How to Make Lasting Changes in Your Life

by Aileen

It’s nearing the end of January already and many New Year’s resolutions have either not yet been started, or they’ve been abandoned. Back in my pessimistic days I’d find myself irritated by those who succeeded with their goals, when I didn’t. Then I’d often come up with reasons (excuses) why it wasn’t the right time, or what got in the way.

It surprises people when they find out, I wasn’t a natural optimist.  Growing up, it would bug me every time my Mom would say “can’t you get that chip off your shoulder?” It would just infuriate me.

When I began to realize that life seemed easier for happy optimistic people, I wondered if I could become one, but I felt conflicted because I didn’t like happy optimistic people, yet at the same time I wished I was one.

Now, decades later, I’ve come to see that changing my thought patterns, my mind, and my attitude were some of the hardest changes I’ve ever made. I’ve made countless changes, and there are still more ahead I’m sure, but those intangible changes like “change your thoughts,” those were the hardest!

When we want to change something outside of our head, where we can see tangible results, it’s easier than trying to change the intangible such as our habitual thoughts.

Here’s my secret Kaizen recipe for making lasting changes:

1. Work on one intangible change while you work on one tangible change – Many experts say you can only focus on one thing at a time to get real results, but I’ve found by working on one tangible and one intangible, I get better results. Example: Tangible – get in better shape by going to the gym five or six days a week. Intangible- become more positive.  What begins to happen is, you see progress in the tangible goal, and you begin to realize that the change must be happening to the intangible, if you’re putting the same amount of daily energy into it. It’s like building Faith, you won’t see it or feel it building, but by making those daily deposits, it is happening. You’ll see it eventually, but it helps if you’re improving your golf swing, your ballet, your yoga, your diet, or your savings account – something tangible at the same time where you can see the improvements taking place.

2. Break the goal down into doable incrementsIf you’ve got a big wide goal like “become positive” or “get in my best shape yet”, you’ll need to break it down into bite size pieces. This may take some time for you to customize a solution. For those who want to get in shape, I love the book The%20Perfect%20Power%20Within%20You” target=”_blank”>The Perfect Power Within You it’s a 7 week course, but gives you an idea of how to change a thought into a more positive one, and how to see things differently. It gives you a thought for each day to work on throughout the day. Once you’ve come up with some ideas on how to break your goal down into doable increments, you’ll need #3 and # 4.

3. Small Continuous Improvement (Kaizen) Rather than looking for massive improvement such as “I’m going to mediate one hour in the morning, 30 minutes in the afternoon and one hour in the evening every day and I’ll live mindfulness by next week.” Go for small continuous improvement. Choose a version that you can commit to on a regular basis that’s small enough that it won’t drain you and you won’t quit. Consistency is a huge factor for making real and lasting change. Once you’ve chosen your tangible and intangible goal/desire, create an action plan for how you will incorporate it into your life (daily, or Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Then create a way to record your actions and hold yourself accountable. This could mean a daily goal journal that you record your actions in for 10 minutes in the evening, or maybe you found an app for your phone (they have so many), or it’s a nightly check-in with your goal partner.

4. Tweak and refineNo, you’re not done yet. Once you’ve created an action plan and a tracking plan/accountability plan you will set forth and try it out. As the days and weeks progress you’ll notice if your plan is working for you or not. So tweak and refine: if you realize that your plan isn’t working you make appropriate changes. Maybe you’ll need to change the time of day, time allotment from 60 minutes to 30 minutes, maybe you’ll start using a timer, or setting an alarm to help you stay on track.

5. Celebrate the actions you tookSome results we can’t control, but we can control the actions. We must take a moment to celebrate the controllable things we did right. If you put in the time, and executed your action plan, recorded your actions then celebrate. Maybe the results you hoped for weren’t quite within reason and maybe it’s time to adjust the desired results. On the road to becoming more optimistic, I learned to be okay when I fell off track because of bad news, a bad situation, or a random act of negative thinking. It didn’t mean I wasn’t making progress. The more we acknowledge our successes, (such as executing our action plan, taking constant action, etc…) the more energized and inspired we’ll be to keep going. If we don’t celebrate our successes we’re more likely to give up.

6. Take your eyes off of results – This is contrary to a lot of advice I was given in goal setting, and in life. But I’ve found it to be incredible. When I take my eyes off of the results, and put my attention on the purpose and the process I find I have more enthusiasm and vigor to stay the course. It fuels my motivation, and I tend not to think “how far way I am”, or the “what ifs” or the “ya but…” rather than going down that path of resistance and fear, I see the image of what I desire, and I feel it. This connects me to an incredible power that seems to open doors and things happen. Connect to the purpose of your desire/goal and connect to the process of putting in the action steps you can control. You’re making deposits into its reality.

So, what does it take to make lasting change? It takes personal kaizen: Small continuous improvements, where you focus on the whole, and give it daily attention. 

Making real and lasting change takes commitment. The more you tweak and refine your process, so it’s doable, efficient and effective, and fits in well with your daily life, you’ll find that over time that desired change becomes habitual.

