A crisis can often make us question our choices, re-evaluate our life or even realise with stunning clarity what truly matters, how we have been getting things wrong and that we want them to change. Want to turn this type of a challenge into an opportunity? The key lies in a measured, thoughtful and purposeful approach. Instead of rash decisions, make deliberate changes to facilitate the life you want to live. Here’s how.
How To Re-Evaluate Your Life
Before you decide where you want to navigate to next, you need to figure out where you have come from, where you currently are – and where you are headed. Are you even operating with consciously set goals and values at all? If not, you need to make yourself aware of the subconscious factors currently directing your life, figure out how they contributed to the current situation, and whether they are (still) in line with what you consciously want for yourself.
Make a written list of relevant questions about your current values, goals, priorities, dreams and desires. Answer each of them truthfully, then take a step back to evaluate the answers. Now take the same list of questions, but apply them to the values, goals, priorities, dreams and desires you want to reorient yourself towards. A side-by-side comparison of these two lists is a useful way to spot the subtle and not-so-subtle ways your current trajectory diverges from the one you want to take in future. It will also make it easier to break those big concepts into specific, actionable items.
Strengths, Weaknesses And What Truly Matters
The Japanese concept of Ikigai (translated as ‘reason for being’) is a great way to grapple with the big questions in life. It exists where your values, your passions and your abilities intersect.
Drawing up the intersecting spheres will help you find that sweet spot. Once you know what matters in your life, what you are good at, and how that can be put to purposeful use in the world around you, you have a 360° view of a shiny ‘new you’ to aspire to. Maybe you can immediately identify one area that is particularly lacking – or you find you need to work on every single one. Make a list of all the things you need to do to make the ‘reason for being’ you have outlined on paper come alive.
Concrete Steps Towards Change
Make sure your list includes some big goals and many small, easily achievable ones – else it will seem too daunting. Also, break them down into daily tasks (for example, “spend 20 minutes working on a creative passion project”), weekly achievements (“write one page of my book”) and bigger, more long-term, abstract goals (“set up my own business”).
A goal-setting journal will help you keep track of plans, habits, priorities and daily tasks. You can choose from a wide range of planners, some with additional space for motivational tools, affirmations, gratitude statements, action steps or journaling prompts. Ideally, you will have a combination of specific to-dos that can be ticked off your list bit by bit, as well as self-reflection tasks that are revisited regularly along the way, bringing clarity to your journey as it progresses.
Becoming The Person You Want To Be
Change can be hard, especially if it begins with confronting some uncomfortable truths about yourself and your life to date. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that this process may trigger.
If you feel despair at the state of the world, of humanity, or even just of yourself, turn to the words of noted misanthrope Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” His dispiriting pessimism can do wonders by putting a seemingly scary challenge into perspective: If all trying is failing, then fear of failure is no reason to not try. And the ultimate goal of trying, again and again, is not to arrive at some sort of success. It’s simply to keep trying – and if you’re doing that, then you’re doing as good as anyone.
What About Your Old Self?
As noted self-love scholar RuPaul once (actually, many times) put it, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Meaningful change can never begin with putting your ‘old you’ in a box, sealing the lid tightly and putting it into a closet, as it were, never to be dealt with again. It’s about unpacking all the complex layers of your personality and of your lived experience that have prevented you from becoming who you want to be. Only when you’ve faced them, accepted that they are a part of you and your life, and that leaving them behind doesn’t have to undo them, can you move on.
The good news is that accepting your past mistakes and your responsibility for those actions is already half the battle. If they have affected others, you may have to take some steps to make amends and seek forgiveness from anyone you may have wronged. If guilt and regret only linger on in your own mind, it’s up to you to forgive yourself.
How To Forgive Yourself
Self-forgiveness requires abilities that we often find easier to apply to others than to ourselves, like compassion, kindness and lenience. A change of perspective can help. Would you be able to forgive someone else for the things that you are beating yourself up about? Or are your feelings of guilt based on your old values – the ones that you are trying to leave behind anyway? The best way to frame past mistakes is as opportunities to learn and grow. You did something wrong? Great! Now, based on that invaluable first-hand experience, you get to do it better next time around. That way, you can let go of the hard feelings without pretending it never happened.