Hello again Psych2Goers. Do you feel as though there’s some change that you seek in your life? Does it seem as though you seem to be walking in a rut, and it’s time for something that could change your life for the better? Maybe things have felt rather.. drab, repetitive, or maybe there’s a big change in your life right now that requires you to be present, or change the way that you’re dealing with current challenges.
Sometimes these challenges can be good, like having new family, living someplace new, or taking on a new job or regimen, such as a diet or exercise plan. Other times, challenges can be difficult and even jarring, such as losing your dream job, changing your areas of study, or even other difficult mental health hurdles that can seem impossible to overcome.
Changing your life in six months can seem like a lifetime away. When you think about how long six months feel, you may start to think about how six months broken up into thirty days each, twenty-four hours a day times six…
…But changing your life doesn’t have to be necessarily six months at a time. Rather, breaking up the changes that you wish to make in your life into a framework can help you balance your strengths with your weaknesses. In fact, one of the most fruitful ways to change your life in 6 months is to hone many aspects of the way you chase and approach the things you’re trying to get.
So, here’s how to change your life in six months.
(This article is for educational purposes and is based on personal opinions. This article is not a substitute for professional advice, but general guidance. We advise you to always listen to your intuition and always do what is right for you.)
1. Defining your goals
The first step in changing your life in six months, is to define exactly what you want to do in six months. This may sound like a very obvious first step, but in a study conducted by Mark Murphy along with his research it had been shown by neuroscientists that generating material for yourself will help you remember and reabsorb the information more fluidly (Murphy, 2018).
What this means, is that by writing down your own goals, you become more easily capable of visualizing them, and thus, more likely to retain, and remember why you’re doing something. Have you ever spent a long time working on a project, job, or otherwise long and difficult task, and asked yourself, “Wait, why am I doing this? What’s the point?” This may have a variety of answers, but by breaking down your goals very clearly into steps that you are most likely to take, you taking the first step to commit to your goals.
We don’t always have a pen and paper lying around, or maybe don’t feel as though we want to go find it. But, as you are reading this, see if you can find a pen and paper. If you can’t, then open up notes on your device and write down what exactly it is that you want. One, big goal that will be at the very tippy top. This goal should be the biggest thing that sticks out in your mind. The reason you clicked on this article!
Now, write a few steps about how you have to get there. Start with 3 steps. Even if you feel that what you’re doing couldn’t possibly be broken down into only three sub-steps, try your best.
Now, this is where it will get tricky. You’re going to try to break these three steps down into one more step each that you can follow daily. Make sure that these even smaller goals are the absolute tiniest steps that you can start as soon as possible. This may seem somewhat pointless to break down such a big task into steps that seem so small that they don’t matter, but this may assist your brain into visualizing steps that are attainable rather than picturing them as so out-of-the-blue that they’re “impossible”, and bringing them down to earth.
For example, if you want to “Be the strongest person in the world, you may write three core steps such as “Exercise everyday”, “Eat healthier”, and “Find a trainer”. These on their own sound very challenging, and as though they may take a lot of time, money, and effort to achieve. Break them down a bit further. For “Exercise everyday”, you may make sub bullets such as “Google a good gym”, “5 crunches at morning and night”, and “Borrow weights from a friend”.
You will notice that when you break your ultimate goal down into pieces, it gives you a starting place for you to begin, and you’ll start to notice the benefit to doing each of the smaller goals, leading you towards your biggest one! Be sure to journal and write down your progress at the end of each week. Write down a day of the week with a specific time to do this on!
2. Starting small, yet forgiving
If you’ve ever started a New Year’s Resolution before, or known someone who has, burnout or fatigue can be unforgiving, leaving you to feel as though if you fall through with your promise, that the entire thing is ruined. Maybe you’re starting a new diet, yet, you slip up once and figure that you may as well throw the whole thing away. Maybe you’re writing a story, and it just isn’t coming along perfectly, so you punish your mistakes by throwing them away completely. If you find yourself striving for perfection, telling yourself that “This is the time that it’ll be different! I’m going to do it perfectly!” Can sometimes be a detriment to your success even before you start (Ruggeri, 2018).
Sticking to a plan doesn’t mean doing the plan perfectly each time. Knowing your own limits and what you’re likely and not likely to do can help you decide your limits for yourself. Let’s say that you want to wake up early, so you set your alarm clock for 6 in the morning, despite having slept at midnight the day before. You happen to wake up at 8 in the morning as you usually do, and shut off your clock since you’ve already missed your morning wakeup call, and go back to sleep again.
Instead, try to be more understanding of yourself in the same way you would understand family or a friend. Setting an alarm for 7:50 in the morning may not seem like a grand change that you were expecting, but the longer you wake up at 7:50, the more you can inch the time back once your new wake up time becomes 7:50. It’s ten more minutes of success, versus waking up at 8am dissatisfied that you weren’t able to follow your goals. Progress is progress, be gentle with yourself!
3. Celebrate your growth, understand your hiccups
Each and every month, schedule a specific day to review your progress. In fact, write one down right now. A specific day at the end of each month that you are going to reflect on the progress you’ve made. Look at your notes, your journal, a particular log that you’ve been keeping of your progress. Don’t try to minimize the small goals that you were embarassed to say that you achieved, or the bigger goals that you didn’t quite reach just yet. All success that you make should be celebrated, and as the mistakes that you make tend to dwindle, you’ll notice that you may be ready for more challenge. Partway through month one or two, you may find that you’ve been doing exercises for 20 minutes instead of the 5 you promised. If you notice that it’s something that you’re able to keep up, then relish in your success!
On the other hand, if you have found yourself skipping daily habits or steps every so often, analyze why they aren’t quite working. Be honest with yourself. Is it too boring? Too hard? You don’t understand it, or just don’t have time? The answers to these questions will give you the answers to adjust these goals to make them fit better for you. In a study conducted by Ayalet Fishbach, positive reinforcement tends to encourage and reward habit more than negative reinforcement (Fishbach, 2020). By learning to embrace negative reinforcement and balance with positive reinforcement, you can become the master of your habits in no time.
Repeating these reviews after each month will give you an overview of your progress. You’ll notice that your daily or weekly tasks are turning into routines, and that you’ve made a visible change that you’ve wanted to see in yourself, even if it’s small. Tricking your brain into thinking very difficult tasks are part of your everyday life, you are actively increasing the amount of change that you can introduce into your life.
Once the six month period has passed, you will notice that instead of having only a few weeks or months of rigorous progress, only for it to stop short in disappointment, you are making steady progress to a goal that you formulated, nurtured, and worked for, all by yourself.
What are some of your goals that you’re going to be working towards over the next six months? Feel free to share down in the comments, making sure that you’re writing the changes that you want to see for yourself, more than for anyone else!
Thank you so much for reading, Psych2Goers. Your love and support helps us make psychology more accessible to people all around the world for free! We truly hope that this article may have inspired or helped you in some meaningful way!
Fishbach, A. (2020, April 21). Either Analyze Your Mistakes or Repeat Them. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Retrieved from https://www.chicagobooth.edu/review/authors-experts/f/ayelet-fishbach#sort=%40articledate%20descending&numberOfResults=9
Murphy, M. (2018, April 15). Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/?sh=29f668c2184d
Ruggeri, A. (2018, February 20). The dangerous downsides of perfectionism. BBC Future. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise