No matter how generally content you may be with your life as a whole, everyone, from time to time, feels the need to make some sort of change to their everyday routines and habits.
It’s telling that New Year’s resolutions are such a well-established cultural tradition across much of the world. There is simply something about the idea of turning over a new leaf and making an effective change that is appealing on a deep psychological level.
Of course, it’s one thing to want to make an effective change in your life, but it’s another thing to actually manage to make it happen in practice. Here are some tips for effectively beginning to make changes in your life.
Focus on modifying your environment before relying on willpower
Willpower is great – and it’s what we all depend on in our most trying moments, in order to stay true to our values and principles, and in order to remain on track with whatever goals we might be focusing our energies on at the time.
But while willpower is invaluable in bursts, psychological research seems to indicate that it is not actually very effective when it comes to keeping people on track with their everyday goals and routines. In fact, there is research showing that willpower appears to be a finite resource – something that gets “drained” the more you rely on it, and that then needs to recharge.
If you want to make some real, meaningful change in your life, focusing on modifying your environment is likely to be much more effective than leaning heavily on willpower. If you want to stick to a healthier diet, for example, do what you can to minimise the need for willpower altogether. For example, empty your home of all junk food, and fill your kitchen cupboards and your fridge with nutritious ingredients. Or leave a vape pen on your desk, and throw out your cigarettes.
Work to establish a relationship with your future self
Consistency, and the ability to maintain a long-term focus, are essential when it comes to managing to make an effective change of any sort – and certainly for maintaining such a change and making it “stick.”
One great psychological exercise to utilise here, is to work on establishing a relationship with your future self – in other words, developing a sense of investment in your goals and desires for the future.
There are various techniques that can be used in order to help establish this “relationship,” but one straightforward and effective practice is simply to write a letter to yourself for a date some years in the future, explaining your hopes, goals, and motivations. Then, set the letter aside and open it on the due date.
Target your habits intentionally
As the old quote from Lao Tzu says, “ the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Along the same lines, any significant and enduring change in your life has to be based on consistent repetitive action, as opposed to one-off gestures.
In other words, you should target your habits intentionally – focus on establishing manageable everyday routines that move you in the direction that you want to move in, and work to tackle and undermine habits that aren’t doing you any favours.
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