6 steps how to change your life -starting today

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How often do you think about changing something in your life? I’ll give you a moment to think about that.

…and how often do you follow up?

Don’t worry, you are not alone. As a matter of fact most people have high ambitions that somehow end up nowhere. A good example for people like that…is me.

Oh gosh, how often did I swear I would stop eating sugar, work out more, be less chaotic, learn how to dance or cook, be more persistent in meetings and so on.

It is rather normal that we aim high and end up doing little of it. Or we loose motivation at some point, get stuck or lack discipline. For some people radical change works. In my professional and personal experience, practicing small steps of change is way easier and will eventually lead to great results.

Another road blocker for change is to wait for the right moment. To wait for perfect circumstances, an external event or someone who does something in order that you can start. Bulls***t. You have everything you need right now, right here.

I encourage you to start experimenting with little changes in your daily life. Take it lightly and see what comes out of it.

Myself, I started by changing tiiiiiiiny things. At first these steps seemed insignificant. In retrospective, about 1 year later I see how many aspects of my life I changed since then. Change one part in your life, and it will change everything.

Or as Lao Tzu puts it:

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.”
— Lao Tzu

Here are 6 tips how you can introduce change into your life – starting now.

To get to a new place it is helpful to see where you are at the moment. Reflect on your current situation:

What do you know about yourself? What feedback do you get from friends, colleagues or your family? Which aspects of yourself do you feel confident or proud of? What would you consider your strengths? Which of your typical behaviors are hindering you (either in your private and/or professional life)? Where do you see potential for personal growth? What makes you feel good about yourself? What drains your energy or feels like and emotional black hole?

This reflection is the starting point of your change journey. Be as honest to yourself as you can be. The personal insights you gain here are for you and yourself only. Take a walk or do a meditation exercise before doing this reflection. A calm place and mind will deepen and enrich your insights. Seek for other peoples feedback to enhance your perspective.

My starting point was a 360° Feedback provided by https://www.now-here.com/. When I first saw my report my self-evaluation was way below than the assessment by others.

I told a friend about this and she said: “Maybe they don’t know you.” The hard truth was, that these were mostly colleagues I was working closely with, my direct reports and my boss.

My first reaction was not to believe the results: I called up the trainer. I politely made him aware of the fact that my report was wrong. The trainer smiled and calmly stated: “What I can see here is that you have an issue with your self-worth. Also, it is interesting that you think that THEY must be wrong”. Ouch.

In hindsight, I have to smile about my initial reaction to the report. This moment, it became obvious that other people believed more in my potential than I did myself. To make me feel better about myself I was holding down or criticizing others. Even now that I write this, I am a bit ashamed of myself.

Still, as I mentioned above: be honest to yourself. If you have a clear picture of where your are starting from and why you want to change something, it is way easier to succeed. Finding your motivation to change is key.

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Before you start experimenting with slight changes in your life, take a moment to think about: What exactly do you want to achieve?

Which parts of your behavior do you want to expand? Which personal patterns do you want to break? What do you want to learn for yourself? How do you want to act and feel going forward?

Be precise in your answers. The more goals you set, the harder it will be to keep on track. It is more promising to chose one specific thing. You will experience that changing one part creates a snowball-effect in your life. Make sure that your change experiment has the right size: not to big, not too small.

Speaking about my journey, I wanted to learn to be more self- accepting. To ease the pressure that I put on myself. To take things lighter and move with more playfulness. I wanted to get out of my always-on performance-mode and start enjoying my life more.

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Practicing change is about being and doing. Get clear on how you will shift your presence and energy. How will you behave differently?

By writing this down you create your own work instruction. Something you can hold on to and use as personal KPI. Thereby, you can track if you implement the desired behavior.

Chose something that you can practice and embody in your every day life. The more often you can repeat this new behavior, the more progress you will make.

For me it, embodying the change was to trust my strengths and enjoy making use of them by being kinder to myself. A difference in my behavior should be to let go of expectations and take care of my needs.

From time to time before taking a decision I would check these two dimensions.

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You want to shift your patterns so you need to do something different. I suggest to do it as early as possible.

Is your change about getting more healthy, than make yourself a healthy breakfast. If you are trying to become more understanding of others, take the morning only to listen to your family. If you want to be more relaxed, do some calming exercises. It can also help to take 10min for yourself and read a book or say your mantra out loud. Anything goes.

Whatever your goal is, include some aspect of it in the very first 10-30min of your day.

In my quest to more self-acceptance and kindness, I decided to set my alarm one hour later. I am the opposite of a morning person and need loads of coffee to get to a functioning mode. For my job where I commute 1,5 hours I needed to get up at 5.30 am. That killed me.

Coming to the office one hour later may sound trivial to others. For me it meant being the very last person to come to the office. I was afraid it would badly reflect on my performance review or people would start questioning my work ethics given that I was in a managerial role.

It took me a while before I found the courage to actually do this. I blocked the hours before 9:00 am in my calendar. With this, I could avoid meetings at 7.30 or 8:00 and made the shift in pattern possible.

Honestly speaking, it took some time until me and my colleagues got used to this adapted set up but I kept it until today and now it is fully accepted.

This small shift in behavior resulted in entering the office with a smile, better sleep, more focus during meetings, getting sick less often and over all – and that was what I was aiming for – more joy in my life.

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Remind yourself about your goals. Change does not come over night. By repeating our desired behavior we internalize it and succeed.

