The problem with such global questions as "How to change yourself for the better" is always in two points.
First, for each "better side" - his own. For one, the answer to the question “how to change yourself for the better” is “quit smoking and eating junk food, start spending more time with loved ones and realize that there are more important things in life than work.”
For another, the answer to the question “how to change yourself for the better” is “throw off overly arrogant relatives from your neck, start paying attention to yourself, and not just those around you, start going to bed on time and signing up already, finally, for a complete physical examination. And both will be absolutely right, because the question of change for the better is an individual one for everyone.
The second point: it is not clear how to determine whether you have changed for the better or not. What are the criteria? What indicators? How do you know if you're going there or not? The feeling of “well, it seems that I live better than before” is too vague.
Today you slept well, ate delicious food, rested, and the whole world seems to you a wonderful place where sparkles do not just shine. And tomorrow you didn’t get enough sleep, you were unfairly run over and a passing car splashed mud - and the whole world, your whole life and yourself seem terrible to you.
Therefore, the question “how to change yourself for the better” is quite difficult. But let's try to figure it out.
How to change yourself for the better: decide
Usually, when a person asks such questions as changing himself for the better, he wants to change everything at once, in one fell swoop.
Surely there are many different things in your life that you are dissatisfied with to one degree or another. Like: it wouldn’t hurt to lose a couple of extra pounds, I eat fast food too often, I go to bed too late, I sit on social networks for too long, I read too little... Individually, it seems to be nothing terrible, but all together it accumulates and forms a very unpleasant picture, which, of course, I want to change quickly.
So: alas, but this is a trap.
If you try, as they say, to start a new life on Monday and live immediately “on a clean copy”, doing everything as ideally as possible and as similar as possible to how you see your ideal life, most likely you will have enough fuse briefly. At first, everything will work out, you will even feel some kind of inspiration, because you are so good and cope with everything, and everything is just perfect!
But then the fuse will gradually disappear, because your brain will begin to feel bewildered.
Like: what the hell? After all, I’m trying, making serious efforts (and immediately taking and immersing myself in a completely new lifestyle is a huge effort for the brain, because it needs to build a huge number of new neural connections and come into contact with a huge amount of new information), but where is the profit? Where is the fun in the process?
And usually there is no profit and pleasure, because when it comes to habits, lifestyle, profit from them does not appear very soon. Even with the same banal weight loss, healthy lifestyle or nutrition. And the pleasure will also appear soon. The real pleasure is from the process itself, and not from the realization that you are so good.
What to do with it, you ask me?
Step one: analyze what specifically you don't like about your life.
You can directly write down whatever comes to mind. Seriously, it’s better to write down, because it often happens: when you sort through something in your mind, it seems like there is a lot of this “something”, but you start writing down - and suddenly just a little bit, and it’s much easier to work with such a list. There is also the opposite situation: you start writing down - and it’s as if Pandora’s box opens, but it’s even better this way: you will record in detail what doesn’t suit you in your life.
If you want to make your notes more structured, then here is an instruction for you on how to do this.
Look, you can structure problems according to the zones of your living space. That is, write down in order what you don’t like, what you would like to change in:
- work (relationships with colleagues, superiors, do you like it, does the work process itself give pleasure);
- financial area (do you have enough money or want more);
- the material sphere (is everything okay in everyday life: maybe it’s a long time ago to replace appliances, household appliances, communications equipment, clothes, shoes);
- health (do you feel well, are there any illnesses, do you accidentally need to see a doctor about a long-standing sore);
- general physical tone, appearance (do you look good, sleep well, are you satisfied with your physical form);
- relationships with friends;
- relationships with families;
- love relationships (on all these points: do you feel good communicating with these people or are there those that your eyes would rather not see, do you spend enough time with them);
- hobbies, free time (do you get enough rest, do you feel fulfilled somewhere other than work).
You can simply write down the problems in each of these areas.
Or another option: give each of the areas a score from one (complete seams, absolutely not satisfied with the way things are with you in this area) to ten (everything is very good, everything is completely or almost completely satisfied, and little things that do not suit - so little things that you don’t even want to remember them).
Your next step is to subtract the score you gave each area from ten, that is, from the ideal. And write as many problems as there are differences. That is, for example, you put a seven on the “physical tone” item. 10-7=3, you need to write down three problems that prevent this area from being perfect.
