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How to Really Get Started with Making a Positive Change in Your Life


Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notsogoodphotography/ / CC BY 2.0

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”
Brian Tracy

One big problem that I used to run into is that you simply don’t seem to be able to get started with making a change.

You want to make a change but feel stuck. You don’t seem to be able to take action and start moving.

If you feel this is a challenge for you then here’s what I have done to get out of such a place. Perhaps you’ll find something useful in my experience.

Do a reality check.

It’s actually pretty simple to get started. Even if you feel stuck. It may however not be as easy as you wish and there lies a problem.

Making a change isn’t that easy and it will require effort. You have to accept that. And work from that model of reality. If you think that things will fall into your lap effortlessly or by some kind or magic then any effort or action will feel so hard and difficult that you will probably not even try. Or if you try and fail, you’ll just quit instead of trying again.

So check your reality. Are you looking for an easy answer or a magic pill? Or will you work hard while at the same time listening to advice that can help to make the process easier and allow you to work smarter?

A few tips for finding a view of reality that will help you:

1. What have other people before you or around you done to improve their situation?

Ask yourself this question. Talk to people who have made the change you want to make (lose weight, quit smoking, improve the social life etc.). Or if you can’t find anyone, read the top rated books on Amazon.com on that topic or read blog articles. But make sure that you take advice from someone who has actually been in your shoes and gone where you want to go.

2. How much work am I putting in?

It’s very easy to be a bit delusional about how much actual work you are putting to make that change. Instead of guesstimating, ask yourself this question and be honest and measure it. Log what you spend your time on during a week. It’s not uncommon that you need to put in more work than you may think to make that change. And that you doing a bit less actual work than you think.

3. Realize that you are responsible for your life.

I really like this quote from Nathaniel Branden’s The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: “No one is coming”.

You can look for the next big thing that will fix you. Read more blog articles. Read more personal development books. Look for people to help you. And yes, some articles or books or people will give you support and insights that resonate deeply with you. But in the end, if you are an adult then no one is coming. No one is coming to save you. You have to take responsibility for your own life and what happens in it. Other things and people can certainly aid you quite a bit. But you are responsible.

You can go around blaming society or some people for your problems in your social life (or finances or health). You can always find scapegoats to judge to feel better about yourself. You can look for people that will “fix you”. You can do this for the rest of your life if you like. It won’t change much. Whatever has to be done, it’s you who have to take responsibility and do it.

Yeah, things might always not go your way and you will probably have bad luck from time to time. But you still have to focus on yourself and doing what you can do in whatever situation that may arise in your world.

4. If you have a really serious problem, seek professional help.

This is also a part of doing a reality check. How serious is your problem or challenge? There is a difference between getting a bit nervous before a meeting at work or a date and having a big panic attack and feeling like you can’t breathe or are about to faint.

If you have a serious problem, then please seek professional help. The advice on this blog is for small or medium sized problems (at least as I experience it). If you have a really bad problem then the advice here or on other blog or in books may still help you a bit.

But I still believe that best option in such situations is to seek professional help. Perhaps one on one counseling with someone with vast experience, someone that comes highly recommended.

Get out of your comfort zone.

Doing a reality check isn’t that fun all the time. If you are anything like I was you may have noticed that you aren’t putting in enough work or that you aren’t really taking responsibility for your life. So it can be an uncomfortable thing to do.

After you have gotten a more accurate picture of what needs to be done you need to do it. This requires moving out of your comfort zone in real life and not just while sitting comfortably on your sofa.

I don’t think there is much one can do to avoid discomfort when making a change. Yes, you can lessen the discomfort and you can make it easier for yourself. But trying to avoid it completely is one thing that makes people go running around in circles for magic pills and leaves them stuck with little actual progress to show. That’s why you need to do a reality check. You can’t make much progress or live life fully if you live in fantasy world where everything is supposed to be painless and easy.

Now, there are some things you can do to make it easier to get out of your comfort zone and start taking action.

1. Make one small change.

If you try to change many habits at the same time for example then that will probably fail. You will spread yourself too thin and run out of energy and time as regular life starts to interfere.

Focus on changing one habit at a time. And if you have trouble making a big change then start with a smaller one. It’s better to make small changes little by little in real life than walking around in endless daydreams of drastic and incredible change that never comes. As you make one small positive change your confidence goes up and it becomes easier to make the next change. And over the months and this year and the next you can make a lots and lots of progress.

