“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” — Harriet Beacher Stowe
Most people get to a certain stage in life and come to the realization that things need to change and they need to change now. Either they hit rock bottom, or come to this realization after repeating the same patterns enough times. So, what happens if you find yourself in this situation? How do you turn your life around?
Considering that we’re all creatures of habit, turning your life around isn’t a simple feat. In fact, it’s a major production. Most of us are set in our ways. We have habits that have been ingrained into our minds through years and and even decades of repetitive behavior. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” right?
That saying arises from the simple fact that it’s highly difficult to turn our lives around, especially as we get older. For younger folks, who haven’t lived half their lives with addictive or limiting behaviors, it’s easier to make changes. The habits haven’t run too long. The neural pathways haven’t been etched to deep.
Still, there is hope. You can teach an old dog new tricks, if you’re committed enough. Whether it’s a physical addiction or a set of habits that have been ruining your life, there is hope for change. But, learning how you can turn your life around, even as an “old dog,” isn’t the same as actually following through with it.
Many of us say that we want to change. But not many of us actually change. So, in order to really turn our lives around, we need to get past the mental roadblocks that tend to hold us back. Rather than slipping back into old habits and routines, we need to breakthrough and extricate ourselves from the grip that our negative behaviors have on us.
Okay, okay, so how does it work?
Turning Your Life Around
Okay, so you want to turn your life around. You’ve reached a point where either enough people have told you that you need to change, or you’ve personally come to this realization after something very traumatic has happened to you. First, let me say, I feel your pain. I was in that very same situation not too long ago. I was desperate for answers and had no one to turn to.
But it wasn’t the first time I had realized that things needed to change. It wasn’t the first time where something in my subconscious mind was telling me that it was time to change now. In fact, the voice was deafening. So I knew that I needed to change, but I didn’t know how I could turn my life around. I didn’t know how I could eradicate behavior that was so ingrained in me.
However, what I did realize was that I knew I absolutely had to change. I knew that I had to turn things around. Alsoxt, I had a reason. And it was a profound reason. Without that reason, I never could have pulled it off. Of course, that wasn’t the complete picture. It was a long process, but it had to start somewhere. Specifically, here’s how I did it and how you can too.
1 – Find Strong Enough Reasons
All change is possible. In fact, if we were to move to the atomic and subatomic level, the human body is changing every moment. We adapt and we survive. It’s in our genetic fiber. But, on the macro level, when you want to turn your life around, you need to find a strong enough reason. The cliche goes, “Reasons come first. Answers come second.”
In goal setting, I always speak about finding a strong enough reason why you must achieve your goals. Without that, no goal or drastic change is possible. Without that, you can kiss your chances to turn your life around goodbye. But, if you find a deep enough reason as to why you must turn things around, change is within sight.
Remember, knowing is half the battle. It will get you part of the way there. So to find your reason, you must dig deep. It has to go beyond “I” and the selfish desires of the ego. There has to be a deeper and more lasting reason to it. In order to do this, you need to keep asking yourself the “why” question until the answer is equal to the question.
An example of some reasons are: freedom, time, family, contribution, and love. These are profound reasons that go beyond the superficial. We will always do more for others than we will do for ourselves. If you truly want to know just how you’ll turn your life around, no matter how bad things might be, find profound reasons to do so.
Once you’ve found your reasons, write them out. Don’t just keep them in your mind. Grab a sheet of paper, and for each reason, write at least 500 words related to the importance of it. Where does that reason stem from? Why will things be different this time around? Simply keeping it in your mind won’t do it for you. Write it out.
2 – Identify the Bad Habits
We’re creatures of habit. All of us. From the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, our lives run largely on routines and patterns known as habits. It’s the mind’s way of increasing efficiency, but it tends to work against us rather than for us.
Considering that 40% of all human behavior is habit-driven, the quality of our lives are dictated by the habits that we employ on a daily basis. Those habits either help to empower us or hold us back. So in order to turn our lives around, we have to identify the bad habits holding us back.
It’s necessary to identify the bad habits so that we can bring them to light. Often, it’s those same bad habits that have ruined our lives to the point where we have to turn them around. But, illuminating them to the conscious mind is hard.
The mind is used to clouding and obscuring your true behavior from you. That’s why it usually takes a major cataclysmic event or a number of very painful situations to occur before our ego can be shattered to the point where we recognize our wrongdoings.
It’s a difficult situation to find yourself in. I know. I’ve been there. But, by identifying the bad habits that are holding you back, you can take the first steps to turning your life around. Take a sheet of paper and identify all the bad habits. Write out in detail what those bad habits have cost you in life.
Whether it’s a financial cost, an emotional cost, a mental cost, a physical cost, or a spiritual cost, get detailed here. Don’t skip this step. You have to bring enough clarity on the matter to the conscious mind so that you can ultimately overcome the bad habits.
3 – Prepare Yourself for Change
Change isn’t easy when it comes to our habits. Since we tend to be set in our ways, especially more so as we grow older, changing can be hard. Anyone that’s tried to quit their bad habits or make some drastic improvements knows just how difficult this can be.
Before you can make a major change and turn your life around, you have to get prepared. The first two steps are crucial. But beyond that you need to make some hard and fast decisions. And it all depends on your personal situation.
