How to Change Your Life

How to Change Your Life

We are often told that change is uncomfortable and difficult, that it inevitably involves pain, and that to change your life is to struggle and fight against the status quo. But there is another way. Change can be gentle, spontaneous and natural – effortless, even. With the right approach, big changes can occur without the upheavals we might normally associate with such shifts.

You create your own experience of life

It seems to be a rule of nature that similar things conglomerate. People from a similar social or cultural background are drawn together by a shared worldview; the rich and famous socialize within their own circle; similar scientific ideas which seem to arise at around the same time. The familiar saying, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ arises from this observation.

In the same way, our thoughts tend to attract the conditions we experience. In his now famous book, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Joseph Murray writes,

“Everything that has happened to you happened because of thoughts impressed on your subconscious mind through belief… The habitual thinking of your subconscious mind establishes deep grooves… If your thoughts are harmonious, peaceful and constructive, your subconscious mind will respond by creating harmony, peace and constructive conditions.

Our experience of life is a reflection of our inner world. The landscape we paint with our minds becomes the one we walk through every day. We are the architects, the creators of our world. Many people are unaware of this, thinking that life ‘just happens,’ that events occur by chance, and that they are forever at the mercy of random occurrences. If you want to change your life, you will need to take responsibility for creating your experience. Your thoughts draw experiences of a similar quality into your life, so it is vital that your thinking be constructive, positive and affirming.

Feeling good is the key to change

Whereas most people create the conditions of their life by default, the practice of deliberately directing your attention can change your life enormously. This need not be a difficult or complicated process: mind control, meditation, visualizations and endless affirmations are not needed. Nature has provided us with a navigational tool: our feelings.

Bad feelings should not be ignored or suppressed – they are telling you something important. When you feel bad – anxious, worried, afraid, depressed – something is wrong and you are being given a signal that your thinking is not drawing the experiences you truly desire into your life.

They should be acknowledged, accepted and dealt with. Again, there is no need for complicated methods to eliminate such feelings. Whenever you become aware of them, you know that your thoughts have drifted off onto the wrong track; gently direct your thinking back to the positive and the empowering.

When you feel very bad, it can be hard to see a way out, and it is important not to expect too much of yourself. Feelings of relief, hope or optimism are often the easiest things to reach for. Relax, accept that all is well and that, when you stop fighting so hard against your problems, life tends to support you. When a drowning man stops struggling, he floats. Thoughts of this nature – and the better feelings which go with them – are what you need to find.

Change takes time

Sometimes, revolution occurs. As a result of a sudden change in our mental landscape – a paradigm shift – our lives can change enormously in one fell swoop. After years of trying, one day I quit smoking. I just gave up, and I’ve never had a cigarette since then.

These shifts, however, are not the ordinary course of things. Most change takes time – it grows and matures. The tracks etched into our minds by years – or decades – of habitual thought are not wiped away instantly; they become fainter for lack of use, just as new tracks become established, slowly but surely, as we build them step by step, and soon become well-worn highways.

Trying to force the pace of change can lead to disaster – trying to pull grass to make it grow faster only kills it. A river rarely takes a straight course, meandering instead through the natural shape of the landscape, keeping to the lowest points, moving around mountains and hills. But the water keeps flowing and, eventually, reaches the sea.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished (Tao Te Ching)

You need to be persistent

A new path can only be established by persistently being walked on. The new tracks you are making in your thought patterns will take time to become established, and at first they will be weak. Your thoughts may keep drifting back to the old, negative patterns. No matter – keep going and, in time, you will look back in amazement at how far you have come.

All journeys proceed one step at a time, and to change your life is to acknowledge that the process is important. Relax, enjoy the ride, have fun.

Change can be uncomfortable

As we set out on new pathways, the unfamiliar routes our minds need to take can seem strange and, as such, a little disconcerting. Can you recall a time when you found yourself in an unfamiliar situation? Perhaps you started a new job or moved to a new town. At first, things were uncomfortable. Soon, you got used to the new situation and you started to feel better.

The reason for the uncomfortable feelings was, as always, a result of your thinking – you probably worried about what could go wrong, about not being able to manage, about not doing well, and so on. You can reduce this ‘fear of the unknown’ by gently guiding your thoughts in an affirming and supportive direction. To change your life is to refuse to shy away from new situations. Even at such times, you can feel good. Remember: You are loved; all is well.

Action does not lead to change; change leads to action

It may seem counterintuitive, but effort does not result in lasting change or success. If it did, everyone who slaves away at jobs they hate day after day, year after year, would be successful and happy. Orchestrating the kind of life you desire is not about effort – it is about the right kind of thinking drawing experiences into your life. To change your life is to stop focusing on effort and start focusing on enjoying yourself. Action is how we enjoy the life we create; it is not how we create it.

Go with the flow

The key to lasting change is to go with the flow of your natural wellbeing. There is no hurry. The stream of life is taking you.

By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning. (Tao Te Ching)

Water is an apt analogy. It seeks the low ground and always yields to resistance. Yet water can, over many years, wear down sharp rocks into small, smooth pebbles and carve wide, deep channels through a landscape. This is how change takes place.

To resist the natural flow of life is pointless. We can easily become obsessed with acquiring something or getting somewhere, but to want something so badly is to push it away. To change your life is to work on ‘following your bliss,’ to move with the current. Let go, relax, fall into life. It may take you to wondrous new shores.

