Have you ever wanted to drastically change something about your life? Perhaps it was a habit you wanted to quit, or a habit you wanted start. Maybe you wanted to finally “grow up” in an area of your life, such as your finances, your health or your relationships. Perhaps you’re seeking to make a transition in your career or interests, but find yourself doing the same thing year after year. Why does that happen?
Most of us are, at least in part, the sum of the stories we tell ourselves. But, despite being the main character in our stories, we’re not always heroes. Quite the opposite, in fact: we often make ourselves the victims of our circumstances, insufficiencies, and inconveniences. As a result, change never comes.
Lately, I’ve found myself wanting to add some good things to my life, but slowing down with a list of excuses. It’s not that we need to chase after every “good” opportunity that presents itself, but we do need to think carefully about why the changes we desire to make are not being made. What is our conviction, and why are we not moving toward it? Is there a real barrier? Or are we simply writing a story about one?
7 Lies That Keep You From Changing Your Life
1) I can’t because of my location.
Do you have “anywhere but here” syndrome? If you do, you’re not alone. As I’ve spent different seasons of my life in very different cities, I’ve found myself complaining about my present location and enshrining my previous. When I moved to New England, I insisted that all my troubles were because I was no longer in San Francisco. When I moved from New England to Southern California, I grumbled about missing New England culture and seasons. There’s always something we can point to about our current environment that is not ideal; the truth is, no environment is going to be absolutely ideal for achieving our goals. But people still achieve their goals against locational challenges– and so can you.
2) I can’t because of my spouse (or children or significant other).
Oh how we love to blame the people in our lives for hindering us! While there may be truth to that our spouses are tied to a place, or that our children need us, or that our families are demanding, there is little these people can do to keep us from making the most of what we have. Perhaps the people in our lives will keep us rooted in one place, or from working 12-hour days, but they can’t keep us from seizing opportunities that are within reach. Look around– there’s something or someone that needs you to step up.
3) I’ll do it when I’m educated/rich/prepared enough.
I find that this is an excuse many young people carry with them, especially when it comes to service or generosity. We tell ourselves that we can’t afford to be generous, or that we simply have nothing to give. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re reading this, you likely have something that can be shared with your community. When we tell ourselves that we’re not “there” yet, we begin to believe it, and eventually we believe that we will never actually get there.
4) This is just who I am.
When we’ve attempted and failed at a goal, it’s easy for us to resort to the “born this way” mantra– that we simply were not made to achieve what we want. But is there any more depressing belief than this: that there’s nothing that can be done that will change us? I certainly believe there’s nothing more false. We cannot tie up our identity in whether we succeeded at something the first, second, or even third time around. That story tells us that even having goals is pointless, if we’re just going to stay this way forever.
5) My emotions are the deepest truth there is.
Emotions are valid: they should be recognized, expressed, and felt to their fullest. But while they’re valuable, they can’t be our only source of truth. Unless you manage to have the feelings of a Stoic, you likely have experienced the high highs and low lows of an emotional rollercoaster. One objective piece of information can make us shout with glee, or make us tear up with sadness. So if your feelings are getting in the way of your goal (n.b. feelings are not the same as convictions), recognize them and then lay them aside. Emotions are not the ultimate truth. Just because you feel inadequate today doesn’t mean you can’t succeed tomorrow.
6) I have to go big or go home.
We’re a culture that enjoys extremes. Marketers know that they need to use words like “ultimate” or “loaded” or “mind blowing” in order to sell you anything. But when it comes to training the human body, mind or spirit to do something new, this vocabulary is just not effective. Change may come from cold-turkey quitting, but lasting change comes from everyday decisions that happen in short, quiet moments. Life transformation happens in the details of the mundane: saying yes when you would have said no, or standing up when you would have stayed seated. It’s often the subtleties, in their great sum, that count.
7) I’m in this alone.
Battling your own weaknesses, chasing after your goals, or living by your convictions are difficult things to do on your own. We were designed to pursue these things together– with the love of neighbors, family members, and friends. If we can get over our shame and false humility, and actually tell people what we’re working towards, it’s likely that they will support us. When I opened up about wanting to make a transition, several friends and family members stepped up to help in ways I never thought to ask. We are not alone if we choose not to be.
The bottom line: the first thing to change is your story.
Tell yourself a new story. Throw out the rags of shame, isolation, pride, envy, and self-hate, and give yourself new clothes to wear. There is a world waiting for you to participate with all that you are able to offer, but first you must choose to let yourself change. The sooner, the better.