Next, when you have already painted your problems, it's time to proceed to the next step.
Step two: prioritize.
Most likely, you have found quite a few problem areas from different areas of your life. But you can’t change them all at once purely physically, and not all of them need to be changed right now - most likely, many of the problems you identified will be from the category “it would be nice, but in general we are well fed here.”
So, try to prioritize: what is most important and relevant for you now, and what can be tolerated, and you can do this later, when you solve the main problems. By what criteria should they be distributed? According to your personal feelings. For example, you can carefully reread the list of problem areas and ask yourself questions for each problem:
- How important is this to me? How much is this problem ruining my life at the moment? (If you want, you can also put down marks from one to ten, so it will be easier to compile a list of the highest priority problems later)
- How quickly can this problem be solved? (Some problem is solved in one evening, “go and finally buy new sneakers,” for example, and some require serious investments in time and effort, for example, undergo a health examination or lose weight, build relationships with loved ones)
- How will solving this problem affect my life? (This is more so that you have a positive motivation in order to both change yourself for the better and make your life more comfortable)
Now you understand, at least approximately, in what side you need to move, what exactly in your life requires changes. Now you can make a plan.
So, look, you have two lists: issues ranked by “how they poison my life” and on the basis of “how quickly this problem can be solved”.
What to do next?
Step one: make a list of specific actions (ideally tie them to specific dates) against the list of the most quickly resolved problems.
If you have problems that can be solved in one action (say: buy new clothes - provided that you have money for them, of course - call and apologize to a friend you miss, make an appointment with doctor), then make a list of these actions and literally put them on the schedule so that you can’t get out of it.
It may happen that you have been postponing for months, if not years, an action that in the end will require from you a maximum of a couple of hours of your time.
Step two: deal with problems that are not so easily solved.
Most of the problems will still be long-term: problems with health, with physical tone, with lifestyle, with relationships with loved ones or at work, or some kind of psychological problems. In order to change something here, long-term, consistent actions are already needed.
How to plan them? Here's a tip: don't write out a plan years in advance. Come up with a specific action that you can do literally right now or in the near future. Write a resume to start the job search process, for example. Calling someone, writing to someone, finding tickets, booking a seat - simple, concrete actions that can be done within half an hour.
This will start the process, and it is more effective than a plan of many points, which then will gather dust on the shelf.
Form a new lifestyle
Also often the question “how to change yourself for the better” is about good habits and lifestyle, whether it be “going to bed early,” “exercising,” or “boosting your self-esteem.” Here's what you need to know about this category of change:
First, you need a specific goal and a specific, measurable outcome that you want to achieve.
“Studying English” can be done either by reading ten words in English once a week, or by studying at the level of a Harvard student - both of them fall under the definition of “studying English”, but you understand that these are different things, right?
To avoid such vagueness, you need a specific, measurable, so that you can feel it with your eyes and see with your hands, the result you want to achieve, and the specific actions that you will take.
At the same time, it is advisable to limit yourself to a deadline, so that after a certain amount of time you check whether you have reached the desired result, and if not, where did you make a mistake and how can it be fate for the future.
For example, “devote an hour to English classes every day for three months” - this will be a specific action. “Pass the B2 mastery test” is a concrete result.
Another example: “Going to bed no later than midnight every day for three months” is a specific action. Measurable result: “I managed to go to bed like this for at least 80% of the total number of days” - in this case, you will consider the goal fulfilled.
Another example, more subtle, about increasing self-esteem. Here, the action might be “every day for a certain amount of time, write down three things for which I can praise myself today.”
And for the result, you can create a “before” and “after” for yourself. For example, before the start of changes, you write down how you characterize yourself as a person, and after a period of changes, you make the same record again and compare what happened and how you felt at the same time.
Because when we plan something from the sphere of “how to change ourselves for the better” - for example, we decide that we will study English, or that we will go to the gym, or communicate more with loved ones, or be more careful treat ourselves - we often plan as if we are ideal people, robots who always do everything clearly as planned.
In science - cognitive science - this is called "idealization of the future self." The scientists even conducted an experiment on students: after they received a study assignment, one group of students were asked to analyze in advance how the training would most likely be realistic given their personalities, procrastination tendencies, or their distractions. The other group was not asked to do so.
