How To Make Life Changes

Butterfly symbolises how to make life changes

How To Make Life Changes

Many of my clients come to me when they want to make changes, but, at the same time, change feels too big, too scary and too unknown. Or, they may not even know what they want those changes to be.

While some people may have a strong vision of where they want their life to go, many of us can find ourselves rather hazier about the details. We know we want change. We’re ready and willing to welcome that in, but we just can’t figure out what that means.  Additionally, we may be so nervous about making the wrong changes, that we get stuck, doing nothing at all, and end up feeling frustrated with ourselves for not taking action.

This is often the stage when people come to me for psychotherapy, thinking that something is wrong with them, that something internal is holding them back.

Think small

Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the big vision that we forget about the little things that are going to make our future work for us.  Our life isn’t all big causes and swapping changes. There may not even be a strong sense of purpose. What we can be sure of is that life is made up of many small moments that will add together to create our feelings about life, and ultimately, determined how satisfied we are with it.

Before you can create a big vision for the future, here are three approaches that may help to give both food for thought and clarity.

What matters to me?

Let’s try a little exercise here by taking five jobs you’ve had in the past, plus your current role. You can go right back to Saturday jobs and paper rounds if you like; just try to get some variety in there.

Take a separate piece of paper for each job. Just note down, for each of them, what comes to your mind about them – it can be anything from having to use negotiating skills to the fact that you hated climbing 5 flights of stairs to use the loo, to being able to wear sneakers into work.  Now take some coloured pens and go through, underlining things which are similar or the same in each job. They may not be found in every job, but even if they are in two, mark them.

Now, take a look at what you’ve underlined. The very fact that you’ve written them down means that they are important to you in some way – after all, we don’t notice things that don’t mean anything to us. The question is why are they important? So, three of your jobs had a dress down Friday. Did you like that, or hate it?

Look at the language you are using and how you really feel about what you’ve written. I once did a similar exercise with a group. Two of them had written down working from home, but when questioned, one said this had connotations of being lonely, the other said it was calm and peaceful.  So, if you do this exercise with someone else, be sure to really reflect on your own meanings, not be guided by theirs.

How can I play with this?

Rather than put too much pressure on yourself to come up with the big design for the rest of your life, think about approaching it more playfully. What have you always wanted to try but never got around to? What questions would you ask someone doing a role you’ve fantasised about? What would it be like to give it all up and write that novel you’ve been planning in your head for the last five years?

The theory of Possible Selves suggests that there are multiple possibilities for us out there –  you can write that novel, but equally, you could go for that promotion or go back to University part time. We don’t choose because it’s frightening to commit, but what if you could just play with the ideas? For instance you could take two weeks off to write two chapters and see how cope with working from home all day and having to reach a certain word count.  What if you spoke to the person who is doing that job right now, or even asked to shadow them for a day? What if you did an evening course and see how it feels? At the end of your experiment you may decide you can’t stand the isolation of writing from home, you couldn’t last the course and, surprisingly, you really like the idea of a new challenge at work.

Any change, even small ones like these, will inevitably give us fuel to help us make better decisions and clues as to what’s going to work for us. Them it’s up to us to take some real action. If that’s where you are stuck though, why don’t you…

Look at your worst possible self

Of course, we have that other possible self. The self we will be if we don’t change. If you need impetus then looking at how your life will be if you stay in that unhappy marriage/put up with that job with the two hour commute/put off dating…or whatever less than perfect circumstances you are putting up with. Really dig into how it’s going to feel in five or ten years’ time if you haven’t changed anything. How frustrated will you be feeling? Use this Possible You to provoke you to do something – anything – to start change happening.

If you’d like to explore making life changes – big or small – please contact me here, or book a free chat here.