You Know You Need a Change: Now What?

Are you in a place of stagnation, where you know you need a change but aren’t sure what or how to adjust?

Maybe you’ve suddenly realized that what you’ve been doing is no longer working. Or maybe you’ve felt a growing dissatisfaction for some time now. Whatever the case, even after you acknowledge that something in your life needs to change, knowing exactly what change to make — and how to do it — can be challenging.

So here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started making that change you know you need.

1. Why do I need a change? How do I know?

Sitting in a desert

Knowing you need a change can be an abstract feeling, a sense of being stuck, or of wanting something different than what you have now. It’s frustrating because you aren’t sure where exactly this feeling comes from.

So the first step is introspection. Try to identify why you’re feeling this way. What about your life has you feeling dissatisfied or stuck? What hasn’t changed about your life in a very long time? After you spend some time with these questions, even if you still can’t find the source of your restlessness, move on to Question #2.

2. How do I feel about my life right now?

Man thinking with journal

Be very specific and thorough as you answer this question. Try dividing your daily life into categories and describe how you feel about each one of them:

  • What is going well?
  • What isn’t?
  • Which areas of your life make you excited about the future, and which leave you feeling exhausted or frustrated?

This question can help you identify what kind of change you need to make — and what kind of change you don’t need.

3. What do I want my life to look like in the near future?

Following a map on a phone

Now that you have a good sense of what your life currently looks like, take some time to imagine your life six months, one year, and five years into the future. What do you expect it to look like? What do you want it to look like? Try to imagine or even plan out a typical day in the life of your future self.

Then compare your current life to that future life you want to build. What would have to change about your current life to make that desired future a reality?

4. What small change would make the biggest difference in getting me closer to where I want/need to be?

Setting up a domino effect

Now you’re ready to work on an action plan. But don’t rush in headfirst and burn up all your motivation at once! Start small.

What is one small, simple thing you can change right now that would move you one step closer to that version of yourself that you want to be in the future? Once you make that small change, you’ll get a little boost of satisfaction and confidence that will help you keep going.

5. What obstacles are likely to keep me from making this change? How can I prepare for them?

Hurdle race

Once again, be realistic and detailed. What will get in your way, both internally and externally? Do you tend to procrastinate, or get tired quickly? Will other commitments eat into the time you’ll need? What about other people in your home/life?

Write down everything you can think of that could get in your way, and make a plan for how you will handle each of them. This plan will help you keep going when you start to feel overwhelmed or demotivated, because you won’t be taken by surprise and you will have had plenty of time to prepare.

6. Why haven’t I made this change before? How can I approach it differently now?

Standing at the bottom of the stairs

Maybe you’ve been perfectly happy with the trajectory of your life until now — and if so, that’s fine. But chances are, the need for a change hasn’t popped up overnight. Be honest with yourself about why you haven’t actually done it before.

Have you tried and failed in the past? If so, what went wrong, and how can you approach it differently now? Understanding why you haven’t made this change before will help you determine exactly what new actions you need to take to make sure you’re able to do it this time.

7. How will I motivate myself to keep going when it gets hard?

Remember why you started sign

No matter how committed you feel right now, you’re going to hit a point where your feelings wear off and those reasons you didn’t make this change before rear up again. Even though you have a plan for dealing with those reasons, you’re going to get tired. Unexpected problems or external factors will compete for your attention, and it will get hard to continue. What is your plan for staying motivated?

This is where it’s necessary to know yourself — do you perform best when you have accountability or a reward system? Figure out what it will take to keep you on track when the track gets bumpy, and start putting that plan into action now, before you get started.

Even when you know it’s needed, change is daunting. But taking the time to understand what needs to change and why, and making a plan for how you’ll meet the inevitable challenges, can remove some of the fear that holds you back from taking that first step.

Change is daunting, but understanding and preparing for it can be an important first step.

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