What About Your Friends?

When seeking to make a life change, many of us neglect one of the most important components that can set us up for success… or failure: the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves.
Friends and Family Can Be Your Allies
…Or They Can Be Toxic
Let’s look at weight loss as an example.  People who wish to lose weight often find that despite their decision to change,  they are still surrounded by people who may have habits that are less healthy.  Oftentimes, the issues may not even be that the people around you are maliciously attempting to derail your efforts, though that is sometimes the case.  Making a major change may require a level of discipline that others may simply not require in the same areas in their own lives. In understanding that concept, you can actively take steps to plan ahead to improve your likelihood of achieving your self- improvement goals.
Seek Out Likeminded People
In keeping with the weight loss example, there are multiple ways a person who wishes to lose weight can find a supportive network of likeminded people.  The obvious option might be to join a weight loss program or take classes at a gym. Nowadays, many hospitals and community centers offer free classes and events that are aimed at helping members of the community connect and learn about healthy living. Other options include joining a Meetup group in your area or even participating in an online group that focuses on weight loss. There may even be opportunities to connect with others who share similar goals at home and at work. Having lunch with a vegan coworker might be more favorable that tagging along with a group that usually goes for fast food. Joining a recreational league may also provide an opportunity to make new fitness-oriented friends while getting regular exercise.
But What If My Family Isn’t Onboard?
If you live with family members who do not share your goals, you may wish to think strategically about the activities you can still do with them without compromising your progress.  For example, if your family refuses to eat healthy, but you still want to have meals with them, consider preparing a separate meal for yourself, or have your healthy meal prior to joining them. Then limit yourself to having a salad, healthy snack,  or smoothie while with them. In other examples,  a person who wants to control his or her spending may suggest low-cost activities to do with others or decide to stick to a limited cash budget.  Someone who wishes to stop using drugs or alcohol may decide to only meet others in settings in which drugs and alcohol are not allowed or cannot be used openly.  There are also times when an individual must choose his or her own well-being and progress over continuing to socialize with people who do not support the positive lifestyle change.
Overall, deciding to eliminate bad habits and replace them with new ones does not mean living a life full of solitude and restrictions. By always looking for opportunities to meet like-minded people and spend time doing activities that reinforce the positive change,  you will greatly enhance your likelihood of achieving your goals, and you may just find yourself having fun while doing it.

The Life-Changing Power of Describing Your Ideal Day

This year I have begun to implement an exercise I read about in an entrepreneurship-themed group in which I participate online. The exercise basically calls for writing out how you would envision your ideal day. Since January 1st, I have been setting aside time to do this before going to bed each night. Here is how my process works:

Step 1: I write out a quick schedule of everything I need to do the following day and at what time I would like to begin and finish each task. This part is pretty straightforward.

Step 2: I skip some space below the quick outline of my schedule, and then I list the most ideal things I would like to happen. My list includes very basic things like collecting payment on time from a new client. It also includes major events like purchasing an apartment in a particular community that interests me. It includes gifts I’d like to receive, some obligations (i.e. “mail check to pay off xyz), and will also include charitable contributions I’d like to make [I literally just thought about this now and realized I probably should write those things down here…because generosity is very important to me].

Anyway, that’s basically the way in which I am implementing this strategy; some may refer to it as “daydreaming.” The strategy is also called by other names around various parts of the internet. Generally the same items (along with any new ones I add) appear on the bottom portion of the page until I can mark them off as accomplished.

This Strategy Can Change Your Life

It absolutely can. Much to my surprise, I found that many of the items on the “ideal” portion of the page were coming to pass and that additional similar events I hadn’t even imagined were beginning to happen. Why did I experience such a dramatic shift? I am a believer in mindset. Once you make up your mind to focus on a certain trajectory, and once you commit to that way of thinking by writing it down and mapping it out, your mindset will begin to shift to accommodate that desired trajectory, and you will begin to do things at the conscious and subconscious level to make whatever you desire happen. The same is true of negative thinking. Therefore,the moral of the story is: be very mindful and intentional with your thoughts. Set your sights and direct your thoughts in accordance with the life you would ultimately like to live.

