I think one of the most difficult parts of trying to change your life is recognizing which parts need to change… and then being willing to change them.
What I mean is, when we look at our lives as a whole, many people wish things could be different. But when we break our lives down into small, bitesize parts, we struggle to find the things we want to change, remove, or let go of.
We want better results but we are unwilling to take better action. The reason for this is the actions we currently take make us comfortable. During those moments of reflection or frustration, we want our lives to change. But, when confronted with the opportunity to take action that will cause the change we default back to doing what makes us comfortable.
How can you ever change your life if you are not willing to make any changes?
Many people spend all day at work wishing they had a better/different job. Then when they get home from work they eat dinner, sit on the couch, flip on the tube, and try to forget about their day—my reward for a crappy day is to veg out and relax. Who hasn’t been there before?
But the problem is, once the night is done and you go to bed, you will wake up the next day with the same life, the same job, and nothing will be different.
The term for this is called instant gratification. You want to feel good right now! You can’t change your job right now but you can eat a tasty dinner or watch a fun show. So instead of taking action to improve the overall quality of your life, you instead make yourself feel good now. The problem with this is it doesn’t change anything when it comes to the big picture. In fact, it’s actually the behavior that’s keeping you stuck.
What separates those who take control of their lives versus those who let their lives control them is how they spend their free time. Do you invest your time in things you want to build—a career, a relationship, an interest, or a hobby? Or do you reward your crappy life by doing things that will simply perpetuate the crappiness but make you feel better for the short-term?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of doing things you enjoy doing—reading a good book, watching movies, eating a great meal with friends. But these things should be rewards for all the hard work you do rather than in place of it.
Now, if you are the type of person that loves their life, loves their job, and loves watching Netflix all night… I’m not talking to you. If you do what you love, keep doing it. I’m talking to the people who are not happy with where they are. I’m talking to the person that wants to do more with their life than they are currently doing. I’m talking to the person that knows they are capable bigger and better things… they just can’t seem to figure out how to make that happen.
If that’s you, I want to share three things you can do today that will begin to put you on the right path.
Create a list of things you love doing.
So many people are not happy because they don’t do things that they want to do in life. They feel trapped in a cycle of things they are forced to do rather than things they enjoy doing. Now, I’m not talking about the instant gratification things like binge-watching shows on Netflix while eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I’m talking about things that will enrich your soul and inspire you into action. Do you like to travel? Do you enjoy getting out into nature? Do you like playing a sport or learning about new things? Take some time and write down the things that inspire you and light a fire inside. It’s hard to figure out what you want to do if you aren’t clear on what it is you enjoy doing. Get clear on that first.
Before you do something, ask “Does this improve my life?”
One of the best ways to recognize if your actions are feeding into your instant gratification or if you are simply trying to distract yourself is by asking yourself, “does this improve my life?” It’s a simple question that will reveal surprising insight into how much time you spend—or more accurately waste—doing things that don’t actually improve the quality of your life. Try to strike a balance between things that simply make you happy doing versus things you do that improve the quality of your life. This could mean reading a self-improvement book rather than just a romance novel, writing in a personal journal rather than simply scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, or getting out and playing a sport rather than sitting on the couch watching others play. The key is to do something today that you can benefit from tomorrow.
Track and schedule your time.
Ever wonder how some people can get so much done every day while others seem to struggle to get anything done? We are all given the same 24 hours in a day. The difference between people who accomplish more and those who don’t is based on how each person invests their time. People who are productive invest their time in the things they’ve prioritized for themselves as being worthy of their time. People who are not productive waste their time because they are not clear about where to invest their time. The best way I’ve found to get clear about anything in life is to put it down on paper. Track what it is you want to do and compare it to what it is you are actually doing. Figure out where all your time is going and then decide if that’s the correct place to invest it. If not, adjust your schedule so that you are maximizing your investments and getting the most out of your day.
Take a few weeks and track what you do each day. Also, get an app like Moment that tracks your phone screen time and social media usage. You might be surprised at how many hours you lose each day staring into your screen instead of investing in your life. Once you’ve tracked your time, figure out what you need to adjust so that you have more time invested in the places that you want to improve upon. It isn’t about making more time for the things you want to do but rather figuring out how to reallocate the time you have and investing it more wisely.
By applying these three things into your life you’ll begin to develop a better understanding of what it is you want to do. You’ll also begin to recognize if it’s something that will improve your life in the long-run and how you can invest more of your precious time into making it happen. After a while, you’ll find you have more time to do the things you really love while still having time to let loose and celebrate life.
Now go out there and make some magic happen!