by Shannon Ables
Eastern Oregon writer
The Simply Luxurious Life.
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
– Jeremy Piven’s character quoting Epictetus in the film Serendipity
Deciding to make a change in your life can be daunting. Whether it’s as simple as turning the television on less or as grand as moving to a different town or city, the fear change provokes can sometimes be so obstructive that it prevents us from attempting to make the change we seek.
However, as I was reminded yesterday flipping back through some of my old journals only to discover the above quote, change can be scary but that shouldn’t stop us from seeking to improve. Often when we are the instigators behind change, it is because we wish to improve our lives. Which means that no matter how exciting the change we seek may appear, actually gathering the momentum up and doing it is a tough task.
Today, I would like to offer reassurance for those of you who are in the middle of attempting to make a desired improvement in your life or contemplating such a move. Lately, I too have found myself in the middle of attempting to improve my life, and since this is not the first time I have found myself in such a situation, I’d like to share with you inspiration that has been proven to be good advice so that can feel more confident to keep striving toward the change you seek.
1. Listen to Your Fears
One of the most comforting quotes I came across regarding mustering up the courage to do something that many might laugh at and feeling trepidatious along the way stated “When your fears get louder, you’re probably doing something right.” So long as it is an action we’ve put into motion, to not feel fear would mean we didn’t wish for it to work out. So, trust yourself, work through your fears and you will come out on the other side thankful you made the effort.
2. Accept mortality
One of the grandest and yet, simplest motivators to pursue the change you seek is the understanding and acceptance that we will not live forever. Therefore, we can’t be sure how long we have to live our best life. Once we accept mortality or have been reminded by events of loved ones who have been taken from us far too soon, the inspiration to seek the improvement we desire begins to percolate more fiercely.
3. Take a Risk Toward Capturing Your Dream
Choosing to take a risk toward something new and potentially exciting can initially ignite the fire to encourage you to take the leap. However, in the moment when things aren’t going well, it can seem that taking the risk was a bad idea. Rest assured, not one single risk has ever left the risk-taker empty handed. Whether the risk works out or not, there is always something to be gained – perhaps a better understanding of what you can and can’t live without or perhaps a boost of confidence when you realize your dream. Either way, there is value is taking a risk that could turn your dream into a reality. After all, if you never try, you’ll never know.
4. Ignore the Naysayers, Laughter and Skeptics
No doubt, when you take a leap that is different from those around you, you will hear the chatter of skepticism and negativity. And if you take a leap and it doesn’t work out in the initial way you had hoped, you may even hear laughter. Ignore this negative response and cling to those who support you and were your cheerleaders. Those who hang around on the sidelines doing what they’ve always done because that’s the way it’s always been done will never know or understand the growth, euphoria and increased quality of life you have created for yourself. And that . . . that is their loss or choosing to remain ignorant of what beauty taking risks can bring into one’s life.
5. Seek Out the Lesson
No matter what the outcome turns out to be following an attempt to improve your life, there are always valuable lessons to be gained. If events don’t pan out as you had imagined them to do, you will undoubtedly learn more about yourself, your needs versus wants, what truly makes you tick, and what instills in you a sense of purpose and belonging. And it is in those moments of initial defeat that we realize we had to dream the initial dream to be directed toward the life we were destined live. Had we not made the attempt, we would have never been introduced to the new and even more fulfilling dream for ourselves.
6. Get to Know What you Truly Enjoy
Take a moment today to make a list of 10-15 things you enjoy doing on any given day. My list might include sipping hot tea at the end of the day, bringing home an arrangement of fresh flowers or cooking a favorite meal while sipping a glass of wine at the end of the week. Now, try to incorporate at least one of these enjoyable activities in every day of your life. Simply having something to look forward to each and every day can improve the quality of your life.
7. Stop Comparing
The opportunity to compare ourselves to a variety of different people in any given day is vast. From the people we work with, our friends and family to the glossy magazines and television programs, we see lives we think are better than ours. The good news is that each of us is unique. Each of us has within ourselves special talents and gifts, an original combination of experiences that no one else can have. To compare ourselves to the outside world is to waste creating and enjoying the best life we could ever live. And the best life is the life that allows us to offer our gifts to the world, feel productive and useful at the end of the day, and the ability to spend time with those we love as we go to bed each night knowing we’ve done the best we could do.
8. Eliminate Negative Self Chatter
The minute things do not work out as planned along the journey of improvement, it is easy to throw up your hands and give up. At that moment, the negative chatter begins and before you know it, you’ve convinced yourself that the decision you made to take the leap was a bad one. What an absurdity! Improvement cannot occur unless we do something different from what we normally do. You are not a fool, an idiot or stupid for wanting to improve your life. What you are is a dreamer and a believer in something better. Take a moment to look around you. Observe all of the inventions and modern ways of living that one hundred years ago many people would have thought impossible. Change and improvement does not often occur on the first try. You are inspiring for believing you can do it, because you can. Now, keep on trying.
9. Look to Those Who Inspire You
Whether you read books about people who inspire you or are fortunate to have people in your life who are living in such a way that you look to as a model, try to absorb their knowledge and learn from the advice they are willing to offer. Teachers are everywhere if you are willing to be the student – which means avid listening and a fearlessness to ask questions.
10. Spend Time with People Who You Respect and Admire
Now the people you respect and admire may be the people who inspire you, but they also may be entirely different. As I continue to state on the blog, who you surround yourself with is a great indicator of where you are going. With that in mind, spend time with those who genuinely support you, love you and wish you well in the pursuit of your dreams. Even if they don’t understand it or would do it themselves, a good friend is someone who believes in you because they love you and want you to find the happiness and contentment that you seek.
11. Eliminate Contrary Commitments
Take a moment to look at your to-do list. Immediately cross of anything that does not inch you closer toward your goals or bring you enjoyment. So often we want to do everything that we want as well as what other people want us to do, but there is only so many hours in the day and only so much quality energy we have to expend before we need to take a break or go to sleep. Respect yourself and what you value enough to say “No thank you.”
Whether big or small, choosing to improve ourselves and the life you are living is to live courageously. So whether you are choosing to learn a new language, diving into the history of a time era that piques your interest or beginning to be your own boss and work for yourself, with each step you are growing and inching ever closer toward reaching your fullest potential.