Often, it’s either our environment or our peers hat help to support our present behavior. Whatever and whoever we choose to surround ourselves with is usually part of the problem. Sometimes, we don’t have a choice about our environment.
However, more times than not, we do have a choice about who or what we choose to surround ourselves with. If you’re truly committed to turning your life around, you need to identify the present people, things, or places that are helping to support the poor situation that you’re in.
This might be hard. Letting go of toxic people or relationships, and even living situations isn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially when you’re financially entangled, so to speak. But, if you’re committed to turning your life around, you have to be prepared to make some drastic changes.
Write down all of the people or environmental situations that have supported your detrimental behavior, or work as catalysts to set you off into behavior that might be self-limiting. Again, the more detailed you are in this step, the more likely you’ll be to make the necessary changes to help turn things around.
4 – Focus on One Change at a Time
When we try to tackle too much too fast, we end up getting frustrated. And we eventually throw in that proverbial towel and give up. Change can be overwhelming, so don’t try to do too much too fast. Don’t try to completely alter everything about your life overnight.
The best way to make long-lasting changes is to start small and build. Remember, your bad habits and limiting behavior weren’t formed in a day. They took months, years, or even decades to form. Similarly, you have to unwind the behavior slowly over time.
In habit development, studies have indicated that habits take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form with an average of 66 days. Considering that, you need to institute your changes slowly to build up a new good habit or to break a bad habit.
In general, you need at least 90 days for a habit to form. But, even then it doesn’t fully stick. After about 6 months it becomes more permanent. So, create a schedule of changing your behavior little by little. Depending on which bad habits you want to quit, this can range on the scale of difficulty.
For example, let’s say that your problems involve debt, and that you find yourself in a situation where you have far more debt than you can handle. First, you have to go through the previous three steps of 1) finding strong enough reasons to change, 2) identifying bad habits, and 3) preparing yourself for change.
Once you’ve done that, you need to institute small changes over time. Work your changes in week by week. For example, let’s say that you’ve identified all of the bad habits that have put you into the situation. What next? Now you have to take some action.
Here’s what this might look like:
- First, analyze the specific amount of money you owe to each creditor. Detail out the interest rates, the monthly payments, and the type of debt (i.e. fixed or revolving).
- Cut up all your credit cards, save for one that you can use for emergency situations.
- Spend the first week creating a budget.
- Take out all cash to pay all of your monthly expenses with.
- Track your spending each day.
- Focus on eliminating one bad financial habit per 90 day period but start small. For example, if you eat out 5 days per week, limit it to 4 days per week for the first two weeks, then three days per week then next two weeks, then two the next, and so on.
While there is no fast and proven formula for every situation, the small changes over time works. If you’re overweight and trying to lose weight, start by walking around the block for 5 minutes each morning for the first week. Then, upgrade to 10 minutes per morning. Three weeks later, 15 minutes per morning.
Over time, small changes turn into big progress. It’s far better to make a little bit of progress every single day, then to make no progress for weeks, months, or even years at a time.
5 – Seek Out Inspiration
Often, in order to really turn our lives around, we need to seek out inspiration. Find other people that have overcome difficult situations and broken through their fears to achieve their dreams. Whatever it is that you’re dealing with, there are people that have faced similar situations and have triumphed.
But, sometimes, when we’re feeling down and out, we just can’t bring ourselves to being motivated to change. When that happens, we really need to seek inspiration in others. Countless others have failed many times before they succeeded. In fact, the most successful people have failed the most times.
Often, it takes multiple failures before we have the right perspective to turn our lives around. Before that, it’s harder to see the forest through the trees thanks to the ego. But, when you suffer major failure, although it hurts, we have to embrace it because failure is life’s chisel.
Failure helps to chip away at the stuff that doesn’t work, and ultimately, to help us replace it with the stuff that does work. When we can embrace failure in this matter, almost anything is possible. So, don’t be afraid if you’ve failed and things seem like they couldn’t get any worse. This is a turning point.
Looking to others helps us to gain more perspective on our lives. When we can see just what people had to go through in order to achieve their dreams, it gives us a deeper sense of spirit.
Life isn’t easy. No one ever said it was. But it’s the journey that matters. We have to thrive off the journey and use whatever happens to us as a learning point. Only then can we really improve and get better.
6 – Stay Persistent
Giving up is easy. Allowing life to overwhelm you is simple. It’s far less complicated to let things go and simply succumb to negative patterns, than to dig in your heels and work through the pain. In fact, we do more to avoid pain than we do to gain pleasure.
Since all change is painful, unless we’ve associated enough pain to our present behavior, overcoming our situations and turning our lives around is highly difficult. But, when you know how not to give up on things because short-term pain will mean long-term gain, the path become clearer.
There are multiple strategies that you could implement for not giving up. But, the fact of the matter remains that if you want to stay persistent, you need to have a very powerful reason to succeed. Without that step-1 reason, it’s impossible to succeed.
Persistence is the key to success. Einstein once said that “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” No statement could be truer. Consider that you’re going to have to work hard if you want to turn your life around, especially if you’ve been stuck in your ways for quite some time now.
The art of persistence boils down to relentlessly pursuing your goals, no matter what. It doesn’t mean you give up. It means that you fight the good fight. Take this situation for what it is and commit to turning your life around no matter what. Use pain and failure to fuel you rather than to limit you.
And of course, as Winston Churchill once said “Never, never, never give up.”