Picture taken by: Joos van der Merwe
Almost exactly 8 years ago today, I ran my first marathon and soon after I started Zen Habits. I’d changed a dozen or so habits, lost weight, was getting out of debt, quit smoking.
And almost 7 years ago, I quit my job.
That was a period of intense and profoundly scary life changes for me, but they were all of my choosing. I decided to make them happen, and I pushed until they did.
Today I’d like to share a few things that worked for me, in case you’re considering changing your life. Maybe you want to quit your job and start a business, or start an organization that will change the world in some way. Maybe you want to change your eating and fitness habits and become healthy. Maybe you want to finally start creating that art, that book, that blog that you’ve been meaning to start someday.
Someday is today.
Let’s look at how you find that motivation to finally start changing — and then to keep going when the changes inevitably get tough.
What Gets in the Way
None of these are insurmountable, but they can often cause us to put off major changes. So be aware of them:
Fear of change
Not wanting to be uncomfortable
Fear of uncertainty
Fear of failure
Fear of not being good enough
Not having time
Being busy with all kinds of things
Waiting for something to happen
Being overwhelmed with all that you have to do
Not knowing how
We all have these fears and reasons for not taking action.
They’re all bullshit.
Yes, the fear of failure and change and discomfort and uncertainty are real … but they’re not good enough reasons for inaction. They can all be overcome. I’ve dealt with them, and so have thousands, millions of others. You’re no worse than me or anyone else — you can face these fears.
Yes, you’re busy, tired, overwhelmed, lacking time … we all are. I would get up at 5 a.m. to go for my runs or write my blog, because I knew I’d be busy later in the day. I didn’t have more time or energy — I was motivated, and I prioritized. You can make that happen too.
So let’s look at how to overcome these fears, find motivation, and prioritize. All with one small set of actions.
The Make It Happen Actions
These are the set of actions that I’ve found to help overcome fears, find motivation, and prioritize:
Find a purpose. You might already know what your purpose is, but it’s good to review it and keep it at the forefront of your thoughts. If you don’t have a purpose, start here: what will you want to look back on at the end of your life? What will make your life feel significant? What will give your life some meaning? If you don’t have an answer to these questions, it’s worth spending a little time here. Go for a walk and think about it.
Embrace your desire. You’re reading this article because you have a desire to do something positive in your life. Embrace that. Isn’t it wonderful that you have this desire? See this as the first positive step, one you’ve already taken. Now use it and take action.
Create the space. You won’t make any changes if you don’t create a small space for the change. When will you start making the change? In the morning, in the evening, during your lunch break? Don’t wait for the change to happen — make it happen. Block off some time on your calendar each day, even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes. If you don’t have the time, think about how long you spend each day on Facebook, TV, games, or doing smaller tasks that aren’t as important. Push those back for just a bit, and do what’s most important to you first.
Surround yourself. The best way to make change happen is to surround yourself with others making a similar change themselves, others who will support your change. Find a few people online or off, and create a support team that will check in with each other regularly. Yes, this might take some work. Yes, you can do it.
Make the accountability. Find at least one person who will hold you accountable for making this change. It might be the support team mentioned above, or a coach, or an accountability partner. Tell them not to let you off the hook.
Take a small action. If you’re overwhelmed by a large change, or a bunch of large change, just focus on one small step. What small action can you take today that will move you forward? It might be something as simple as “do an Internet search about selling my quilts online”, or “call Freddie to ask him to hold me accountable”. Take a small step, and get moving. Movement begets movement.
Now take another small step. This is how change is created.
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