As humans, we mostly resist change. We fear the unknown. We like feeling content and safe. But although change is not always a welcome part of life, it is an inevitable part of life. Some changes we don’t get to choose; they happen, whether we want them to or not. Kids grow up, relationships come and go, your favorite TV show gets cancelled (still bitter about that one, by the way – thanks ABC, Max Headroom, 1988, and the generic postcard you sent me after my passionate plea to keep the show as an 8th grader who watched on a back and white 6″ screen I snuck into my bedroom because it was on after my ridiculous early bedtime). But some changes are choices we make deliberately. And while any change can have significant impact, I think there is something particularly poignant about making changes deliberately. Which begs the question: what needs to change in your life?
Preparing for change
When I think about that question for myself—”What needs to change in my life?”—I can come up with a laundry list of things off the top of my head: I need to spend more time developing my creativity, I should make more memories with my kids, I need to save just a bit more of my paycheck, etc.
I bet you can come up with a list like that, right now.
But here’s the thing: that’s not my real list, and your list probably isn’t your real list, either.
Yes, everything I mentioned is true: I do need to do all those things. But what if I dug a little further? What if I could change a deeper, more meaningful “something” that would help those other “somethings” fall into place?
Any change that we’re deliberately making in an attempt to better ourselves is a good thing. But I also think that the most powerful changes are the ones that get to the core of our fears and desires. They’re the ones that will have ripple effects both immediately and throughout our lives.
If you want to prepare to make those changes, there are a few mindset shifts you should go through first.
Recognize that not all change is bad.
While change can have some scary potential consequences, things that we value—like learning, growth, development, and achievement—can also only come through change. If we resisted (or rejected) all change, we would never make advancements in careers, our relationships, or our personal growth, and society as a whole would never experience shifts in technology, leadership, or cultural and social norms. Positive change is very real, and we need to embrace it.
Be willing to question what you believe.
In order for real change to occur, you’re going to have to question some of the things you believe. That’s not easy, especially in today’s world. We tend to put ourselves in “camps” (I would be in the religious but left-of-center camp, the male camp, and the business owner camp, for example, among others) and choosing to believe something that your “camp” doesn’t believe can feel scary.
But if we’re going to change ourselves for the better, we have to question the beliefs that have previously defined us. We have to be willing to let them go in favor of finding something that will serve us better. We have to be willing to look outside our own camps and find the beliefs that help us become the people we want to become, rather than the people we’ve always been.
Know that you deserve what you want.
It’s incredible how many people feel undeserving of reaching their goals or achieving their dreams. I think we all feel like that at some point or another. So let me just tell you right now: you are worthy. You deserve to have everything you want out of life. Your life is yours, and you get to make it whatever you want it to be. There’s no reason to hold yourself back or second guess your dreams. The reality you want is within your power to create. And you deserve it.
How to determine what needs to change in your life
So then we come back to our big question: what needs to change in your life? How can you get at the heart of your problems to find and implement the changes that will have that lasting impact you’re looking for?
It requires some serious self-reflection, but if you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll reap major rewards. Let’s go over some questions that will help you identify some changes you might make, along with some principles to keep in mind when determining if those changes are really what you should be focusing on.
Questions for determining what needs to change in your life
These questions are designed to help you get introspective and identify parts of your life that could use a change.
What do you want?
This is a question that comes up a lot on Design.org, because we believe in starting on a path with the end in mind. Where you want to get to is going to determine which way you go. And deciding what you really want out of life will allow you to compare that with where you are now, which will make it easier to connect the dots between the two, drawing backwards until you have a clear idea of next steps you can take to create a life you love.
When answering this question, think about goals and dreams (professional and personal), about the relationships you want to have, about character traits you want to develop. Maybe what you want right now is something specific (e.g. to save up a down payment for a house, or to lose 20 pounds) or maybe it’s more abstract (e.g. to be a great parent, to build your self confidence). Either way is fine as long as you (1) know that you really truly want it, and (2) have a clear picture of it in your mind.
Which part of your day do you hate the most?
Dread is a big indicator that something needs to change. What part of your day do you dread? Is it the morning, lunchtime, late afternoon? Is it dinnertime, or the kids’ bedtime, or your daily check-in with your boss? Pay attention to the parts of your day that make you feel dread.
What feels like a chore every time you do it?
Things that feel like a chore every time you do them can also trigger feelings of dread. Is there a certain type of project you always put off? Or a chore around the house? Maybe talking to a particular person makes you feel dread for some reason. Guess what? You don’t have to be a slave to anything in your day. If you can identify the things you dread, you can make changes that either eliminate those things or help you change your mindset to something more positive.
What are your priorities? Does how you spend your time match up with those priorities?
Start by thinking about your priorities. Most people would answer this question with things like family, health, religion, career, etc. Think about the things that are most important to you. Now ask yourself: does your calendar reflect your priorities? If a stranger watched you throughout the day, would they know what you cared about?
Look for the places where how you spend your time doesn’t match up with your priorities. There is great potential for change there.
What do you believe about yourself?
How do you see yourself? What words would you use to describe yourself? What general attitude do you have about the choices you make and the life you’re living?
These questions matter because how we see ourselves largely dictates the changes we allow ourselves to make. If you see yourself as a lazy, unmotivated, undisciplined person, you’re not going to believe that you can implement any positive change in your life. Maybe the thing that has to change first, in that case, is your self perception.
What do you believe about yourself? Is that how you want to see yourself? Which beliefs need to change in order to help you have hope for your future self?
Principles for determining what needs to change in your life
Along with the above questions, here are some guiding principles that can help you determine what changes you need to make in your life.
Take expectations of others out of the equation
Don’t let other people dictate who you are, what you do, and what you care about. A lot of times, we tend to hold on to the labels that other people give us. Let those labels go. Decide what you want to be, and go after that. If you’re making a decision to change based on what someone else expects from you, it’s the wrong change.
When you feel uncomfortable, keep going.
Change is rarely comfortable (they’re called “growing pains” for a reason). If thinking about a particular change makes you feel nervous or unsure, you’re probably headed down the right path. Keep going.
The right change will trigger emotion.
Making big changes in your life is an emotional endeavor. You might use your brain to help identify what needs to change, but your heart is best qualified to confirm it. Pay attention to the emotions your desired changes trigger inside you. Determining to make a certain change might trigger overwhelm, fear, or even grief. But your emotional response is an indicator that you’re on to something. That change is a meaningful one, and you shouldn’t ignore it.
This quote from Melissa Camara Wilkins really resonated with me. When we find what we need to change, it will feel right. It might feel hard, but it will also feel right. We’ll be determined to make that change because we’ll know, on a fundamental level, that it will help us be a truer version of ourselves.
The right changes will help you become who you really are. Your ideal self is already inside of you; you just have to fight through the blocks and the fear and the shame in order to get to it. You have to determine what needs to change in your life, and you have to be willing to change it.
So take the time to think about the changes you could make. Don’t write this exercise off or speed through it. Sit with it. Ask yourself the big questions. Be brutally honest. Get uncomfortable.
Making changes to create the life you want is more than worth it. I promise.
Create positive change in your life.
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