We all look to external changes for living a better life. We think that a nicer house will change our feelings. If Carol would stop coming to my office to gossip, I’d get more done and not feel drained and negative all the time. If I made six figures, I’d finally be happy.
Sure, some of those things would be nice, but more often than not, our external factors aren’t what is keeping us from a better life. As hard as it is to admit that our internal struggle is internal, accepting that fact means we can look inward to make changes. Sometimes it’s the smallest of adjustments that help us progress toward a better life. Here are 10 changes you can make internally to improve your perceptions.
Be more mindful
When you change how you view the world, you change your internal composition. Focusing on the small details, paying attention in conversations, and mindful eating can all make impacts on how you feel. You’ll not only learn more, you’ll notice the world and it will change you. Attention is our most precious resource, and when we are present with our thoughts, emotions, and environment, we get more from even the smallest moments.
Set goals, dreams, and visions
It doesn’t have to be January 1 for us to set goals. Setting goals for where you want to be down the road is useful motivation for accomplishing our dreams. Think about what you’d like your life to look like three years down the road — what have you done to change your life? How awesome is your life? What does your perfect future day look like? Then you can visualize those goals, because the more you see yourself in that position, the more you want to work on getting there.
Visualization is great, but you accomplish nothing if you don’t take action. Setting goals, dreams, and visions is helpful for figuring out where you want to be, but the real magic is in the action. You have to start taking the necessary steps to get there. Every day, make one small change that puts you one step closer to your goal. Even small progress is progress. With every action you take, you change your life. It might not be noticeable at first, but those small wins add up over time.
I think it’s common to feel like when we forgive, we let people back into our lives. Forgiveness is more about releasing your inner struggle with someone. It’s not easy. We usually want to hold on to that feeling and use it as an excuse to why we act a certain way (yes, some events are traumatic and legitimate. I am talking about the smaller acts that aren’t). Find just one person to forgive, no matter how big or small, and notice the feeling after. You’ll start to release more tension the more you do it.
This doesn’t have to be an entire change in your diet, but start small. Focus on a healthy breakfast first. Instead of rushing through lunch, slow down and actually taste the food (mindful eating). Sit down and be present at dinner. If that feels like too much, start with one small switch. Trade a snack for fruit. Drink some lemon water instead of soda. Eliminate one processed food from your day. Small changes add up and eventually you’ll want to change more.
Activity doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, though that’s really healthy for you. Take it one bit at a time. Focus on getting a few more steps into your day by parking farther away or walking to a bathroom on a different floor. Take the stairs a few times during the day. Stand up and stretch every hour. If you can, get a little sweaty with a walk outside or some more movement in the gym.
Get in on the craze. A journal is an excellent way to de-stress after a busy day. It doesn’t start out as a life changing activity — in fact, when I started, I was conscious with every letter written that it was the most boring experience. I was painfully aware that my words were garbage and I was complaining about nothing. But then I realized that was the point. The emotions I bottled up about certain situations suddenly became clear in their stupidness. I was whining about the dumbest things. The act of journaling helped me be more self aware. Now, after I feel certain annoyances, I think about what that might look like in my nightly journal. If it’s stupid, I let it go. If I need to work out my feelings still, I know the journal is going to help later.
Change your environment
“You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.” The Minimalists are right. You can’t force the people around you to change who they are. It’s their life. But you can change who you spend your time with. Sure, coworkers are proximity relationships — you have them because you’re around them all the time. If they become toxic, take a step away. Find new people to spend your time with. It begins with you accepting that where you are and who you’re with isn’t where you want to be.
This is also excellent advice for changing your habits. If you want to eat better but you constantly have sugary treats around, you’re just tempting yourself. If you want to start working out but you come home and sink into the couch every day, set boundaries. Maybe you change into your workout clothes before you get home so you aren’t tempted to sit down. Maybe you go to the gym in the morning or go straight there after work. Change your environment to support your habits.
Change your self perception
We are all our worst critic, but sometimes we take it too far. Instead of using it to fuel our fires to be better, we adopt a perfectionist mindset and never let ourselves feel the joy of a job well done.
Changing your self perception can come from any of these lists, but specifically around the small wins you accomplish throughout the day. It’s okay to celebrate little things like finishing a project or getting all your standing hours in a day. Treat everything like it’s a big deal, regroup, and then move on.
In everything you do, look for something new. Learn something every day. Ask questions about why things work or why things are done a certain way. Be okay with not knowing an answer. Be curious in looking for new solutions to a monotonous routine you have to continue doing. Look into new topics or styles or different ways to accomplish tasks. Pretend you’re a child and look at everything as if you’ve never seen it before.
Do you remember the first time you did something that really got you excited? My example is writing a book. The minute I started, I felt the words fly out of my fingers. You couldn’t pull me away from the computer. I got excited whenever I could sit down to do it and I felt like I was missing part of my soul when I couldn’t. If you’ve never felt this, start trying new things. If you have, enter every new session with your thing as if it’s the first time you’ve done it. You’ll find your love again.