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I’m a junkie when it comes to studying and practicing self-improvement, self-help, and other personal development projects. I love challenging myself to new habits but there’s a limit to how much I can feasibly add to my routine. There are changes I need to make, but on top of everything else, it’s hard to prioritize and get all my bases covered.
Often, we feel like we don’t have the space to make a change in our lives. We know these things are important, but it’s hard to justify adding yet another thing to our plate. We’re too busy, the idea or habit is too big a project, or we just put it off. Even worse is when self-doubt comes in and we convince ourselves that the change isn’t possible — I can’t lose 30 pounds, changing that habit is too difficult, or I don’t have enough energy.
We don’t know how to build these changes into our lives, even when they are vital for our wellbeing. If you feel overwhelmed but know you need to make a change, ask yourself these questions. You might find opportunity and confidence to make the change.
Can I take a small action now?
When we look at a habit or a change, we see it in whole, meaning we see the final result. For example, I see people who have quit their job to become full time writers all the time on this platform. Even if they share the information, it’s hard to see the little daily actions they took over the last three years to be able to walk away from their 9–5.
Change happens incrementally, not all at once, and when we can accept that, we can see the possibility. Look at one small action you can take in the next five minutes to move you closer to that goal. Now do it.
Could I try it for a month?
In the grand scheme of time, a month is not that long. Thirty or thirty-one days of a habit or change is within your power. Don’t wait until you have a lighter month or less obligations… start now and for the next thirty days make the change part of your life. Commit for thirty days just to see what happens.
What change might happen if I do this every day?
You’ve made the decision to change, but what are your goals of that change? Be realistic — if you’re looking to quit your job in thirty days to become a full time writer and you’ve just started writing today, you might be out of your depths. Look at your past work, see what you could accomplish in a day, then a week, then a month, and determine what change is possible.
If grander goals are your specialty, think about what might happen if you committed for a year. How could this change impact you?
What impact will this have on my life?
Sure, inner change and a new habit is great, but how is that going to alter your life? If you’re change leads to a better self, you might see an impact on your relationships, values, or even career. What life trajectory is that going to impact? How will your surroundings change? How will that improve your wellbeing?
Is the pain of not doing this action greater than the fear of doing it?
The biggest reason we procrastinate is fear — self doubt that we can’t do something, waiting for the right time or feeling like we aren’t fully informed, afraid of failure… but what happens if we continue on our current trajectory? What sort of pain do we feel now that will continue into the future if we don’t make the change? Now, is that fear really stronger than our extended pain and discomfort?
Can I simplify this change?
An extension of the first question, think about how you can simplify the change you’re going to make. You might not have time to commit to four hours of writing a day, but maybe you can find an hour. You might not be able to excel in marketing on fourteen different social media sites at once, but you can focus on one and be really good at it. Changing a full meal into something healthy might be difficult, but you can start with changing one side dish to something healthy.
Simplify your change into something that fits into your day.
When can I build this into my day?
Look at how you spend your time during the day. There are always little pockets when you’ll be able to fit these changes in. It might be five minutes or it might be an hour, but there are spaces. Simplify your change into two to five minute tasks that you can do from anywhere (if possible).
What is my accountability?
How are you making sure you’re going to stick to this change? Is someone else holding you accountable or are you relying on yourself? Motivation and inspiration comes and goes, so try not to rely on pure willpower. Give yourself milestones and rewards that keep you on track. Use friends and reminders or withhold something you care about until you reach a goal.
What are small actions I can take now that will give me wins early on?
We all want to achieve the greatest change in the shortest amount of time, and when we don’t see immediate results, we get frustrated and give up. Instead, focus on small wins early on that will give you the boost to continue doing the task. If you want to quit your job and write full time, start writing in your spare time and publish as often as you can. Let that work start to build and get readers. Those small wins will keep encouraging you to work toward a bigger change.
How can I remember to do it?
Tie your change into something pleasurable. Habit stacking is a great way to make sure your change becomes an everyday thing. Do you brush your teeth? Great, now start doing calf raises while you do that. Do you have a commute? Start learning something new on podcasts during that time. Tie your change into something you already do without thinking. It helps reinforce your change and make it part of your everyday.