Take a leap into the unknown and follow the path to happiness
Did you make a long to-do list at the start of 2012 only to realise we're now three-quarters of the way through the year and you feel like you're not achieving what you set out to do?
If that’s the case, then it could be time for a change of tactics - and mindset. And what better time to start than during International Change Your Life Week, which gets under way today. Altering your life may seem like a scary, unwelcome suggestion, even if you do have feelings of discontent, says Louise Presley-Turner, life coach and organiser of International Change Your Life Week.
But she says: “It’s those that take risks, make changes (even very small ones) who are generally the most successful in health, wealth and love and feel more positive about their life.”
Lesley Garner, author of ‘Everything I’ve Ever Learned about Change’, agrees.
“The art of bringing about change - and dealing with it when it happens - is essential to happiness,” says Garner. “Without it we’d stagnate and go mad with boredom. Adaptation creates the energy that keeps us going. It is something we should celebrate.”
So what are you waiting for? Follow the experts’ guide to successful change.
Change or be changed
There are two ways of looking at change - first, that you are in charge and decide what you want and make it happen, says Presley-Turner. Alternatively, she says, you allow change to happen to you because it’s brought about by events or other people’s actions. “The former is preferable, even if it’s a bit scary, because you are taking the reins, which is exhilarating,” she says.
“If we don’t change, often change is forced upon us. We may be waiting - for somebody else to take the responsibility - or it may happen when we least expect it. Either way, we’ll have to adapt to change whether we like it or not.”
Recognise that change is part of the human growth process. “Look back and consider changes that have happened in your life - from school, to your first job to all of the friendships and relationships,” urges Presley-Turner.
“Think how the world has changed and how you’ve adapted and the valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way. “Even what can be perceived as a negative change - relationships breaking down or redundancy - can be the biggest blessing in our life - although often painful at the time.”
Making a leap in the dark can feel so frightening that it paralyses our will to change, says Garner. “Instead, use stepping stones so that you progress gradually in small stages,” she suggests. “For instance, if you want a dream job, consider looking into training and voluntary work, offer to do unpaid work if it gets you nearer your goal and ask people for advice if they’re in the field you want to enter.”
Work your change muscle
Get comfortable with life’s challenges by writing a list of 50 things that scare you.
“Start off with the small things such as driving on a motorway, going to a café for lunch on your own then work up to more challenging things like sky diving,” suggests Presley-Turner. “The aim is to pick one thing off your list every week - starting with the easier items and working upwards. By doing this, you are building a new ‘can-do’ belief, which helps you embrace change.”
Take a risk
High-risk people are fun to be around as they take life head-on, says Garner.
“We can’t all be those adrenaline-junkies but some of us avoid any risk and dread the unfamiliar or new - the types that always return to the same holiday resort. While that’s safe, they may never know the thrill and excitement of the unexpected,” she says.
“The rest of us probably fall in the middle - occasionally we’ll throw caution to the wind - but it can be hugely rewarding to regularly steel yourself to take a risk, which doesn’t have to be big - talk to a new person, buy something exotic. It’s about altering your risk-gauge gradually so that ‘change’ over time ceases to be so frightening.”
Partners in change
Find a trustworthy person who’s also hoping for change in their lives and team up to support each other, advises Garner.
“You need to allocate a certain length of time for each of you to meet regularly. Your aim is to formulate a plan of action and a timescale, rather than chatting or gossiping. This is a way for like-minded people, who are genuinely committed to change, to help each other.”