When was the last time you looked through childhood pictures? It can be a strange experience to see yourself in your much younger self: your hair is shorter and darker now, your face a bit less round, but that mischievous grin and some fierceness in the eyes haven’t changed a bit.
The same goes for the rest of us: our personality, quirks, preferences, and habits. Some change, the others stay the same. But who we’ve been doesn’t determine who we will be. The gift of being human is the agency we have to shape who we will become. Autumn reminds us that change can be beautiful. And you have the power to create powerful change.
Change Your Direction
Think about the current trends in your life, across your health, relationships, work, money—whatever matters to you. Let’s say they continue more or less the same for the next ten years. Where do you find yourself? Do you want to end up there?
For most people, it’s a mixed bag. Their current trajectory leaves them with a thriving career but a marriage in shambles, or with strong relationships but dangerously poor health. We all have areas of life where we’re experiencing some success and areas we’d change if we could. And, we can.
The best way to change direction is with a goal. Goals drive our focus and effort. If you know you’re eating too much fast food, you might set a goal to cook 20 new recipes this quarter. If you’re spending too much time online, you might set a goal for 1000 screen free hours this year. If you lack confidence at work, you might set a goal to complete a course or coaching program.
The most important part of goal achievement isn’t what we accomplish. It’s who we become.
Change Your Mind
What we achieve is limited by what we can imagine. And usually, we recruit our imaginations to work against us. Consider the term “self-fulfilling prophecy.” We tell ourselves we’ll bomb the presentation, be passed over for the promotion, never achieve a healthy lifestyle and then… our predictions prove true.
But what if we thought differently? What if our thinking propelled us forward instead of holding us back? What would changing your thinking make possible?
We call the beliefs that hold us back “limiting beliefs.” We typically hold them about the world, about other people, and about ourselves. The key is replacing these beliefs with “liberating truths.” Liberating truths don’t deny reality, but instead tell a hopeful story.
Instead of “I’ll never lead a healthy lifestyle,” you might tell yourself, “I have the grit and resources I need to make changes that stick.” Can you hear the difference?
Trusting the liberating truth over the limiting belief won’t happen overnight. Habits of thinking shape your brain, just like habits of doing. But you can do it. Start by naming the limiting belief and liberating truth. Then, every time the limiting belief comes to mind, counter it with your liberating truth.
Bit by bit, you’ll change your mind.
Change Your Habits
It was Aristotle who noticed that our character is shaped through our habits. Who we are is shaped by what we do. Our everyday habits, even more than pivotal moments in our lives, shape who we become.
That means our habits are worth a careful look. What is the one thing about yourself that drives you the most crazy? Your perpetual lateness or flakiness? Your propensity to distraction or losing your temper? Your anxiety or inability to keep promises to yourself?
Some changes might require building a team to come alongside you—from mental health professionals to faith leaders to good friends. But you can build new habits. You can replace poor habits with better ones.
Change takes time. And frankly, it takes work. But it’s work worth doing. Set a new direction. Expand your imagination. Replace a bad habit with a good one. And watch your world change.
You’re not confined to the person you’ve been. You have the agency to pick a new path and change who you become. What’s your next step?
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