Let’s say you want to be less nervous and awkward in social situations.

To solve that you can take small steps. Steps like first just saying hi to people. And being more involved in conversations at work or in school to exercise your conversation muscles. After a while those things will feel more comfortable. And so you can expand your comfort zone a little bit more.

And so you gradually desensitize yourself to social situations or whatever you are uncomfortable with. You make it the new “normal” for you.
So, identify your problem. Then make a plan with some smaller steps you can take to gradually lessen your discomfort.

2. Make it social.

Sign up for a course in something so you have to be there each Thursday and learn. Locking in this time into your schedule probably makes you more likely to show up than if you will do “some self-studies sometime when you get the time”.

If you are going to a party where you know few people then it may be easier to bring a friend. If you have decided to start going to the gym it might be easier to actually get going and keep going there every week if you have a gym-partner.

However, there are potential downsides to bringing friends too. If you are at the party with your friend then you might not meet and get to know that many new people. If you are going to the gym with a partner it might lead to the two of you talking and focusing less on getting a great workout.

But try it out and find what works for you. By involving more people and/or signing up for courses somewhere you will feel commitment to people you like and a bit of positive social pressure to actually go there when you are supposed to instead of slacking off on the sofa.

3. Ask yourself questions that changes your perspective.

If it feels uncomfortable to do something then I find that I can often reduce that by changing how I think about it in my mind.

I do so by asking myself better questions. Question like:

  • What’s awesome about this?
  • Will this matter in 5 years?
  • Honestly, am I overcomplicating and overthinking this?

Sounds a bit silly perhaps. But by providing better questions you can get more positive answers out of yourself. And you replace destructive thought loops in your mind that can paralyze you from taking action with a healthier and a bit more relaxed perspective.

4. Focus on the positive past.

Realize that it can be fun to get out of your comfort zone despite what your mind and feelings might be telling you before you get started. Think back to the previous times when you have broken out of your comfort zone. Focus on the positive memories, when you got out there, when you took a chance. And you will probably remember that it wasn’t so bad, it was actually fun and exciting and something new to you.

A lot of times we automatically play back negative experiences – or negative interpretations of events – in our minds before we are about to do something. And we forget about the positive memories and our previous, positive achievements. Avoid that trap. Let the good memories flow through your mind instead.

Final words.

If you are here then you have probably heard about this blog from a friend or perhaps you had a problem that you wanted to solve and found it via Google. If you are here then you probably want to make a positive change in your life in some way.

You may still need time to get started with that. Perhaps you haven’t had enough yet and not reached a point where you know deep down that you really need to get started with making that change now. If that is the case then this article will be here when you are ready, when you one day wake up and say to yourself “That’s enough! I’m sick of this and I’m getting started with changing this today”.

If you are ready now then get started. Use the advice in this article to start making your 2010 the best year ever.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Katie April 6, 2010, 2:27 pm

    I love that quote, “No one is coming”. It is a realization I have had recently. I am looking into the book now, thanks! Great post.

  • Merly April 6, 2010, 2:34 pm

    Great article! Everything I read your articles, I get re-motivated and re-energized. Keep up the good work.

  • Srinivas Rao April 6, 2010, 3:23 pm

    Some very solid thoughts Heinrik. I think the most of our growth occurs when we are pulled out of or comfort zone, but most people are too scared to get out of that zone. I think your ability to use questions is also a very powerful thing. When we can use powerful questions to control the focus of our minds then we can move our minds in a very positive direction. I think starting with one small change is a great way to communicate to your mind that change is something you are capable of. Often we want to make dramatic changes and unfortunately things don’t work that way.

  • SUMIT April 6, 2010, 6:44 pm

    Hie Henrik,
    It seems that this article has been written exactly for me. I am ready now, ready to apply the awesome nuggets you shared with us. I especially liked third point on both the segments, about being responsible and about asking questions that changes perspective.

