10 Ways to Initiate Life Change
1. Clean & Purge
I hate to break it to you, but you are not going to change the world with a dirty car. If you can’t take care of yourself and your space, you won’t be able to take care of others or take the leap to change your life for the good.
Go through your home, room by room, and do some spring cleaning (even if it isn’t spring.) Make sure to get rid of things you don’t use and things that make you feel negatively. If you haven’t done the whole Konmari thing, now would be a good time.
Don’t forget to clean out your car, as well as your work space.
2. Figure out what to let go.
While you’re cleaning out your home, car, and office space, think about nonphysical things you want to let go. Write down a list if it helps. Here are a couple ideas:
Bad habits. Popping your knuckles isn’t helping you. Picking your face isn’t making you feel better. Smoking isn’t the only thing keeping you sane. Stress eating isn’t making the stress go away. Your bad habits are obstacles in the way of getting where you want to be. When you catch yourself doing these habits, ask yourself, “Is this helping me, or hurting me?”
Grudges and hurt feelings from family relationships, friendships, or romantic partnerships. Realistically, in my mind, you can either forgive and move forward with the relationship or decide there’s no moving forward and part ways for good.
Guilt. If you owe someone an apology, apologize. If you owe yourself an apology, apologize and make a promise to do your best moving forward and not to repeat past mistakes.
Toxic relationships. Figure out how to address the bad feelings that crop up from other people, or cut them out of your life.
An outdated sense of self. Look at the words you use to identify yourself. Are those up to date?
Sometimes we hold ourselves accountable to someone we aren’t anymore. You are a person. You’re going to change and grow, and you’re only hurting yourself comparing who you are today to someone you were ten years ago, or five years ago, or just twelve months ago.
For example: I have run half marathons. I plan to run half marathons and marathons in the future. But I don’t consider myself a runner right now, because I am not running. If I identified as a runner now and did not make running a priority, I would feel torn up every day I didn’t run; I would feel like a liar, because I would be lying to myself and others identifying myself as a runner. That would cause guilt. I’m not about that. Running isn’t a priority right now. That doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.
3. Set goals.
Set some goals for yourself and write them down. (Click here for my tips on making a goal board.) But make sure they aren’t generic goals—setting goals you don’t care about will be unfulfilling, even if you do accomplish them. If you’re having a hard time, think about what you wanted to be or do when you were younger or what gives you FOMO while you’re scrolling through social media. If you really can’t think of anything, make a list of things you want to learn or try and move to step 4.
4. Start something new.
This is one of the best ways to get out of a rut, whether that’s a creative rut like writer’s block or a life rut like depression or feeling stuck. It’s also a great place to start if you are having a hard time figuring out what you want from your life.
5. Get out of town.
I’m not talking about going on an international trip to stay in one of those floating houses in the South Pacific. That’s an option, but you don’t need to go that far. When we travel, we’re stripped down to a bag (or a couple) of the essentials and we’re taken out of our everyday element. It’s easier to think and reflect when you strip away the noise of the things that surround you at home and have to try new things in an unfamiliar location.
Try taking a day trip to somewhere within driving distance or go on a weekend trip to somewhere nearby (or a cheap flight or train ride away.) I do some of my best thinking on planes and on long car drives, and when I come back from trips, I feel like I have a clear idea of what I want and what I need to do moving forward.
6. Change up your diet.
If you’re experiencing health problems, try changing up your diet. I’m not going to get too preachy on food and nutrition because I’m not a nutritionist, but it is amazing how much food matters. If you’re not into that kind of thing, try a new restaurant or a new dish.
7. Move Your Body.
Do jumping jacks. Ride your bike. Take a walk. Put on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and dance. Go on a run. Do yoga at home or in a studio. Try a martial art, spinning, swimming, dancing, pilates, zumba, boxing. Go to a fitness class or watch a class on YouTube. Walk around your office, the mall, your neighborhood, or your campus. Just find whatever movement is tolerable and just figure out how to continue moving.
8. Put a little faith in something out of your norm.
We hit a rut in 2015, where it seemed like nothing was working out for us—our car was rear-ended and totaled, Ries was getting out of the Marine Corps, and we had to take out an auto loan when we would have no income two months later (because we didn’t have any job offers)—so I looked up ways to get rid of bad luck.
One of the things I found said to ring a bell in every room of the house and put salt in the corners of the room. I was desperate, so I did it. Things did start getting better, and even if that wasn’t attributed to the bell or salt, those actions made me feel better.
Look into things that bring good luck or good fortune, start reading horoscopes or tarot cards, or place some faith in something you otherwise might not.
9. Go to the library.
No one has ever regretted going to a library. Ever. (Unless they owed outstanding late fees.) Libraries always fill me with feelings of nostalgia, optimism, and inspiration. I remember going to the library as a child and getting a huge stack of (mostly nonfiction) books, and feeling there was so much possibility, because anything I wanted to learn was within my fingertip’s reach.
Being able to see the previous borrowers of each book on the book’s card also provided a real sense of community and connectedness. I had a physical list of all the other people who had borrowed books on how to pick the right puppy (information I have yet to use), how to keep Venus’ flytraps alive (information I have failed to use successfully) or how to braid hair (a skill I have mastered.)
Due to digital systems, the book cards are no longer in use, but the books with their worn, sometimes dog-eared pages, wrapped in protective plastic book jacket covers continue to carry the same sentiment.
If you’ve never been good at reading, or can’t seem to find time to sit down with a book, try out audiobooks. Most libraries have extensive audiobook collections these days (some don’t even require renting CDs anymore—you can download digital rentals) or you can join the cool kids on Audible or Apple Books.
Despite being an English major, I have always experienced difficulty reading, but during my commute last year, I flew through so many audiobooks. It made the long distances much more tolerable. I really felt like I was growing, and it was so nice to be able to discuss books with the readers in my life for a change.
+Write letters to people who are important to you.
+Do something with your hands.
+Cook dinner for a friend or friends.
+Join a group.
+Get some houseplants.
+Downsize to a smaller living space.
+Add a pet to your household.
I hope this list has been helpful. It’s something I searched for last year without any luck when I was going through a rough patch, so I decided to create my own.