Layer in your changes, don’t try to do too much at once, or you won’t be able to commit to it, and that leads to failure.

Whatever change you want to make, you can do it!

Over the years I have changed many things about myself, and I’ll admit change isn’t easy, and sometimes we stumble and fall off course. If you have aspects of your life you really, really want to change perhaps personal kaizen can help. Some of things I’ve changed in my own life include:

  • My thought patterns
  • Mindset
  • Attitude
  • Spending habits & saving habits
  • Body shape and weight
  • Went from not being able to touch my toes to fantastic flexibility (took a few years)
  • Food cravings (still working on coffee, but almost there!)
  • Diet
  • Ability to write as a dyslexic (improved writing ability)
  • Broke through limited thinking
  • Changed how I see myself and my life
  • Learned to move through fear
  • Learned discipline
  • Went from shy and socially awkward to enjoying social situations
  • Learned how I learn, and learned to learn (had many challenges in this area)
  • Move through and past resistance
  • From being sedentary to loving fitness and exercise

What aspects of your life have you changed that you’re most proud of? What aspects do you desire to change? Any suggestions you have for making lasting change?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise January 23, 2012

How to Make Lasting Changes in Your Life is beautifully written and I could “feel the changes” gliding through. I certainly felt this “hit home” for me and intend to apply it. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

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Aileen January 26, 2012

Thank you!!! I’m glad it resonated with you. Thank you for your lovely comment :)

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Angela Artemis|Powered by Intuition January 23, 2012

Aileen,
This was fantastic! I so enjoyed reading it. What great ideas and steps to making lasting change in our lives. I love your idea for putting a tangible and an intangible together. It really makes sense. I’m going to try this!
Angela Artemis|Powered by Intuition´s last [type] ..6 Tips to Recalling and Interpreting Dreams

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Aileen January 26, 2012

Hi Angela. I really find it super helpful to have both the tangible and an intangible goal together. As I see my ballet work getting better & cleaner, i can’t help but know my intangible goals are also getting clearer and making progress at the same time.

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David Stevens January 23, 2012

Hi Aileen,
In my mind, ‘change’ has to be doable, continuous, exciting & rewarding. I especially like your No6. I have been introduced to ‘letting go of expectation’ in so much as we worry about the result. Show up, do your very best & the rest will look after itself. I appreciate you posting this.
be good to yourself
David
David Stevens´s last [type] ..To Love what you do…..Become your own Guru

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Aileen January 26, 2012

Hi David. Letting go of expectation takes a lot of releasing – over and over again, every time we get fixated on the expectation, it’s exhales and release it again, release it a bit more. For me it really helps when I say, “it’s in Gods hands, I do my part and let the Universe do it’s part and trust that all is happening and unfolding for the highest good of all concerned. Even if it doesn’t look “right” to me.” To do what ever it takes individually to let go a bit more, release it a bit more, & recognize when we begin to fixate on the expectation – stop and exhale – & refocus.
:)

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Vishnu January 23, 2012

Aileen – #2 is a helpful tip – breaking things down to doable increments. For example, I tried to wake up earlier for the new year. The first day I woke up at 10. Work was at 7:30. The, next day I woke up at 5 am then went back to sleep and missed work. The day after I had slept for about 20 hours straight. So I woke up at 5 and went to work. I realized I wasn’t working that day. I feel like I need to quit my job!

:)

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Aileen January 26, 2012

Hi Vishnu, Oh you are too funny, you made me laugh :) Perhaps you are better suited for a job that doesn’t start at 7:30, maybe there is another option for you. If in the meantime you really need to get up at 6:30 or so I’d recommend 3 alarm clocks (I’m not kidding) The first one near the bed, the other one ten minutes later walking far enough that you have to get out of bed to shut it off, and the third one going off 1 minute later across the room. – ideally near a radio/stereo/ iPod with Speakers so the next think you do is turn on happy music. I’ve had to do that before, and works. I know it’s a bit extreme, but….. sometimes we’ve got to whatever it takes :)
I do hope you find a job that works with your internal clock though, something more compatible with your inner timing :)

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Vishnu January 29, 2012

all great tips.

i’m officially unemployed. jk:)

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Joe @ shake off the grind January 24, 2012

Aileen,

Very valuable insight. When it comes to change we must enjoy the journey. Its about progress and not perfection. This will require as you mention small, measurable steps, where we can see progress being made and recognize that little things make a big difference.
Joe @ shake off the grind´s last [type] ..How Not to Be a Victim: A Guide to Self-awareness and Empowerment

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Aileen January 26, 2012

Hi Joe :)
“little things make a big difference.” Yes we do need the fuel of progress to keep us going along a difficult road. It took me a long, long time to enjoy the journey I was so deeply attached to the desired result and anytime it didn’t look like it was happening it threw me off emotionally. To succeed we need our emotions cheering us on, not bringing us down.
Wishing you a magical and miraculous journey!

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Rebecca January 25, 2012

Fantastic post!

