After reading this sentence, close your eyes and think about how many proactive, substantial life changes you’ve made in the last year.
Now I’m not talking about deciding to change your hair color or getting a new car.
I’m talking about those big life changes that shift the course of your life in entirely. They cause a ripple effect in everything else in your world and require commitment, daring, and some amount of discomfort.
Most people, even with solid evidence it will be good for them, don’t instigate change unless forced to. Even when we truly desire something better, most of us stay stuck. We get comfortable with our lives, relationships, and routines, and allow ourselves to remain unhappy and uninspired.
Inertia is a powerful force. So is fear. These two co-conspirators work hand-in-hand to prevent us from making big changes that will profoundly upgrade the quality of our lives. Of course inertia and fear are deceptive forces. They appear much stronger than they are, and when challenged, they slink away to the background as your own powers of motivation, creativity, and inspiration take over.
You’ve seen it happen before. You’re afraid to do something, but once you take the first step, it doesn’t seem so scary. Or some project feels overwhelming and you can hardly force yourself to begin, but once you do, it’s not so hard after all. Fear and inertia are tricky that way.
That’s why you must lead with intellect rather than feelings when it comes to affecting positive change. When you’re honest with yourself, your intellect will reveal your true desires for the life you want and the person you wish to be. Step outside of your feelings of fear for a minute, and ask your intellect what you really want.
When you see the truth of how amazing your life could be when you make certain changes, then fear and inertia can’t have their way with you. You need to stand in your own shoes five, ten, or twenty years down the road, and ask yourself, “Will I regret not making this change now? Will I look back and wish I’d had the cojones to take action?”
There are certain positive life changes most people never regret making. Here are the top ten:
1. Finding passion
Are you passionate about your life and work? Are you doing what you love and wake up with enthusiasm to start your day? If not, you will certainly regret it — if you don’t already. Accepting a life that is less than your potential, inauthentic, or boring isn’t really living. You may think you don’t have options, or that change would be too difficult or upsetting to others. But change is possible. There is a way to find your life passion and recreate your life to make that passion a centerpiece.
2. Savor simple joys.
Yes, it may impact other areas of your life. It may be challenging and require short term sacrifices. But the positive impact of living your passion is so profound that those challenges and sacrifices will quickly fade away. If you don’t know what your passion is, right now is not too soon to start seeking it. This is a keystone change that will make all elements of your life better.
Do you absolutely love your home, your community, the city you live in, and the people in your circles? If not, then it’s time for a big change. You spend so much time in your personal environment, and if you don’t love it, then you’re accepting less than you deserve in life.
You do need a home that feels like you — one that reflects your tastes and personality. You need to be in a community that supports your ideal lifestyle, surrounded by your “tribe” of people. You don’t want to feel like a square peg in a round hole in your own environment.
Moving might require time, money, and energy. But do what needs to be done to make it happen. Life is too short to live uncomfortably.
3. Scaling back
Is your life peaceful, simple, and unfettered? Are you stress-free when it comes to money, material things, and your time? Most of us would answer “no” to this question. We live cluttered, complicated lives and spend too much on things we don’t really need or want. Simplifying every aspect of your life will improve your state of mind and free you to focus on the things you really enjoy.
It is hard to let go and cut back. We think we need all of these things, and we’re addicted to the adrenaline this kind of busy, cluttered lifestyle creates. But when you spend less, cut back on obligations, and release material things, you have so much more freedom and inner peace. And you will never regret having more of those.
4. Releasing a relationship
Is there someone in your life who is causing you grief, heartache, or stress? Is this person someone very close to you — a spouse, significant other, family member, or longtime friend? Have you tried everything to make this relationship work? Have you sought counsel and support?
If you’ve tried your best to improve the relationship, but things are still bad, then it’s time to let go. Of course this will cause pain and unhappiness in the short term. But your long-term happiness is at stake. Remaining in a bad relationship infects everything else in your life. It takes courage to step away, but your mental, physical, and emotional health depend on it.
5. Committing to a relationship
On the other hand, maybe there’s someone in your life you really care about or maybe even love. But you keep them at arms distance because you’re afraid of being hurt or losing your freedom. Withholding love from yourself and from the other person will cause both of you pain and suffering.
Relationships require intimacy, trust, and commitment for each person to be completely fulfilled and secure. Saying “yes” to love is something you will never regret.
6. Practicing mindfulness
How many of your thoughts are focused on the past or off somewhere in the future? How much time do you actually spend aware of the present moment, completely focused and immersed in the task at hand?
Real life isn’t in the past or future. It’s right now. Life is a series of right nows. Committing to the practice of mindfulness will expand and change your life forever. You will live more fully by being completely present with yourself, your work, your thoughts, and other people.
Mindfulness isn’t an easy practice at first. You must consciously unhinge from worry, overthinking, reliving events, and longing. You remind yourself every moment to bring you attention back to right now — until you no longer have to remind yourself, and you simply live right now. If you live mindfully, you will never have regrets.
7. Reducing technology
How much time do you spend watching TV, surfing the net, hanging out on social media, texting, or playing games on your iPhone? Be honest — count up the hours in the day. Technology has many positive benefits in our lives, but it’s like kudzu. It insidiously takes over until it strangles out everything else. We become addicted to the instant gratification and narcotic effects it has over us.
Real life and real relationships are far more interesting and fulfilling. It will take discipline to limit technology in your life, but taking a break from it provides a liberating peace because you aren’t constantly tuned in to what’s happening in cyberspace or TV land. You are simply living and enjoying the real world. You’ll never regret not spending more time in front of the TV or on the computer. But you will regret missing out on relationships and experiences.
8. Prioritizing exercise
Do you exercise every day or nearly ever day? Do you get your heart and lungs pumping? I don’t need to remind you of the amazing benefits of exercise — but I will! It improves your physical health and longevity, boosts self-esteem and positive feelings, improves your sex life, and makes you feel great in general.
A regular exercise routine is like a panacea for everything in your life. You will be stronger, healthier, happier, which in turn will improve your relationships, your career, and your overall lifestyle.
A commitment to exercise is difficult in the beginning, but once you experience the amazing benefits, you’ll crave exercise and the feelings it fosters. It’s a life change you’ll thank yourself for over and over.
9. Changing your diet
Do you eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies daily? Do you choose whole grains and lean meats? Do you consume very little sugar, processed foods, or high fat foods? Do you have a moderate intake of alcohol and a high intake of water? If not, you will regret your diet choices. A poor diet will make you unhealthy, lethargic, overweight, and potentially lead to a variety of diseases.
We all love to eat delicious foods. We love the convenience of fast food and processed foods. But you can retrain yourself to love foods that are good for you and your body. Taking care of your health is something you’ll never regret.
10. Creating adventure
Do you regularly travel to exciting, interesting places (not just Grandma’s or the beach)? Are you constantly learning new skills, meeting new people, or trying something different and exciting? Life is meant to be lived — not passively but actively with gusto and enthusiasm.
You have a finite number of days on this planet. The world is filled with extraordinary sites, opportunities, and people. During your 80+ years here, don’t you want to have as much fun as possible? Don’t you want to experience as much as possible? Adventurous, new experiences are far more fulfilling than material things or hanging around the house cleaning, watching TV, or doing nothing. As Helen Keller reminds, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
What positive life changes have you made that you will never regret? How have these big shifts impacted your life and relationships? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
photo credit: Eddi van W. via photopin