to reframe it. It won’t come naturally at first, but you’ll get better at it. For that 15 minutes, “My life is terrible” becomes, “I’m not happy with life right now and am going to do something about it.” Work on this until you don’t allow the negative thoughts at all. It’ll be so much easier to get out of bed and take action when your mind is ready and raring to go.
5. Allow yourself the power. Newsflash: happiness doesn’t come from removing your problems. There are impoverished, hungry children in this world who smile and laugh every day. There are people who are in similar situations to you who consider themselves lucky to be alive. So allow yourself the power to make yourself happy, to view yourself worthy of success. Allow yourself control over your life instead of pretending you’re an innocent bystander. Take the reins. You got this.
You’re on this page, so clearly you have some motivation to do something. That’s all you need and you have it! You need to make the decision to do something. When you do, things will change. They have to. They can’t not. Latch onto this motivation and let it fester. Let it grow until it explodes. Get power-hungry. Things are about to happen.
6. Find a passion you can work towards. It’s hard to turn your life around if you don’t know what direction to face, you know? Having a passion, some goal or dream to strive for gives you a path to tread—instead of foraging about for a needle in a haystack that may or may not be there. So what’s yours? Where would you like to be in six months? A year?
Do you see yourself living in the same town? Maybe a different job? Working on a new project or business? In school? Significantly more fit? There’s no wrong answer here. And you can have more than one, too!
7. Devise a plan of action. With a clearer trajectory now, it’s time for a very loose plan of action to form. Come up with half a dozen things you can feasibly do to start down the path you see the future you on. You don’t have to start today, you don’t have to start tomorrow, but you do have to know where you’re going and what you want to do.
We’ve sorted out the end goal (going back to school, losing weight, quitting smoking, etc.), now how do you get there? That’s what this is for. What steps—small ones, big ones, whatever—can get the ball rolling? So when the time comes, when you’re ready, you’ll know what the future has in store.
8. Remove dead weight. Whether it’s quitting smoking, dumping your lame boyfriend or moving out of your mob-running roommate’s apartment, it’s gotta be done. These things are holding you back. They’re facilitating this negative mindset and turning an obstacle into a veritable mountain to climb over. It may be a pain in the rear end, but you know you can do it. Dumping your toxic best friend sucks. Having to live on your own in a crappy studio sucks. Going through withdrawal sucks. But they’re all things that you’re capable of and that you’ll be better for in the end and, quite frankly, you probably know it.
Things like “quitting your job” sort of fall into a different category. In today’s day and age, you need money to survive. But realistically, you could quit and move in with someone temporarily if you absolutely had to. You could spend your weekends looking for a new one. No one said this was going to be pretty. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. You have to be willing to put in the work.
9. Find a mentor. Why? Because we all need someone who’s been there- for their advice, for their shoulder, for the heads up. And if you think there’s no one in your life who’s hit rock bottom, you’re probably wrong. Part of being human is about fighting battles—all you need to do is ask. The odds of you knowing the sordid history of everyone in your circle is slim to none.
However, what’s more likely is that when you read the phrase “find a mentor,” one or two names pop into your head. Generally, this is a more natural process than anything. If you have to ask someone to be your mentor, they’re probably not. This is just a role that’s fulfilled by someone who’s been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. You just need to take advantage of their presence in your life by opening up to them and asking for assistance when you need it.
10. Quit being fake. Don’t get offended—we all are. We all say “yes” to invitations we don’t want to say yes to, we all smile and nod when inside we’re sending daggers with our eyes. We all do things that society has told us are okay and left it at that, no questions asked. Well start asking questions. Make it a point to say “no thanks” when you don’t feel like it. Right now is about being selfish and improving you. It’s not an excuse to be rude—it’s an excuse to do what you want.
This will not hurt others’ feelings if you’re just being yourself. Declining an offer with a, “No thanks. I’m not feeling up to it,” isn’t offensive. People may ask further questions, but they don’t need an explanation if you don’t want to give one. You’re just doing you right now. If they have a problem with it, it’s theirs to have.
11. Exercise, sleep well and eat right. Your mind and body are interconnected—if your body feels good, it’s a lot easier for your mind to feel good. The three tenets of having a body that’s ready to take on the world? Exercising, getting enough quality sleep and eating healthily. If you don’t have time for these, make time. You owe it to yourself.
As for exercise, try to get in a “session” 3 or 4 times a week. Whether that’s hitting up kickboxing class or going for a walk with your dog, it’s all good. Just get out there and stick with it. Skeptical as to how this matters? Research says exercise can actually make you happier.