  • Lauren - OfficeArrow April 6, 2010, 7:20 pm

    Sometimes a reality check is not necessary. Sometimes changes happen whether you want them to or not. For me, I have started making positive changes in my life in response to one very negative change that was forced upon me. I think it’s a testament to hitting bottom before you realize that only you can bring yourself out of it. If you start noticing your own unhappiness, it’s time to make a change. Life is too short to be anything but happy. The most important part is realizing you can do anything you want to do. Just get started and make that first move!

    Reminds me of my favorite quote by Paulo Coelho:
    “When you really want something, the entire universe will conspire to fulfill your desire.”

    • gdaym8 April 11, 2010, 3:21 am

      Wow! Simply put, but so true! “Life is too short to be anything but happy.” and “The most important part is realizing you can do anything you want to do.”

      Thank you for those words!

  • Sherri Frost | Self Hypnosis April 6, 2010, 7:53 pm

    So many people ARE looking for the magic pill or the easy answer. If it doesn’t happen they look for someone to blame or they keep looking for the next magic pill instead of looking inside themselves for the answers. If we slow down for a minute and listen close enough we will often find the right answer for us.

    I think we often stay within our comfort zone because we aren’t clear about what it is we really want. Or that we are aimlessly trying to reach a goal that isn’t even really important to us – it may just be something that seems to be working for someone else.

    For me, I needed to clear out a bunch of stuff that wasn’t working so that I could really discover what I wanted to do and it gave me more time to be able to focus on it.

  • Chris Akins April 7, 2010, 12:58 am

    Great post.

    I’ve always believed positive change starts from within. A program of personal reflection; e.g. meditation, yoga, tai chi, journaling, therapy, etc. is the best place to start. We cannot make lasting positive changes without self knowledge.

    Chris

  • Lisa Lomas April 7, 2010, 7:17 am

    Thankyou, I appreciate you sharing a positive view but also knowing when to ask for help.

  • Christa April 7, 2010, 8:19 am

    I saw the topic which interests me. What I have to tell myself is to “get out of my comfort zone”. I used to like to do things which needed to have courage, but somehow I stopped with this. Others might say it’s the age, but even when you get older you should not give up to live life fully. I will write this sentence on a piece of paper and hang it in front of me!

  • Sheeba April 7, 2010, 11:35 am

    I am glad to have found your blog. Just today I started a new blog about small changes you can make in life to improve it (Life Intuitions).

  • rob white April 7, 2010, 5:08 pm

    I think you make a great point about breaking out of our Comfort Zones. I have learned to be uncomfortable being comfortable. If we are comfortable we are stagnating. I have found it empowering to change my relationship to comfort. Trying to stop a successful
    achiever from breaking out of his Comfort Zone is like trying to stop the sun from shining. They intuitively sense what Sir Edmund Hillary expressed, reaching the summit of Mt Everest: “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

  • David April 7, 2010, 11:28 pm

    I love the phrase “you are responsible for your life”. When I work with others to make positive changes in their life particularly related to their love life, its always about looking for a magic pill and not doing the hard work of self growth. Your a fantastic writer btw. Cheers, -David

  • On vacation in the Philippines April 10, 2010, 12:30 am

    Change can be scary. Especially when we talk to ourselves in less than useful ways. For example, we could call “being outside our comfort zone” as “being in the excitement zone”. For me, being on a vacation, especially a long one, is exciting. It’s also outside my comfort zone. Different cultures, different ways of doing things, just not like at home. Take small steps and get into your excitement zone slowly. Get used to it, then take another step. Get used to that, etc etc.

  • Susan Liddy April 10, 2010, 3:07 am

    Henrik,

    I really enjoy your simple and direct approach to goal accomplishment. Just feels so simple the way you put it.

    Here’s to motivated people everywhere!
    Woot!

    :) Susan

  • Cora April 16, 2010, 3:11 am

    Yeah really thank you for this information.
    After reading success stories of how some people get their jobs, (ie some agent chasing them down the street in the dead midnight in new york city, and they became famous, I wont be nameing names since they are people too) i got totally bogged down. Like, when will good things happen to me? Now, I will continue what I started the realistical pessimist way, thank you.

  • Aida April 22, 2010, 8:27 am

    Very practical yet insightful posts. thanks.

  • Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com April 28, 2010, 10:08 am

    Slowly peak out of your comfort zone. before you know it, it will become an exhilarating buzz to do something that makes you uncomfortable. This is an indescribable feeling until you claim it for yourself.