Mantras, inspirational quotes, affirmations or short statements help you to remind yourself about why you want to change.

The sentence I chose for this exercise did not serve me so I will not share it here. Instead I used 3 quotes to get me started, which I shared in a previous blog post.

You can visualize your statement, use it as a screensaver, a sticker or anything else that helps you remind yourself about your ambition.

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Working on yourself is fun – but not always. Some things don’t turn out the way you want. Sometimes you loose motivation or feel insecure about the side effects of your changed behaviors. Seek people you trust, who know who your are and who you want to be. Ask them for their feedback and use them as your supporting team.

In my case, I shared my plans with my partner. He listened and understood what I was aiming for. He knew that I was struggling with taking care of myself, going the extra mile on a daily basis and thereby slowly burning out. He helped me stick to my plan and stay consistent e.g. when people tried to squeeze in 7:00 am morning meetings despite my blocked calendar.

I checked with my team and my boss, if they were negatively effected by my changed behavior. It turned out that my boss did not notice any difference. My team was happy for me that I had started to take more care about myself. In the end, this was what they wanted me to do all along when filling out the 360° Feedback.


I wish you loads of fun and success with starting your personal change experiment!

Let me know how the 6 steps worked for you by leaving a comment or sending an email.

How to use 4 dimensions of knowing as a navigation system for personal growth

Some people choose for themselves to change something others are forced to do so by outside circumstances – such as the pandemic that we are experiencing right now. Every deep-level change throws us into unknown territory. The level of uncertainty rises and it can be hard to navigate through times were solid prognosis are just not possible.

We are educated to use our intellectual mind, logical thinking and rational deductions to make decisions. We make lists of Pros and Cons and analyse possible risks before trying out something different or take a decision.

This is definitely helpful to some extent. Let me introduce you to three more dimensions of knowing, which have helped me to smoothly navigate through uncertainty: Emotion, Intuition and Embodiment.

In addition to the intellectual mind, emotion, intuition and embodiment, used as data source, help you to follow your path and take decisions that are right for you.

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

Emotion

In our professional lives we are often trained to store away our emotions. Especially for women emotions at the work place are not received positively. Often they are labeled as “too emotional” or “too sensitive”.

Also in our private lives we are often expected to be happy and well. How are you? as a welcoming question is not expected to result in an emotional drain.

Research shows that tapping into our emotions – even the messy, difficult ones – and accepting them, leads us to thrive and be truly happy.

As Susan David says in her TEDtalk:

Our emotions contain flashing lights of things that we care about. When we are open to the difficult emotions, we are able to generate responses that are values-aligned.

Susan David

If we take a look at our emotions with curiosity, compassion and some courage, we can take values-connected steps in our lives.

Intuition

Sometimes all facts and logical thinking clearly favor one option – but then you instinctively go for the alternative. Like turning down a job offer from a great company just because it did not “feel right”.

In times on uncertainty – like we are today – we often even lack the rational information part. Everything is really hard to estimate, surprises happen and things evolve dynamically and often with unexpected domino effects.

According to Gary Klein, ex-Marine, psychologist, and author of the book “The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work,” 90% of the critical decisions that we make are made by intuition in any case. Intuition can actually be a far more accurate and certainly faster way to make an important decision.”

Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer argues in his interview with Harvard Business Review that

gut feelings are good tools for an uncertain world. They’re not caprice. They are not a sixth sense or God’s voice. They are based on lots of experience, an unconscious form of intelligence.

Gerd Gigerenzer

Even tough most high level managers don’t admit it in public, research shows that about 50% of all their decisions are at the end gut decisions.

Gigerenzer continues saying that instinctive decisions are often rationalized afterwards. People look for evidence that backs up their intuitive decision in order to present it as fact-based.

Embodiment

Another dimension of knowing is your body. Researchers conclude that psychological processes are closely linked to the body.

When you are dealing with change take a look at your body’s responses. Observe yourself to find out, what is working for you: When are you tensing up? When can you breathe easily? Where do you feel pain in your body? What outside events or context is it linked to?

I myself found out, that my belly makes noises as if a was hungry, when I feel trapped in a meeting and cannot express my position on the matter of discussion.

When do you feel the urge to eat chocolate, smoke a cigarette or drink a glass of whine? This is mostly a sign that you are about to numb an emotion.

Being tired every morning, forcing yourself to get our of bet, can be as sign that something is off.

Or the other way round: How can you practice self-care and do yourself something good? Be it a looooong nap, a walk, healthy food,… Even if it feels strange or esoteric, try out some yoga practice to become more aware of your body. Calm your mind with some meditation exercise to also sense what’s happening in your body.

Observing ourselves how our bodies react to certain situations can be a helpful data source to find out what is right for us. Taking care of ourselves including our body, we make sure that we respect and worship this part of us.

To grow as a person and advance in your transformation make use of all four dimensions of knowing: intellectual mind, intuition, emotion and embodiment.

By using multiple sources of data, we get a clearer picture of where we are heading to. Not everything seems logic at the first sight. Some signs that we receive from other dimensions of knowing are contrasting to what we is “the norm”, what is accepted” or “expected”.

If we observe these signs with curiosity and appreciate them as valuable source of information we might surprise ourselves. Then we only need the courage to follow up.

I am happy to share how these four dimensions of knowing have helped me navigate through my personal and professional adventures in an upcoming blog post.

Thank you to  Daniel Gonzalez for providing the picture on top!