We all have things that we wish to improve in our lives. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming. However, what’s the old saying? “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” To think about the amount of work required to build a while city is daunting, but to think about laying one brick? That’s a task anyone can do. So that bring us to the first step.
1: Don’t overthink it.
Life is long. Unless you get hit by a bus something, expect to be here for 80-100 years! There is plenty of time to change, so just relax a little. Do the best you can, and don’t stress.
2: Start small.
Pick a task. Just one thing that you would like to change about your life. For me, it was making my bed, everyday. I heard it from Jordan Peterson, but other people have claimed to have said it as well, but making your bed everyday will make a positive difference in your life. What it does, besides make your room look much cleaner, is reinforce your ability to make change. It might be small, and seem silly, but I’ve become proud that I make my bed every day. I never did growing up. I always thought, “What’s the point? I’m just going to lay in it again tonight and mess it up.” So I didn’t care. Now, I don’t feel right until it is made. It has become habit. But most importantly, It has strengthened my belief in myself that I can make a change in my own life and follow through. It’s a great baby step to self improvement.
3: Don’t overload.
Once you make that first change, you might find yourself, as I did, wanting to make 100 more. The most important thing is to be consistent with your new changes. If you take on a new task, but you slack on the old one, then you weren’t ready to add more to your plate. After I began making my bed everyday for the first week, I decided that I was going to go for a run every morning. After a few days, I was so focused on the run and making it routine that I began leaving the house without making my bed, saying, “I’ll do it when I get home.” Well, after a few days, I would get home, too tired and wanted to just relax for a few minutes first. You can guess where this leads. I stopped making my bed in the morning. So, I scaled back, and focused on the bed making again, and less on the run. It took about a month of making my bed, every single day, before I was able to do it without thinking, and then I could use my conscious mind to focus on a new task. The key is, don’t start something new until what you are focused on becomes habit, second nature. When your unconscious mind is making the bed, then your conscious mind can go for a run, or whatever else you are planning.
4: Don’t worry about “One-Upping” yourself.
Your next task doesn’t have to be “bigger” than the last. I made my bed. Then I ran. Then I focused on not biting my nails, which in comparison to exercising, seems minute. However, biting my nails had been a lifelong struggle, and now, I can’t picture myself even doing it! After the nail biting was resolved, I implemented writing into my morning routing, then reading. That’s where I’m at now, making sure I read every morning. I’m about to finish my 2nd book, and it has been about 3 weeks since I’ve been reading every day. It will soon be a habit (it takes about a month to form a new habit) and then I’ll figure out the next thing.
5: Don’t give up!
You only fail if you give up entirely. If you have a set back, don’t get discouraged. Take it as a sign that you either overloaded, or perhaps it was just a really busy day. That’s ok, just pick it up again tomorrow. This same advice is given to smokers, alcoholics, and addicts. If you relapse, don’t just throw caution to the wind and say, “well I already failed, so I might as well just keep doing it.” No. You had a step back, now keep moving forward! Since the weather has got considerably colder here in Massachusetts, I’ve missed out on some runs. I didn’t want to stop exercising, but I know myself and the cold weather is not my friend. I hate it. So, I just swapped out the running with other forms of exercise. I use the same time block, but now I’ve been working on doing as many push ups as I can in a row without rest. That way, I still get some cardio, and it is fun to see how far I can go. I started by doing 40, which I found pretty good considering how long it has been since I’ve done push ups, and by the time I hit 35, those last 5 were a struggle. Now, I’m up to 75 in a row!
6: Have fun!
Don’t let the changes become work. Find a way to make it fun. For example, when I quit biting my nails, I went out and bought a manicure set for myself. Giving myself a manicure isn’t exactly a trip to 6 flags, but I did find enjoyment out of watching some YouTube videos and trying to learn something new. It was also something to do with my hands while I watched TV. Overall, it was better than biting my nails and then feeling bad about it once I realized that I had chewed half of my fingers to the bone, and then continue to do the rest, consciously aware that I am doing it and hating that I can’t stop. Just try to find a way to make the changes a little more enjoyable than not doing them.
Anyone can make a difference in their own lives, and the fact is that it will carry over into the lives of those around you. Once I began this journey of self improvement, other people have noticed that my mood is better, and my confidence is too. It has a way of brightening the day of those around you and even making some of them want to make improvements to their own lives. Just follow these steps, and remember, start small! The formula is:
Small Changes + Time = New You