A thirty day challenge

For the next thirty days, begin each morning with the intention to be aware of your feelings. When you become aware of any kind of negativity as you go through your day, gently change your thoughts towards something that makes you feel better. The ‘better feeling’ doesn’t have to be extreme – we’re not talking about ecstasy, jumping for joy or falling in love (although this would be fine!) Just reach for something slightly better – a feeling of relief, being grateful for something, looking forward to something – anything that shifts your focus from ‘what’s wrong, what I don’t want’ to ‘what I like, what is good.’

* * *

At first, it might be hard. The old patterns are strong and they take time to fade. After thirty days, you will notice a difference. Things will have improved – more of the good stuff will be showing up, and you’ll be less bothered about the bad: it won’t matter so much.

Creating a new way of thinking can take time but, as with anything, gentle and persistent practice is the key to success. Many drips fill a bucket. Perhaps changing your life isn’t so hard.

Photo by vonSchnauzer

17 Comments

  1. Excellent article! Can’t agree more…change takes time and we go through a lot of birthing pains (so to speak) trying to break free from old habits or lines of thinking. I think it’s important to be good to yourself while you are undergoing your personal transformation…as well as to stay focused and positive.

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter for questions, comments or violent reactions)

    Reply
  2. What a well written article! It is so thought provoking. I always try to be a person who lives my life, instead of it living me. It has taken me many years (several in therepy) to understand how to let go. I see so many people run down, exhausted, world weary, Letting it go is a great anxiety reducer!!

    Thanks, Dandy

    Reply
  3. This is a very good article, and VERY true. God has provided us everything we need to change through the forgiveness he has blessed us with. I have personally experienced this concept for change and found it to be very effective. Take it from me, I have lived a life that has needed drastic change many times. But, it wasn’t until I practiced this easier way of change that I finally started to see change within myself.

    A quick tip: it all starts from within our hearts, and learning to connect our thoughts to our hearts, we are all naturally born as good people!

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  4. Hey Mark, good post. What stood out to me was when you pointed out that when a drowning man stops struggling, he floats. That is so true. Sometimes we find ourselves trying to get rid of every single problem, when we should in fact realize that we can’t avoid all problems, and we might even be able to use it to our advantage.

    I also like the challenge that you give us. It’s a good way to take small steps towards change.

    -Gabe

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  5. Really good view point . I have experienced the joy of change and your view ponit gives me a confirmation. Thank you so much. I will persevere with it.

    Reply
  6. Great piece! Everything rings very true thanks for sharing!

    Question: I love the quote about “letting it all go” does that mean we shouldn’t actively try to change things that make us unhappy on our lives?

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  7. What a fabulous post. Thank you. I just started researching articles/resources for a new series on my site. This post was an excellent first find (now if I could just find confirmation audio files along a similar vein).

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  8. I think change is inevitable . If it has to happen it will happen without doing anything in particular . Change according to me is the law of nature . If I want to change my behavior or anything else for that matter then as you said persistence is what plays the major part in achieving it.
    How Well Do You Know Yourself? – This test aims at discovering how well you know yourself.
    http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/selfawareness/selfawareness_instructions.asp

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  9. Great article, if we don’t change we become stale and life becomes dull and boring, and we can enter a downward spiral.
    I agree we should be conscious of our feelings and realise when we are thinking negatively. If the feelings are valid we need to change the situation which is causing us to feel negative, not just the thoughts. Most often however, it is a habit to think negatively and we need to break that habit.

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  10. One of my favorite quotes:

    “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” -Henry David Thoreau

    I became fond of this quote when I decided to make changes in my life a year ago. I found this site around the same time, but hadn’t dug further into your writings beyond the post describing self discipline. I had bookmarked it, and now, a year later I’ve accidentally re-stumbled upon it. While I can say that I’ve achieved success through my own will, inspiration can come from anywhere. Even an accidental click of the mouse. This has been a quick reminder that self improvement is never ending, and I’ll re-evaluate how else I can improve as a person.

    Thanks,

    Chris

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  11. thank you – love the article. I have always thought good things come to the disciplined person and have suppressed so much of my feelings over the years to the point when i lost myself. I have noticed the people who i like the most are those who are not afraid to be themselves worts and all and who respond to their feelings with little hesitation.

    I have increasingly shed all attachments over the past few years. I thought it was depression but i now realise i am listening to myself for the first time in many years and i’m confident this time with myself will lead me to the real me i can confidently share with people and not the repressed obedient person i was and i did not like.

    the most important change had been to trust my feelings and respond to them more than the “shoulds” in this life

    Reply
  12. I have been coming to bump after bump in my life for about 3 years now, with the chance of happiness getting further and further away everytime! I searched for how to change your life and came upon your blog. I can not thankyou enough for giving people like me a chance! I am only 19, and yet a already feel like my life is over! I want to feel that joy of waking up in the morning again, to be able to enjoy a walk in the breeze and see it as a beautiful thing, instead of just seeing it as wind. I want to be happy, I hope your blog helps x

    Reply
  13. Really impressive article.After reading it I thinking of taking a 30 day trial myself to change my life too.

    Reply
  14. A great way to boost your mood is to write a Gratitude list. It really does help center you.

    Reply
  15. Great Article Mark, we all do have to face changes and no matter if they have good or negative feelings associated to them, the idea of doing something different will always have doubts attached to it. Your comment about thinking differently is always a great way to take the first step and especially when that little nagging doubt comes in. Amazing how reading an article on change can actually change your ideas as well :) Thank you

    Reply
  16. wow , this is amazing! I’ve been trying so long and I’ve finally found the answer to my problems thanks in a million ..

    Reply
  17. As a Anxiety sufferer I tried everthing but this only led to negative ways, then I decided through my family that I was determind to get better. So I set off reading self help books from the library and do you know what I am changing I am positive, social, confident, strong and looking forward to the next change in my life. 2013

    Reply

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