Something major happens. We think about it, and that makes us think about what we thought our life would be like and what it is like. We compare the two, and often they are poles apart. That has a strong impact on us. And it makes us think.
Thinking about our lives makes us focus on what in our lives we like and what we don’t like. Typically, this focus hones our awareness and we really focus and think. When we really focus and think, we often spend more time considering what we don’t like in our lives than what we do like.
Good can come from that. We often resolve to make changes and come up with a plan that will put more of what we like and want in our lives and less of what we don’t.
That said, sadly for too many of us, our resolve fizzles, and our intentions end there. We think and plan but we never actually do anything to put that plan into action. Why?
One of the main reasons is, while we want change, we dislike and often even resent the upset that typically comes with it. We think: It’s better to stick with the devil we know. New things mean new reactions. From us, and from those in our inner circle—our family and friends, who also like knowing what to expect from us. The “new you” will be different, and different is not always welcome to others.
Another challenge we run into is that our plan feels too big, like so much work, and we’re tired and overworked already. So it’s easy to let the plan slide. It’s much easier to do nothing than to put in the effort to implement the plan and do something.
When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to shun and shut down. That’s the human being in us. The problem is, if we give into these tendencies, we end up changing nothing, and so the next time something major happens and we’re thinking about our lives, we’re rehashing the same old issues and dislikes we rehashed before (maybe many times before). Nothing has changed except that we are more discontent because we’ve been through this so many times and nothing’s changed.
The fact is we aren’t going to change anything in our lives unless we change things in our lives.
No fairy godmother is going to swoop in and wave her magic wand. We—our discipline and determination, our actions—are the magic wand.
It’s this simple, and complex: We resolve, we enact change, we change. If we don’t resolve and enact, we don’t change.
So while we’re tempted to give into feeling overwhelmed and do nothing, we have to accept that if we do—and that is a choice we make—then we also must accept that we will live with the consequences.
No action is an action. And if we do nothing, we are choosing to stay the same and to not make the changes we say we want.
So if we want a life makeover, we can’t be hamsters on a wheel. We have to jump off. That means, to get more of what we want in our life and more of what we don’t want out of our life, we need to accept that change takes work and we must choose to do it–and then actually do the work.
That doesn’t mean the work is all tedious or unpleasant or that, bluntly put, it sucks. Actually, this work can be stimulating, quite pleasant and fulfilling. Each tick in the checkbox on our checklist of something we want changed that we accomplish brings a confidence that we can change because we have done it. That’s gratifying. That’s success. And we all know that success breeds more success.
When we climb a hurdle and get over it, we know intellectually and emotionally that we can get over hurdles. Nothing prepares us for climbing the next hurdle like successfully conquering the previous one.
Success is cumulative.
A couple suggestions for your life makeover:
1. Pick the top three things you want to change. You might have fifty items on your list, but prioritize and tackle the top three, one at a time. You know what’s most important to you. Go after that number one thing first. Then work down the list of three. When those three objectives are met, then tackle the next three. This will keep things manageable and minimize your sense of being overwhelmed.
Remember: anyone can eat a bear—one bite at a time. Don’t tackle the bear. Think and tackle the bites. Before you know it, your list shrinks shorter and shorter.
2. Dream but be practical, too. Dreams are the magic in life. They inspire and ignite our enthusiasm and creativity, encourage us to reach higher than we ever thought we could. Practicality is the way to take dreams and make them reality.
Sometimes the practical side of dreams requires us to take incremental steps. Leaps of faith. We might not see a way to get from where we are to where we want to be, but that’s okay. Look to the next step—it’ll get us closer.
From the bottom of the ladder, we don’t have to see every rung on the ladder. We only have to have a vision of the top of the ladder and to see the next rung—and the courage to step up onto the next rung in our path.
As we move, other rungs between where we are and the top of the ladder where we want to be will become visible. The path to our vision becomes clear. New opportunities we couldn’t have expected will open to us. Unseen handrails appear.
Remember, if we’re moving toward our goal, our journey might sometimes include scenic routes. That’s okay. It’s great, in fact. Often new things we hadn’t thought of before we’ll find interesting, intriguing, or exciting. Things that snag our attention and captivate us. Things that offer us new insights and skills we then take with us to the next rung.
Practical dreaming isn’t settling for less. It’s taking concrete steps to reach our dreams of who we are and the life we live as we define them.
3. Be open to the unexpected and flexible. Often when we are assessing our lives and resolving to make the changes we want in them, we grow intensely focused.
Being intensely focused, we recognize things we hadn’t stopped long enough to notice. We hadn’t deemed things important to us that we discover are important to us. Intensely focused, we become aware of what we’d ignored or just blown past.
In other words, we heighten our awareness, and the things we see when we’re aware can be stunning. Opportunities we might have missed. Chances to take interim steps that might not be our dream but well might bring us closer to it. Maybe we see not “the door” but “a door” that could lead us to “the door.”
We should never be so married to our plan that we fail to seize unforeseen opportunities that fall into our path.
Speaking of that, when we really look at these opportunities, we should ask: Did they honestly just fall into our laps or paths? Or did we just notice them there? Or are the opportunities there because we took concrete and specific steps to get to the next rung where those opportunities reside? Does that matter to us?
Isn’t it most important to recognize that opportunities are everywhere, and we only see them if we if seek them? If we dare to recognize them and that they’re there?
A life makeover is work. No doubt about it. But every success on the journey, every single win for you gets you closer to the life you want. That’s exciting. That’s worth the work. That’s your magic.
Do you have to do that? No. No, you don’t. You can be discontent and just keep going on as you are. It’s your call to make. No one else chooses for you, and no one else can change it for you.
The truth is, no one has more to gain or lose by the decision you make.
But if you do choose not to tackle what you don’t like in your life and to get more of what you do like in it, then you must accept that you’ll live with the consequences. And the next time something major happens and you focus and think because you’re intensely aware, you will again visit your discontent.
It’s up to you to identify and change what you want changed. It’s that simple.
If you do choose to makeover your life, then you have work to do. Some of it will be less than fun, less than comfortable. But if you do it, and you end up living your dream life, won’t you be glad you did it?
If you don’t quite reach your dream but you’re closer to it, isn’t that a win? Time passes either way. Won’t you like having more of what you want and less you don’t? Won’t those interim steps give you the momentum to continue your life makeover, making it what you want it to be?
Each success builds on each success and success is cumulative—you get to enjoy the benefits of all your successes.
They say life is a journey. They’re right. What they don’t say and should is that it’s your journey. Your choices define whether that journey is one you feel good about or one littered with regret at what you didn’t do.
That is worth remembering. Just as it’s worth remembering that your life makeover can be invigorating, energizing and fun. It can be whatever you want it to be. It’s up to you to wield your personal magic wand and do what you most want done.
One last tip: Be content wherever you are.
Whatever stage or ladder rung you’re on, take joy in it. Embrace it. Whether it’s a temporary pause or it takes a while to move on up, there’s good on every rung and in every interim step.
And be grateful. That we recognize our desire to makeover our lives and we have the ability to actually do it is a gift and a wondrous thing!*
Note to Readers: Bringing Home Christmas will be out in digital and paperback on 10/15. Here’s a little preview of what the project is about. I’ve included the first three chapters. Just click the cover. Enjoy!