How to Change Your Life

How to Change Your Life

This is final article from the Follow Your Yellow Brick Road Seriesa five-part series about living a meaningful life.

Everybody wants to be happy, but nobody wants to change.

This is a phrase my Dad has said to me many times. I agree. Mostly because I often want things to be different and I’d really like it to happen while I lie in bed and watch the latest episode of Outlander.

There are hoards of unhappy people on the internet, reading inspirational quotes and fluffy blog posts about being grateful, and looking at pictures of sunsets, and leaves, and water droplets. Reading about ways to feel better makes us feel as though we are doing something to improve our lives.

But nothing will change your life until you change your behaviour.

There are all sorts of ideas about how to go about changing behaviour. Some people believe we need to change our thoughts or our emotions before we can change our lives, but I say, why waste time fighting with the middle man? Why not just jump straight into actually doing something meaningful?

Today’s activity is simple because it’s generally pretty easy to come up with ideas about how to instigate change. The hard part is executing change.

If you haven’t already, you might quite like to go back and do some of the previous exercises in this series. If you’re all about the bare minimum you can safely get away with only completing parts III and IV.

HOW TO FOLLOW YOUR YELLOW BRICK ROAD (15 minutes) 1

1. CHOOSE

Looking at your list from Part IV where you measured your success, in which areas of your life are you least successful?

Which areas show the biggest discrepancy between importance and consistency? Choose one area.

2. SUMMARISE

What are your most important values in that area? If you’ve been following along, you will have written this down during Part III.

3. LIST

Make a list of things you could do that would be consistent with your values in that area. Go crazy with this. List anything that comes to mind, no matter how reasonable or unreasonable it may seem.

4. PLAN

Spend 5 minutes writing down the details of how you will go about living this value today, tomorrow, this week, and especially for situations where you think it will be particularly challenging to live the value.

Writing this plan is a goal-setting exercise. When you do this, don’t make a dead person’s goal. A dead-person’s goal is one that a dead person can do better than you. So for me, I don’t want to eat as many cakes as I have been. But if I make a goal to not eat cakes, a dead person can always do that better than me because they are dead and there are no cakes six feet under ground. A better goal for me is to make a goal of having one cake as a treat this week.

Oh, and make sure it’s achievable.

JUST DO IT

Nike chose their slogan for a reason. You can waste time with all manner of things to prepare yourself to make a change. When it comes down to it, change won’t happen unless you take action. If you’ve done the exercise above, I think you’re suitably prepared. Now it’s up to you to do something about it.

Lately (and by lately I mean for the past seven months), I’ve not been taking very good care of my health nutrition-wise. I keep eating cake.

And gingernut biscuits.

And fries.

And Whittaker’s Peanut Butter Chocolate.

It’s become an issue, and not just because I’ve gained 6kg. It’s just not healthy, and I’m in a danger zone in terms of my age. Everyone I’ve talked to says: when you hit age 27, things change, and you start piling on the fat in places that you never knew fat could go. One minute you’re a size 8, and 365 days of cake later you’re a walking health risk. That’s not a place I want to go.

I’ve spent some time working through this exercise. You can view my answers here. I’ll let you know how I get on over the next two weeks.

What’s your plan?

Image credits go to Dollar Photo Club.

Footnotes

  1. This exercise was inspired by The Art and Science of Valuing in Psychotherapy by Joanne Dahl, Jennifer Plumb, Ian Steward and Tobias Lundgren.
How to Fuel Yourself with Low GI Happiness: Following your yellow brick road part II

How to Fuel Yourself with Low GI Happiness: Following your yellow brick road part II

This article is part the How To Follow Your Yellow Brick Road Series a five-part series about living a meaningful life. Read Part I.

 

Conventional self-help is mostly a bunch of generic bullshit with questionable scientific credibility.

