By David Joel Miller.
Will anything change for you this year?
Look at that! New Year’s come and gone. Some resolutions have already been abandon. Change is hard, staying the same is easier. Have you ever thought that someday you will make some changes, but time continues on and nothing much changes? You may even have told yourself that you are too old to change, yet all around you others are making changes, small ones, major ones. Some of those people are older than you. Some have illnesses and challenges. And yet they change. Have you asked yourself when will you finally make those changes?
You may see from the blog title, counselorssoapbox Counseling, Therapy, Recovery, and a Happy Life, that I believe in people having a happy life. I believe in wellness and recovery. You can too. Improving your life does not need to be done all at once in huge seismic shifts. That old snowball effect, small changes mounting up, is at work here. Let’s start walking through the process of making life improvements and see where it takes us.
Self-improvement begins with finding out where you are.
Anyone can benefit from a conscious effort to make their life better. You start by looking at where you are and then you decide where you want to go. Don’t get sidetracked into how awful your current life is. View any problems you have as opportunities for improvement.
Some people call this process taking a life inventory. It is important to add to your inventory, not just the marked down and worthless items, but those skills and talents that may take you where you need to go. Make a concerted effort to look for undeveloped talents, those things you said you would do someday that you have not yet tried. One of those yet to be tried activities may be just the thing that has been missing from your life.
Do not rush the inventory process. If you sketch out a house on the back of a napkin you could rush out, buy materials, and start building. It is better to have a good blueprint. This keeps you from having to tear down your house because you forgot the foundation or a way to install electrical and plumbing.
Put your life improvement plan down in writing.
Some time back, a few decades ago, I started working on a written Happy Emotional Life Plan (H.E.L.P.) I carry this around in a loose leaf binder. This plan is one section in the binder that includes sections for the classes I teach and my other important life activities. I look at this plan periodically, about one per week. It reminds me where I have been and where I am going. It is surprising many years, when I get to the end of the year, how far I have come.
Along the way, I discovered that a WRAP plan (Wellness and Recovery Action Plan) was a part of the things I needed to work on. Staying emotionally healthy is a prerequisite for me if I want to reach my goals. But my H.E.L.P. plan includes a bunch of other things also.
You do not need to be lost to check a road map.
Having a Happy Emotional Life Plan does not require you to believe there is something wrong with you. Take a look at the post “Why do successful people have coaches” for more on the way in which anyone can use some help in reaching their life goals.
No matter how difficult or awful the place you are in you can still benefit from doing some things to make your life a better place.
It is not just where you are going but how you wish to travel that matters.
Part of creating a life change plan, one that will make your life what you want it to be, is getting clear on your values. Values clarification should always come before setting goals. If a goal for you is having more money, why do you want that and what are you willing to do or not do to get there.
Don’t try to visit all the countries in Europe in one week.
A common error in trying to improve your life is to try to tackle too many goals at once. People in early recovery from mental illness, substance use, disintegrating relationships and so on often make the mistake of trying to fix all their problems the first week.
You may decide you would like a more abundant life so you take a job working forty plus hours a week. Then you see the need for more education so you enroll in school as a full-time student. Some love in your life would make things better so you begin dating and start a new relationship. All that gets done in the first week of the year. What will you do for the second week?
Trying to make too many changes at once reduces the chances of success. Start by making a few small changes and practice them over and over until those new habits become automatic.
Start any self-improvement plan with a few selected goals and as you make progress towards those goals you can add more to the list.
Plans for self-improvement are life maps for a journey.
It is easier to say you want to be healthy. Taking action on that goal is more difficult. Break those goals you have set up into small steps. Take one step at a time and see how far you can travel. Include periodic reviews for your goals and progress as part of a life plan review.
Sometimes it helps to consult a travel adviser or guide.
If your life plan includes some serious renovations consider getting some professional help. A career counselor can help you look for the new job you want. If you have emotional or relationship issues you need to work on, then a counselor or therapist can help.
Throughout this year we will revisit this theme of transforming your life into the one you would like to have and how you can navigate this process of change.
How are you wanting to change yourself and the life you live?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books