6 ways to create a major life change

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Want to shake up the way you live your life? Here’s how to stage-manage that major life change – and steer your dreams to reality

Don’t grow stagnant and complacent, this is the time of year for new beginnings and fresh starts.

But changing your life doesn’t have to mean quitting your job (although sometimes, it really is that) or moving abroad. It can be the little tweaks that set you free from your rut.

And while transforming your life with all its little habits and safe zones can feel like a leap as big as the Grand Canyon, taking baby steps can get you just as far.

Here’s how a few small changes to your life can lead to big things:

What really needs changing?

A neon sign that reads "change"

When you’re feeling flat and frustrated, it’s tempting to want to uproot everything and throw your whole life in the bin. But wait. Before you hand in your notice, sell your flat and all your belongings, consider what it is that you really need to change.

Do you really want to quit your job or, like any long-term commitment, do you just need to revive your relationship with it? Think about what it is you want from your dream job (besides that monthly paycheck, although that too) and check it off against your current JD to identity gaps and overlaps.

Perhaps what you love about your job has got lost in the day-to-day admin and coffee break moans, and you simply need to work on falling back in love with work. Sometimes we’re so busy absorbed in what we don’t like, we don’t see the good bits.

Read more: Why travelling alone can give you the edge at work

Write down some career goals – these can be anything from leaving the office on time to earning a bonus, and consider what you need to do to make these work.

The worst time to quit your job is when you’re unhappy and resentful and it might not be the magic button you think it is. It may not even be the job at all that’s getting you down, perhaps you’re simply bringing baggage into the office? Are you unhappy in your flat share or relationship? Is your group of friends moving in different directions leaving you feeling adrift from them?

And maybe all you really need is to hit refresh with a much-needed holiday…

Build a strong foundation

A man performing capoeira in Bahia, Brazil

You can’t jump very high from an insecure starting point. Being an adult comes with a whole heap of responsibilities. It’s these that often keep us tied to the status quo and, without the proper preparations, they can keep bringing you back to your starting point like a particularly boring bungee jump.

While you could quit your job, if you don’t have another to go to, a financial cushion or a career goal, you may find yourself back in an equally unsatisfying role six months later.

Building a sound foundation ensures you can make the jump without belly flopping back to where you were.

This base may be financial, but it is as likely to be emotional and practical – hence the importance of identifying what you would like to change and how.

Listen to your feelings – but don’t always act on them

offee being poured into a cup

We’re increasingly told to listen to our gut – whether they’re telling us to throw away a jumper or jack in our jobs for a one-way ticket around the world.

But these powerful motivators should be treated with care. While emotions are key in helping us galvanise ourselves to achieve our goals, they don’t always influence us to act in the right way or in a way that will lead us to where we ultimately want to be.

And while it’s easy to believe feelings are based on nothing but instinct, they are naturally informed by our fears, hopes and societal expectations, which means they come with baggage of their own.

Read more: The big myth about changing careers in your 40s

They can also hold us back. For example, maybe you love the idea of the freedom of solo travel, but whenever you think about packing your backpack, your stomach starts churning at the very idea of two weeks with a bunch of total strangers in a strange land. But that literal gut feeling is stopping you having an amazing adventure and instead forcing you carry on the daily grind. The mind likes the reassurance of routine.

And remember feelings come and go – we don’t feel the same way from day-to-day – and acting on a fleeting feel can be self-destructive no matter how ‘right’ it feels at the time.

Base your decisions on your future goal, not the easy here-and-now option

A woman making a leap of faith

Us humans like an easy life, and most of us have to work hard to override our natural sofa-bound instincts.

Many of us are pretty good at it. While setting your alarm for 6am everyday to go to the gym is not something most of realistically want to do, we (reluctantly) know sacrificing that hour in bed to feel fit and healthy in the long-term is ultimately worth it.

In the same way, changing your life is not going to happen overnight and often requires a certain amount of sacrifice to get there.

Read more: Why a breakup may be the best thing that ever happens to you

First up, identify what that future goal is (see below). Is it that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa? Making new friends? Persuing your dreams of a becoming an acrobat?

Once you’ve nailed your goal, take steps to get there. So, if money is what is stopping you booking your ticket to Africa, take a look at your finances: you may have to forgo that daily coffee, spend the odd Friday night in and say no to some social engagements.

But as you’re gazing at Victoria Falls at sunset, you won’t be sorry you turned down another night at the Star and Garter.

Except it’s going to be scary

Seizing the day sounds easy on an inspirational quote tea towel, but in real life, it’s often terrifying.

Humans are not fans of change, and it gets harder the older we get. Teetering on the edge of a cliff of change is daunting but ultimately it’s less scary than letting life slip by without grasping it with both hands.

Make a happiness to-do-list

Woman looking at a computer

Sweeping goals (‘I want a new job’) are all very well, but it is the small things that can lead us to those 360 moments.

Identify what makes you feel good. That could be being outside, socialising, time on your own, walking, seeing new places. Then make a list of things you really don’t like – like your hellish commute, busy places, your flatmate.

Writing these things down can help you see a pattern. Perhaps you could find a way of negotiating working from home once a week, or give your social life a reboot by swapping pints on a Friday night for a Saturday rambling.

You may find bigger changes seep through this list and point you in a direction you hadn’t seen coming, such as a move to the country or a weekly volunteering stint.

We may not be able to see into the future, but we can help guide ourselves towards the one that we want.

3 adventures to help spark change

Shift perspective with this game-changing escapes, all in the company of like-minded solo travellers

Change things up with a bucket-list trip to China

Cycling in China

Hang out with giant pandas! Watch sunset over the Great Wall Of China! This 12-day trip to one of the world’s most exciting countries is guaranteed to shake you out of the biggest of ruts.

Hell yeah

Swap the day-to-day grind for the extraordinary

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

There’s few things more life-affirming than seeing lions, leopards and elephants roaming the plains of Botswana, or flying over the thundering Victoria Falls. This nine day getaway has these ingredients – and so much more.

Jump on-board

Hit new highs with a Rockies adventure

Hiking the Athabasca Glacier in Canada

The vast, inspiring beauty Canada will take your breath away, and this 10-day escape to the Rockies offers the perfect balance of adventure and down time.

Let’s go

Images: Movie Stills DB, Flash Pack, Shutterstock, Jeshoots, Nathan Dumlao, Ross Findon and Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

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