How to Avoid Getting Stuck “In the Meantime”

We often commit to things for which we lack passion. We take jobs that aren’t in our intended career field because we need to make ends meet. We spend time in less-than-ideal settings with an incompatible social group because it’s “better than being alone.” We go on dates with people who probably aren’t appropriate matches from the outset because “you never know who will be the one (…debatable…you can often tel who is NOT the one).” We remain in dysfunctional relationships of all varieties because “it could be worse.” This sort of thinking has its time and place. Unfortunately, for many of us, it is often applied virtually all the time in many of the wrong places.

Choosing “in the meantime” situations is only appropriate when combined with an exit plan that leads the individual closer to his or her ideal goal. “In the meantime” is not an adequate substitute for the lack of a goal or plan. While it is true that plans are sometimes delayed or even derailed, an exit strategy must also be malleable enough to accommodate the unexpected hand life may sometimes deal. Otherwise, there may be a great temptation to remain focused on the immediate term instead of looking out onto the horizon and making plans according to the terrain that stretches forth. It is when a person submits to the temptation to remain focused on the immediate term that the risk of encountering long-term lack of fulfillment sets in.

Unfulfilled Life Ambitions Often Lead to a Vicious Cycle

Remaining in an “in the meantime” situation that is not congruent with your overall desire for your life may seem comfortable at first, but eventually, the effects of not actively working toward your goals will emerge in other areas. Working a steady job, but uncompelling may pay the bills at first, but spending large chunks of time in a role that does not feed into a greater passion is oftentimes accompanied by added stress or even feelings of “numbness.” People often utilize their hard-earned income to alleviate stress and avoid numbness by pursuing other outlets, including expensive vacations, drinking, gambling, shopping, or other activities to create a greater separation from “work” during off-duty hours. There is nothing inherently wrong with leisure activities. However, knowing that you are committed to working 5 days a week in a capacity that is in conflict with your life goals can intensify the urge to get as far away from work as possible when you’re not working. The cycle becomes vicious when you realize are spending so much of your income on activities to get away from work, that you find yourself having to work more to maintain your basic, everyday needs throughout the work week (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, electricity, transportation, etc.). Entering the cycle often means having to delay your desired goals even longer.

 

Avoiding the Cycle of Unfulfilled Ambition

The cycle of working to make ends meet and spending the rest on activities that help us forget about work is alarmingly common among many of us. While most people mistakenly think the key to avoiding the cycle is to either be independently wealthy or very lucky, it is not only feasible for some people to avoid the pitfalls of working in an unfulfilling job altogether, but it is even possible for those who absolutely must work an “in the meantime” job and leverage it to pursue a life goal.

 

The Role of Detailed, Yet Flexible Planning

Plans are made and broken all the time. However, attempting to reach a desired destination without utilizing a map is the least efficient way to get there. Similar to traveling to a new restaurant or shop on an unfamiliar side of town or visiting a friend in a new city, employing the use of a “map” when working toward a goal can be very beneficial. When working to achieve career goals, an action plan or “career map” might include the level of education required to achieve the ultimate goal, schools that award the required degrees or certificates as well as their entry requirements and tuition costs. In addition to education, a plan might include related part-time jobs that will not only help cover the costs associated with achieving the goal, but also help develop skills that can be used in pursuit of the ultimate career destination. Internships and related postgraduate entry-level positions may also be included in the plan.

Planning is not only helpful when working toward a fulfilling career. “Mapping” is also effective when navigating the road to personal and relationship goals. A person who would like to dedicate more of their resources to philanthropy may wish to map out a course to working for a non-profit organization or create a detailed budget to determine how to achieve a goal of giving a certain amount to charitable organizations each month or year. An individual who wishes to allocate a certain amount of time to community service projects may start by creating a detailed schedule and determining changes that may need to be made in the interest of freeing up time to do volunteer work. When seeking new friends or a romantic relationship, mapping out shared interests you would like to have with a potential friend or partner and planning to participate in related activities is an excellent starting point for meeting like-minded people.

Conclusion

Whether you are feeling stagnant in your job, relationships, or any other area in your life, take a step back, evaluate where you are in relation to where you would like to go, and plan accordingly. By continuing to reassess your current whereabouts and reevaluate your plan, you will eventually end up where you would like to be.