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Ajen January 26, 2012

H Aileen, “taking your eyes off of the results” is so important and it is soo not what many of us are hearing in today’s society. To take one’s eyes off of the results is a challenge for many because it is calling that person to let go and just be in the moment and enjoy the journey. By not doing this, one runs the risk of being to judgmental of one’s self and subsequently bring about challenges the impede success. Thank you for being this to light!
Ajen´s last [type] ..Jan-Mar 2012 Issue!!!

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Aileen January 26, 2012

I say a hearty Yes to that Ajen – “To take one’s eyes off of the results is a challenge for many because it is calling that person to let go and just be in the moment and enjoy the journey. By not doing this, one runs the risk of being to judgmental of one’s self and subsequently bring about challenges the impede success”
it’s astonishing to realize we’ve sabotaged our desire simply because we were to focused on how it should unfold, and when it doesn’t unfold the way we think it should we go off course sending our desire into an oblivion rather than reality.
Wishing you an incredible journey, lots of success & joys & fulfillment.

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Evelyn Lim January 27, 2012

Wow, Aileen, I am impressed. It looks as if you have accomplished so much. I enjoyed your tip about breaking things down into manageable bites. I need to take the advice seriously because I have a tendency to overwhelm myself with big ideas on what I would like to do.

I am also impressed by the fact that you have achieved physical flexibility. I need to put some attention in this area myself. Thanks for the inspiration!
Evelyn Lim´s last [type] ..How to Create a Powerful Personal Life Vision

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Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker January 30, 2012

Aileen,

My growing self-confidence has been the best change in my life. For years I’ve struggled with not feeling good enough. Today, I’m a little older and wiser to realize I don’t have to be perfect; I just have to me – and that’s enough!

Alex

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Paige | simple mindfulness January 30, 2012

Aileen,

These are wonderful ideas! It seems that whenever I want to change something in my life, my monkey mind creates all kinds of resistance initially. I perservere with daily baby steps and accountability (I keep a daily check sheet on the fridge for each think I want to implement or change in my day). Instead of focusing on an end, longer term goal, I focus on the daily activities, the ways of being, that will result in the goal. Just as you’ve said – focus on the process instead of the results. I’m enjoying what I have to do in order to be able to check off my daily “goal” instead of looking forward to merely checking something off a list (my old self did that).
Paige | simple mindfulness´s last [type] ..What’s On Your Gratitude List Today?

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Prakash February 7, 2012

Hi Paige….
I agree with your point too. focus on our daily activities will give us a better result. I also apply this to my daily routine……..
Prakash´s last [type] ..Blogging Or World War III

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Tess The Bold Life January 31, 2012

Hi Aileen,
I think for me the celebrate is the one I forget to do the most.

My biggest changes were becoming a better wife and mother in my late 20′s after getting professional help. Not that I’m don’t continue to make small improvements but in those early days I had big changes and I made them well;)

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patrick February 1, 2012

Awesome article

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Prakash February 5, 2012

hi, Aileen………..
nice way to make Lasting changes in your life……great article…I liked it…..
And greatly describe it.Thnks !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Prakash´s last [type] ..Bouncer : Google’s Solution For Malwares

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Cathy | Treatment Talk February 10, 2012

Hi Aileen,

I enjoyed your post! I have changed so much through the years. I remember being an insecure person who relied on others too much for my sense of wholeness. Now I know who I am and know I don’t need anyone else to be a complete person. It takes sometimes years to make those needed changes, but it’s all good when it happens.
Cathy | Treatment Talk´s last [type] ..Find the Bridge from Recovery Back to College

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Aileen February 14, 2012

“. It takes sometimes years to make those needed changes, but it’s all good when it happens.” :) it is worth the journey :)

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Galen Pearl February 12, 2012

The intro to your post was my life, too! My happiness set point was not very high. But, like you, I set out to make fundamental changes to my life. It was hard and it took me several years, but my life was transformed from one based in fear to one based in, hmm, what would I call it? No fear. I would call it joy–deep, abiding joy. Great advice in this post. I recognized many of the steps as ones I took to get where I am now.
Galen Pearl´s last [type] ..No One Wins in Court

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Aileen February 14, 2012

” transformed from one based in fear to one based in…joy–deep, abiding joy.” I LOVE THAT Galen! :)
There are so many misconceptions about how “one day it all changed” and it makes it confusing for someone who has tried to change but hasn’t made a full transition. It really can take years and often times it may look like “it didn’t work” – maybe they “tried affirmations” and vision boards and subliminal music but fear, anxiety, worry is still their primary set point. What’s often overlooked is how far that person has come. How much progress has been made. Maybe they can move faster from the fear into joy and gratitude – maybe they stay stuck less – those are all signs that is working – & the transformation is taking place. It may not take everyone years – but it did for me & most people I know.

I am so, so happy to hear you’re one who has made the transformation!
It inspires others to continue along their path :)

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Yaron June 7, 2012

Wow Aileen, That is a great recipe!!!
Every word is true.
I recently read “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” and your list is a summarized and improved version.
Thanks
Yaron

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