At least half of the time, the tasks on internet happiness-lists give you what a friend of mine calls low glycemic index (GI) happiness. I read a list recently that advised making small talk with strangers.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy startling unsuspecting strangers with my delightful jokes. But you’ve got to be careful. Say a friendly hello at the local rehab pool, and all of a sudden you’re privy to the entire medical history of someone you only just met (no, I do not want to know about your hemorrhoids).

Basically, you are unique, and the internet cannot decide for you what will make your life worth living.

The only person who knows that is you.

HOW TO FOLLOW YOUR YELLOW BRICK ROAD: PART II

If you did the exercise in Part I, you’ll have a general idea of what’s important to you.

General is good, but specific is better.

Today, you’ll be generating a list of specific values. You can use these to make up your own personalised “happiness” list. I’ve put bunny ears around happiness because the list you’re going to write today isn’t about making a goal to be happy, it’s about figuring out what is important to you.

WHAT IS LOW GI HAPPINESS?

Well-being comes in different forms 1. You can do things that give you high GI happiness or low GI happiness. Eating a piece of cake, taking drugs, and buying a new pair of pants give you high GI happiness. You get a big boost but it runs out pretty quick. To get those levels up again, you’ve got to eat more cake, take more drugs, and buy more pants.

Doing things that you value gives you low GI happiness. You might not feel happy, but living your values slowly fills up your well-being basket, keeping you satisfied for longer.

Basically, values are just like Kale.

Kale cabbage. Healthy diet and nutrition background.

WHAT DO YOU VALUE? (20 minutes)

In Part I you wrote down what you wanted people to remember you for.

There’s bound to be a bunch of stuff you’ve written that falls into one of two categories. It’s either a goal (something you can achieve), or a value (something you can do).

We want to focus on values.

Values are qualities or behaviours that you use to direct your behaviour 2.

You know when people say “when you’re going through hell, keep going”?

Well when I’m going through hell I  get disorientated and start wandering around aimlessly. I also tend to gravitate toward quick fix, high GI happiness things. Like potato chips, and playing The Sims.

Luckily, I’ve got a list of values to keep me moving in my desired direction. At the same time, doing what matters generates low GI happiness, giving me the energy to keep on moving.

WHAT ARE VALUES?

Values are things you do. And they are chosen, by you, because they are important to you.

Values aren’t rules. You can’t achieve them. You can’t possess them. They aren’t about what you think you should do, or what your parents think you should do, or what God thinks you should do.

Values are what you want to do, and how you want to behave.

If you would do it even if no one knew about it, then that’s a value.

For example, I value creativity. I worked on this blog for about 18 months before I published anything. Every time I did something related to the blog, I was fuelling myself with low GI happiness. No one read it, no one knew about it, I just did it because I enjoyed it.

Go through your writing and highlight anything that represents a value.

That might be things like being supportive, adventurous, open-minded, learning, perseverance, self-development, loving, honest, being a hard worker. Or it could be something else.

If you’ve written down things like being rich, being thin, owning a big house, having a successful businessthose are goals.

Goals are great, but we want to figure out what values drive those goals. What would accomplishing those goals mean you could do?

For example, if you want to be thin, why do you want to be thin? Is it because your health would be better?

Here’s a handy-dandy list of values. Check it out if you get stuck (starts on page 3)3.

Write out all your values in a big list.

That list you just wrote? That’s your menu. It represents things you can do that will give you low GI happiness.

I get low GI happiness from being creative, kind, connecting with others, learning, helping other people, and from challenging myself.

What gives you low GI happiness?

As always, if you like this post, please share it using the buttons below.

 

There are three more articles in this series. Sign up to get them delivered to you as soon as they’re published.

Send me those articles!  

Image Credit: BigStockPhoto.com. So don’t steal them or you might get sued!

Footnotes

  1. My amazing friend Hilary is responsible for this analogy.
  2. You can read more about values in The Happiness Trap, or ACT Made Simple.Both are easy to read, and written by the ultra hilarious Russ Harris.
  3. This handout was developed by Russ Harris to accompany his book The Confidence Gap. If you get stuck, open it up, and scroll down to page 3.