So, the first group prepared for the exam more concentratedly and intensively, because they realized that if they want to prepare for the real state of affairs (characteristics, distractions), then they need to act more concentratedly. And the second group did not have such awareness, so the students from there idealized their future selves and relied too much on them.
What follows from this? That when you set a goal for yourself, you need to think: how will the process of developing a habit, learning English, or other similar change, actually most likely go? Given your inclinations, your character, your habits, your distractions? And adjust the goal and actions that you will take. If the goal and actions are formulated realistically, then they are much easier to carry out.
Third, introduce changes gradually.
You already read above that being in the middle of a completely new lifestyle is a lot of stress for the brain, and it will most likely not stand it and return to its usual patterns soon.
To avoid such a situation, introduce changes gradually, take your time. Ideally, one habit at a time, well, or let the habits be at least interconnected, for example, "walk every day" goes well with "every week go to a new place" or "read more books" (you can listen to books while you walking).
Before introducing the next habit, the next change is to wait until the first habit becomes easy and natural for you, and it no longer requires much effort.
How long does it take? It is not known, it depends more on personality traits, including even physiology: how quickly your brain produces new neural connections. But wait at least the canonical 21 days before introducing a new habit.
There is another life hack: introduce the habit smoothly. For example, it is unlikely that you will be able to immediately start running for an hour three times a week, if before you ran only to the refrigerator, when you really wanted to eat. Introduce first a small but positive change for the better: say, walks three times a week. Then, on walks, add time for jogging, and gradually increase it. So you yourself will not notice how your life has changed for the better in an easy and natural way.
Fourth, you need to keep track of the changes.
This is important when it comes to how to change yourself for the better, because you need to control the situation, understand where it is going, whether you are moving successfully or not. Otherwise you will be lost. Plus, it's important to stay motivated throughout the journey. There is such a psychological trick at work here: when you create an uninterrupted line, you don’t want to stop it, there is excitement - to continue this line, so the risk of breaking loose is reduced.
And if you still break down and experience demotivation and disappointment in yourself about this, then you can see how things were going for you before, before this breakdown, and understand that the days when you successfully completed the action that you need in order to both change yourself for the better and develop a good habit, more than the days when you broke down and did not follow it. It helps to cheer up and carry on.
How to track progress? The easiest way is to start a schedule or a habit tracker, or a food or sleep diary - it depends on your needs. You can start a regular paper diary, it is also great.
The main thing - do not forget to mark your progress there every day or follow the schedule that you have made for yourself (for example, you want to improve relations with a loved one - you can schedule your meetings, enter them into your schedule to accurately avoid long pauses in your communication). This is the main function of such a change tracker, so it is important that it is convenient and you can access it at any time.
Fifth, just accept in advance that there will be 100% breakdowns.
Simply because you are a human, not a robot, and you cannot do everything perfectly, and the answer to the question “how to change yourself for the better” is rarely simple and painless.
If - and when - a breakdown occurs - do not freak out, do not reproach yourself, just continue to swim in the direction you need. Nothing terrible happened, it was initially clear that it would not work out perfectly. It's okay, you have the right to break down. Just carry on like nothing happened. You can analyze why you stumbled so that you don’t make mistakes in the future.
Sixth, motivate yourself.
How to change yourself for the better? Change every day a little bit until you achieve the desired result. Sharp jerks rarely work here, most often it is a long, gradual process. And during this process, you need to maintain your motivation.
How to do it? You can come up with a system of rewards and punishments for yourself (you did what you need - you got a pleasant thing, you didn’t do it - you got an unpleasant one). Or make the process of doing the habit as enjoyable as possible. And, of course, do not forget to praise and support yourself, because changing your life for the better is a very laborious process that requires great self-discipline and determination.
It is also important to address the issue of environment.
Try to have people around you who support you, motivate you, console you when you stumble. Perhaps the people you look up to: after all, the environment influences us a lot, so if there are athletes around you, for example, then you most likely will not want to lag behind them and you yourself will go in for sports more intensively.
But it also works in the opposite direction: changing your life when there are toxic people around you who strive to ridicule and criticize any drive to action is difficult.
If you are unlucky, and around you are just such, then try to reduce communication with them, if possible, and find people who will support you. And if it doesn’t work out, then praise yourself with tripled strength, because people who strive to change themselves and their lives for the better deserve praise like no one else.