Self-help, self-love, self-care, self-work – pick whatever buzzword you want but they are all about the same thing: we want to change our lives. Whether it’s shedding a few pounds, reading more, or just finding some time in the day to sit and take a deep breath, there are aspects of our daily life we wish were different.
But let’s face it, change is hard.
You could spend hour after hour scouring self-help articles on the internet and try every trick that’s out there – from moving your alarm clock across the room and putting pictures of skinny people on the fridge to setting reminders on your phone to be present – only to wind up frustrated and disappointed in yourself.
So, rather than get lost in the rabbit hole of personal development blogs, I went to the mothership. I spoke with Lee Rankinen, co-creator of the Optimal Living Daily podcast, a show that hand picks and narrates the best personal development blogs (with author permission). Lee is the one responsible for curating all the content featured on the show as well as its sister podcasts – Optimal Finance Daily, Optimal Health Daily, Optimal Business Daily, and Optimal Relationships Daily. He spends about four hours a day reading blogs and articles across the full spectrum of personal growth – from mindset and minimalism to dating, business, and budgeting.
I wanted to know if in all his reading, he’s found any consistent themes or takeaways on how to implement change in our lives. Turns out, there are five.
1. Start Small.
We tend to want to completely change our lives at the start of each new year, new month, or new week. Like somehow all the new habits we want to start or old ones we want to break will suddenly be easier based on where a day lands on the calendar.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I’m going to work out for an hour a day and walk 20,000 steps and do all these things,’” says Lee. “And it’s easy to get discouraged if you’re not able to follow through on this.”
Rather than go from zero to sixty, Lee says to start small, pointing out that it’s a lot easier to work out every day if it’s for ten minutes vs. thirty, and you’re more likely to meditate for two minutes a day than attempting an hour a day. “Start small so you can build that momentum and keep moving forward,” he recommends.
2. Be Consistent.
“Do it daily,” says Lee. “Again, starting small makes that easier so that they kind of coincide with each other.” He says to make the small changes a consistent practice in your life so that they become ingrained as part of your daily routine.
Slips ups are going to happen and when they do, Lee points out that we can start over at any minute. It doesn’t have to be tomorrow or Monday or next month.
So, when you scarf down an Oreo in a moment of weakness, don’t chalk the day up as ruined and go on to eat burgers, pizza, and ice cream.
Instead, Lee says to be mindful of the decision you made, recognize that you strayed from your eating goals, and start over in that minute. “If you miss a day, that’s fine,” he says. “Don’t wreck all the progress you’ve made just because you missed one day.”
3. Be Always Happy, Never Satisfied.
It’s a delicate balance between accepting where you are and striving to be better. Lee says the journey of personal growth should be fun. You can be happy with your current life while still wanting to improve it.
“There are so many people who feel like they have to put pressure on themselves if they’re trying a new habit or if they’re trying to grow in a certain part of their life,” Lee explains. “It’s okay to enjoy the process and it’s okay to be light on yourself.”
It can be all too easy to get stuck in the I’ll be happy when mindset, thinking that attaining your goal weight, getting a promotion, or reaching a certain income will make you happy. “If you’re not enjoying the whole process of whatever goal you’re working on, you’re not just going to be happy when it’s done,” Lee warns. “Enjoy the whole process, enjoy your life.”
4. Know Your Why(s).
“You’ve got to decide why you’re making that change for your life,” explains Lee. Doing so, he says, will make the process of implementing the change easier and more enjoyable. Knowing your why is often considered purpose but Lee isn’t talking about your overall life purpose. He points out that you can have a why (or purpose) for each facet of personal growth. “I may have multiple purposes and it might be for five different things that are going on in my life, and they may not seem interrelated at all, but each one is still important to me.”
Reminding yourself why you are doing something will help you get through the inevitable slip ups.
5. Remove Limiting Labels.
We all have certain conceptions of ourselves. We have decided what type of person we are and what type of person we aren’t. But Lee points out those labels are simply another form of limiting beliefs; barriers between you and the person you could be. “Life is fluid – things change, people change, you mature and grow,” he says. “Be careful not to categorize yourself so that you then put a fence up around you and then you’re always that person.”
Whether it be that you’re not the type of person who dances at weddings or who travels alone, he says that as you evolve and mature, those labels may be holding you back from something you would really enjoy.
“Whether that’s a label that you’re espousing to other people, or if it’s just something internally that you think,” he continues, “it’s dangerous to label yourself.” Removing the labels opens many doors of change – some you were working towards and others you didn’t know existed.
So, the good news is we have the ability to implement whatever changes we want in our lives. It doesn’t have to be torture. The process of change can be enjoyable if we cut ourselves a little more slack. Simply remove the self-proclaimed labels that hold us back, know why the change is important to us, enjoy the process, start small, and do it daily. “It’s the little things; it’s little things every day,” says Le