We are the captain of our own lives. We have all heard this phrase before, but how often do we take steps to actually live it? A captain is in charge of their ship and if they want to change direction or go somewhere new, they can make that happen. If you are unhappy with your current situation, why not make a small choice today that will get you headed in the right direction?
In this blog post I am going to talk about the steps and some small choices that might be able to help you on the journey towards your goal–even if it seems like an impossible one!
Step 1: See the Reality of the Situation
Most of our pain and suffering come from looking at a situation for what we want it to be, rather than the reality of what it is. We avoid the reality because it can be painful and we often feel powerless in changing the situation.
Yet the truth is, you always have a choice. How you show up in a situation and how you respond to the situation is 100% up to you! This is where your power lies and where you are able to create change. But first, you must see the situation for what it is, rather than what you want it to be.
Sometimes simply identifying the reality of situation is all you need to do to begin to shift things in your life and heal.
To look at the reality of a situation you can ask yourself this simple question-If you had a magic wand, how would your life be different?
It’s interesting that imagining how your life would be different actually helps you see the reality of your current life situation. Often in thinking about what we want that is different and then examining where we are in life, we can clearly see the obstacles we face in getting to our ideal lives. And we see the reality of our current life.
I have found that for myself and in working with clients that writing down the details of a situation as it is and then how you want it to be different to be really helpful. Often thoughts that make sense in our minds, look completely different and lose their power once we’ve written them down. The process of writing allows us to see our thoughts in the light of day and make sense of them-giving them the time and attention they need for us to understand and resolve them.
Just this one step of looking at your life and thinking about how you would change it if you had a magic wand-writing down your thoughts and reflections will bring you clarity on the reality of your situation. Clearly seeing the reality will help you become aware of next steps and opportunities that you weren’t even aware of to help you start to change your life.
Step #2: Change One Small Thing
Based on what you want your life to look like and the reality of your current situation, identify one area you would like to focus on. I often encourage people to start small. It’s easy for us to get overwhelmed with the idea of change and think that we need to make huge changes overnight or all at once in order to create our ideal life. Taking an all or nothing approach to create changes in your life will only lead you down a path of overwhelm, pain, self loathing, and frustration-where you feel like nothing ever really gets accomplished. Because you give up due to the magnitude of the changes you’re trying to implement in your life-all at once!
Change takes time. Even the smallest changes can take months or years to adopt as daily habits. So be gentle on yourself and secure in knowing that one small change performed daily can create massive change in your life over time.
To get started, look at your writing on how you would like your life to be different and identify one area of your life where you most want to start making a change. One useful way to do this is to look at the major areas in your life that affect your overall well being. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Of these core areas where do you feel you want to make some changes? If you made change in one area, would it also effect other areas in your life positively? Which area could you start making a change and see significant results sooner rather than later?
For example if I am chronically tired and know that getting a good night’s sleep (7-8 hours is what we should all aim for) then I would look at how I could go to bed earlier or wake up later, so I can get much needed sleep.
In getting enough sleep, I’m not just helping my physical health as it will give me more energy throughout the day, but also my mental and emotional health as adequate sleep is linked to lower rates of depression and anxiety. Also research has shown that we are better able to regulate our emotions and think with greater clarity when we routinely get enough sleep.
However, I will find that getting more sleep may be a challenging new habit to develop. This is one area where I could make changes that day and so I turned to an effective model of change to get started. The SMART model.
When creating new habits using the SMART model is useful and most importantly effective.
Step #3: Make Your Change into a SMART Habit
SMART habits really do work. It’s all in the approach you take to change one small thing in your life-over time. SMART stands for
A-Appealing/Attractive (if you’re not going to like it, you’re never going to do it)
T-Over time (as opposed to time specific)
In creating my new sleep habit, I looked at small changes I could make in my life to get to bed earlier. For me this meant getting ready for bed sooner so that when it was time to go to bed, I would be ready to go. It also meant sleeping a half hour longer in the morning so that I’m no longer getting up at 5:00 but rather 5:30. Sleeping in an extra half hour is very attractive to me, so I was excited about this!
It took a couple of weeks for me to adopt this new approach to sleep and the key for me was in keeping track of how much sleep I was getting each night. In measuring my progress, I tried many different strategies to see what worked best on the nights I did get at least 7 hours of sleep. When I experienced energy, clarity and awareness in my days I saw how appealing getting more sleep was for me!
In trying different approaches I found what worked for me. Being realistic about what I could do to get more sleep made it much easier to incorporate more sleep in my life and improves my chance of sustaining this change.
Also I kept in mind that change takes time. Even creating new and simple habits-takes time and patience. On days when I didn’t stick to my sleep schedule I gave myself grace and reflected on why I didn’t get enough sleep. In getting curious and reflecting on what didn’t work for me that night, I learned from what led me away from getting a good night’s sleep and continued to make minor adjustments to this change. I continued to refine my routine and to work on it the next night and every night after that as needed. Consistency over time will help me develop the habit until it’s just a normal part of my day to day life.
At this point I have stuck to my new sleep routine for the last month and I have so much more energy throughout the day than I ever did! I have seen positive shifts in other areas of my life as discussed here like mental clarity. I no longer have to have a cup of coffee or tea late in the afternoon just to make it through the workday.
Also I am less stressed and more relaxed which has helped me to be a better spouse, parent and friend.
Last but certainly not least is that my new sleep routine has paid off in other areas of life like health! I have more energy to workout five out of seven days which has helped me to lose the extra few pounds I’ve been trying to lose for the past couple of years.
This is a great example of how small choices we make each day lead to big changes in our life. I am the captain of my own ship and the captain takes responsibility for themselves!
Now it’s time for you to take control over your life too! What one small change will you make in your life daily to change your current life and move you towards the life of your dreams?