So you want to change your life. You’re not entirely happy with where you are and want to do something about it. The simple answer is to change yourself. If you change yourself you will change your life.
But how do you change yourself? How do you change the person you are into the person you want to be?
The best way is to change your thinking and change your habits. These two things will then help you change your life.
Change first has to happen within. The beauty of change is that if you believe in yourself. Believe that change is possible. You have already taken the first step.
Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Thinking.
To change your thoughts it’s as simple as changing what you think about. And how do you change how you think? By filling your mind with positive thoughts and changing the words you use.
To use myself as an example. I used to smoke pot (marijuana) heavily for over 20 years. I did no real exercise. I was actually very lazy and would do just enough in my work and home life to get by. I was often very depressed and had no real hope for life. To be really truthful, I was living a life of slow death.
Then my ‘wife’ of almost 10 years left our son and I. I was lost, lonely, and confused. As was he. I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to change. As much for my son’s future as for my own.
I started listening to a lot of personal development books. I filled my mind with their messages of self-improvement and possibility.
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There is one book in particular that revolutionised my way of thinking. A book I have mentioned before throughout my blog and that I credit for setting me off on this road to change and to a better life, to being a better me. A book that is so important that I would encourage anyone who wants to change their thinking and change their life to read.
That book is Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success by Carol S. Dweck.
Dweck talks about how the view you adopt for yourself affects the way you lead your life. She breaks people down into 2 basic mindsets. The Fixed mindset and the Growth Mindset. (Although, it is possible to have elements of both)
The Fixed mindset believes that your qualities are carved in stone. You only have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, a certain moral code, and god help you if you feel deficient in any of those.
The Growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are something you can cultivate through your efforts. That everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Instead of fearing making mistakes and viewing them as a sign of failure like someone with a fixed mindset. Embrace them. See them for what they are as viewed through a growth mindset. An opportunity to learn, to improve.
“Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep learning”Carol S Dweck
By changing how you view yourself you can change the way you live.
So how can your words help change the way you think?
Your words are powerful. They determine your attitude towards something. Stop using words like can’t, won’t, impossible, never. Replace your negative words with more positive and constructive words. If you start talking and thinking in a more positive way you will find it easier to make the changes you need to.
Instead of thinking, ‘I can’t do this’, think, ‘I need to put more time and effort into this’. Instead of thinking, ‘I give up’, think, ‘I’ll try harder’. Instead of thinking, ‘I’m not good at this’, think, ‘What am I missing? What do I need to do?’
Change Your Habits
So you’ve started to change your way of thinking. You’re feeling more positive about what you can achieve. You are starting to really believe in yourself and your power to change your life. The next step is to change your habits.
As I’ve said already. I had some terrible long-term habits. Habits that have defined over 20 years of my life. So how did I change them? How did I change my bad habits?
The first thing I did was create new habits. Good habits. Like exercising regularly and following a long forgotton passion for writing. I’ve written before about the importance of starting off small in order to create your habits. By starting small you increase your chance of success and decrease the possibility of feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead.
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As Charles Duhigg explains in his book: The Power Of Habit. Habits are made up of a 3 step loop. Cue, routine, and reward. You need to set up a cue, a trigger, for what your habit will be. Then, upon completion of that habit, give yourself a reward. Most sources say that doing this for 21 days should establish that habit.
When I created my exercise habit my cue became the putting on of my exercise footwear and clothes. My routine was my workout. My reward having a warm shower followed by tea and a biscuit.
My good habits, particularly the exercise habit, helped me get to a position where I could kick my weed smoking habit. Of course, there were other factors like knowing I couldn’t go on like that if I wanted my son to have a better life. But the exercise played a part. Have you ever tried to exercise while stoned? It’s just so much harder. You feel weak before you have even begun.
Actually, at the beginning my reward was to have a joint afterwards. This helped me not smoke beforehand. Once I conquered that. It was just a matter of changing my reward to something healthier like the shower and tea.
It is important to remember that at some point you will get bored of your habits. The endless repetition. That is completely natural as after a while your brain craves some novelty. I guess I was fortunate in that regard in relation to the exercise in that I’ve always found it quite boring. There never really was a novelty stage.
At that point, the point of boredom, you will need to use that new mindset of yours to persist and persevere. Keep your ultimate goal in mind. Always remember that to achieve consistent results it is at times when you least want to do your habit that are the times when you really must.
What to do when things go wrong
Let’s face it. The longer and more established your negative thinking and bad habits have been a part of your life. The harder it is going to be to break those patterens. The change in your life is not going to happen overnight. There will be times where something goes wrong and frankly everything goes to shit. Those habits you have spent time building. Those good thoughts you have filled your mind with get overrun by the negative thoughts and actions you have been programmed with over the years.
So what do you do?
Look, I’m saying this as someone who has slipped this week. I’ve broken good habits I thought were well established. I’ve missed my exercise. I haven’t written as much as I should have. I’ve allowed the wrong type of thoughts and words to enter my mind and my speaking. Thankfully, no matter how strong the impulse became, I didn’t start smoking weed again.
I could sit here and justify it. I do have reasons, or excuses. Is there really any difference? Yes, my son has had a difficult few days in regards to his mum not living with us. Yes, when he isn’t happy, I get unhappy too. Yes, I allowed all that to affect my thinking. I too started to dwell on all the hurt we’ve been through. I started digging my own hole. Started wallowing in my own misery. Started letting things slide.
I forgot what was really important. The position we are in now or the position I want us to be in in the future.
So what changed? How do you get back on course?
Firstly, I think it’s important to just accept it. Accept that you have fallen. Accept that no one is perfect and that failure is as much a part of life as success. Accept that sometimes things won’t work out as planned. Accept it and leave it at that.
After that. Just take some time out and start again. Gather your thoughts and go back to basics. Have a reset. Think about the things you need to do. The actions and thoughts you need to take and have. And just get going again.
“I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying”Michael Jordan
To fail you must have been doing some good things already. If you did them once. You can do them again. Think about all the times before when you might not have had any good habits at all. Think about the times since where you have been doing well.
As the growth mindset will tell you. Mistakes are there to be learned from. Do you want that mistake to define you? Or do you want your reaction to that mistake to? Your mistakes provide the opportunity for growth.
The most important thing is to believe in yourself. Believe that no matter how badly things might go. No matter how much you might have let things slip. No matter how much you have let your life become a life you don’t want to live. Just believe that there is always a way forward.
A few bad days, or months, or even years, doesn’t have to define you. What defines you is what you are going to do about it. Are you going to view your failures as defeat or as a guide to show you what you don’t want to do.
It’s all down to you. If you want to change your life you need to change yourself. The world is constantly in a state of change. You are too. Wouldn’t you like that change to be a change for the better? If you fail? Fail forward. Use it and learn from it. You’ve got this. You always had. You just have to believe it for yourself.
“If You Want To Change The World, Start With Yourself”Mahatma Gandhi
P.s. The above is what I believe to be true from experience. It works for me. It should work for you. But as in life there are no guarantees.