Get enough sleep—your decision-making skills hinge on it. Seriously. When our bodies and minds are tired, we don’t have the energy to weigh out what’s actually good for us. Need an example? That late night chalupa you decided to eat was a good idea. Only when it comes to your life, it actually matters. So get in your 7-9 hours of sleep a night. It affects the other 15-17 hours more than we’d like to admit.
Your diet can also affect your mood. Loading up on whole grains, fruits, and veggies and sticking to lean meats and low-fat dairy can give you that edge that you were previously lacking.
12. Motivate yourself. Little things can actually make the biggest of differences. Jumping out of bed in the morning instead of hitting the snooze button can make you feel much more energized, despite logic to the contrary. Listening to uplifting music, leaving yourself positive little notes, rewarding yourself for strides made—it all builds up and can keep you on track.
Change your alarm to something awesome. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you wake up in the morning and all you can think of is, “…No.” Starting out the day negatively can seriously hinder the rest of it. So start out as positively as possible. Change your alarm to something that invigorates you (whether it’s The Circle of Life or The Ride of the Valkyries is up to you). “No” can turn into “Hell yes!” easier than you thought.
13. Develop a routine. Studies have shown that people who are successful and content generally have a routine they stick to. The routine they stick to probably isn’t staying in bed all day and consuming buckets of fried chicken, sure. But what’s more important is that their routine allows them to conserve energy. When you have a daily routine, going onto autopilot allows you to expend mental focus on deflating and getting rid of problems that arise. You can only make so many decisions in a day and this routine allows you to save energy for the important stuff.
Your routine should involve those three things mentioned above (eating, exercising and sleeping right) and whatever else makes you happy. A little bit of work, a little bit of play and some self-improvement time, whatever form that takes (meditation/job searching/going back to school, etc.)
14. Make your most important decisions on anything in the morning. Why? You are less likely to be emotionally and physically exhausted. Decision fatigue is definitely a thing—like that poorly thought-out late night chalupa. At night, we’ve done so much work all day, we throw caution to the wind and let our present selves make poor decisions for our future selves. Don’t do it!
So if something big presents itself, sleep on it. You want as much energy as possible to decide what the best course of action is. It’s a figure of speech for a reason!
15. Do random acts of kindness. One of the easiest ways to get in the being-great-at-life zone is to focus on others. It’s easy on you and it feels good—in addition to making the world a better place. And for just a second you get to forget about your problems and focus on someone else’s. What’s not to like?
Helping others gives us a buzz unlike anything else. And doing so can get us out of a rut when we don’t have enough energy to help ourselves. So whether it’s donating some things to a thrift store or volunteering your time at the local homeless shelter, try it out. Might as well build some good karma to be safe!
16. Get yourself in line. No one can go from 0 to 60 in 3.5, and you shouldn’t expect this of yourself either. We all need assistance and a shove in the right direction. No Olympian would start the race in a sitting position, you know? So whatever you need to do, do it.
So sign up for that class. Find a therapist. Get serious about your job search. Succumb to online dating. Join Alcoholics Anonymous. Call your mom and make amends. Join the gym you’ve been driving by every day on the way home from work. The first step will be the hardest and it will all be downhill from there.
17. Do what you’ve been wanting to do. You’ve got your mind right, you’ve got your body right, and now it’s time to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do. That thing you’ve been too afraid to do. You’ve gotta bite that bullet. One foot at a time, regardless of how long your path to a turned-around life is.
That class you’ve signed up for? Go. Your therapist? Make an appointment. Submit job resumes. Go on dates. Attend meetings. Initiate a family lunch. Get on that treadmill. Being amazed at yourself and the things you can create will be such a good feeling it’ll be hard to stop.
18. Periodically reevaluate. Consider this a diet for your soul. Any diet that isn’t working needs to be dropped, so routine evaluation is necessary. Are you beginning to feel better? Are things slowly but surely falling into line? Could you up the efforts you’re making? Just like you need to increase the intensity of your workouts as you progress, you need to keep pushing your mind, too.
What works for you right now may not be enough in a few weeks’ time. Once you get a grip on the efforts you’ve started out with, add more and more. There are very few things in life you can go cold turkey on, and this isn’t one of them.
To a similar end, what you think will work might not. If that’s the case, talk to your mentor and get advice on what you should do. Is it something you need to push through, abandon completely or is there a different tactic you should take?
19. Refuse to give up. You’re in a very precarious position right now: a wrong footing and it’ll be too easy to fall back to where you were. So right now, focus on staying motivated. Focus on positive thinking. Focus on breathing. Focus on doing you. If you refuse to give up, guess what? You won’t.
Obstacles happen. They crop up without warning and sometimes unyieldingly so. The car breaks down, the relationship falters, the cravings get worse and worse. Knowing these will happen is important—that way, you’re a little prepared and don’t blame yourself. They happen to everyone and they’re a part of life. You just gotta roll with the punches.