If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

Would you become healthier? More successful? Improve your relationships?

When we stop to reflect on how we’d like to improve, we can often get stuck when thinking of the sheer magnitude of the task. More often than not, the improvements we seek require far more than a simple change of habit. Rather, they require a recipe of self-awareness, habit reformation, mindfulness, determination, and hope.

Remove any one of these ingredients and you’ll find that change is exactly as hard as you thought it would be. Work with all of them in conjunction and you can enforce lifelong change.

The Problem with Today’s Dialogue on Change

Our culture holds onto a belief that we can fix anything in “5 simple steps” or “10 daily habits” or “3 life-altering rituals.” As nice as it is to find new ways to work on old problems, the proliferation of these“easy” and “simple” tips is a huge problem. It sends a subliminal message that change should be easy and that all you need to do is a few small things to correct behavior you’ve solidified over a lifetime.

Can we call bs on this trend already?

Change is hard. If it were so easy, then no one would search for advice on how to do it. And if no one searched for advice on how to do it, then we wouldn’t be inundated with new tips and tricks on how to do it every day.

The truth is, there’s no simple way to create change in your life. There are things we can do that are simple in theory, but immediately become more complex in application. You and I could receive the exact same advice, but struggle with completely different parts of following said advice. While advice can point us in the right direction, it’s up to us as individuals to forge our own paths ahead.

As you embark on your path, remember this one important thing:

Lifelong Change Takes a Lifetime

As we work on “fixing” the things we don’t like about ourselves, we fool ourselves into thinking there will be a day when we’re done, when the problem will be fixed forever.

That almost never happens.

If you have trouble with anger, it took a lifetime to develop and will most likely take a lifetime to work on. The same goes with diet, exercise, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Think about it this way: if Oprah, one of the most accomplished women of our time, is still making Weight Watchers commercials after decades of struggle with her weight, then why would it be any different for us?

We all have patterns that we’ve developed over time that we’d like to improve upon or even alter completely. After all, we’re humans, not robots! Whatever issue we struggle with now is likely an issue we’ll struggle with five years from now. Sounds scary, I know. But here’s the good news:

We can always improve.

We can develop mechanisms to help us change the habits we don’t like.

Every new day is a new opportunity to practice being the person we want to be.

The minute we realize that lifelong change takes a lifetime to enforce is the minute we can break the cycle of frustration.

We’re never finished growing – and every day we get a new opportunity to turn the corner and solidify positive habits.

Think of bathing. Just like we can’t take one shower and be clean for the rest of our lives, we can’t enact one new habit and “fix” all our bad habits for the rest of our lives. The good news: showering is one of life’s greatest comforts –  and so is creating positive momentum.

You can look at it as a chore or you can look at it as a way to care for yourself and create your best life. It’s up to you.

The Recipe for Lifelong Change

So how to go about enacting lifelong change? Follow a recipe that gives you ideas to improve, room to grow, and self-encouragement for the journey.

Self-Awareness

This one is the easiest to say and hardest to do. We can’t change a thing if we’re not aware of what our bad habits are in the first place. To be self-aware is to look at those habits head on and to accept them as part of our current behavior.

No justifications. No excuses. The habits are there, we just need to understand why.

As soon as we can recognize the things about ourselves we don’t want to continue doing, then we can spot these habits as they happen and stop them in their tracks.

Habit Reformation

The most obvious ingredient in the recipe for change is habit reformation. To fix bad habits, we have to form new habits, good habits. Like self-awareness, it’s easier said than done.

Understanding the why of our bad habits is key to turning them into good habits. Examine the root cause of the habit and fix that – then it will be easier to chart a new course.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness and self-awareness are very similar. They both require a heightened sense of awareness into our own actions. When we go through our very busy lives, this is incredibly hard to do.

Being mindful means being present in the actions you take and the decisions you make. It’s the act of responding in life, not reacting. It takes a lot of practice to become more mindful, but you can start with counting to five in moments you find you need re-centering, so that you can respond rather than react. As you practice this behavior anew every day, it will get easier to do.

Determination

Since you will have good days and bad, determination is going to be one ingredient to help you push through. Sometimes we just fail, flat out. Sometimes we fall so hard off the horse we think there’s no way we can get up.

We all go through it.

Find that determination inside of you to have your best life. Dig into that determination when you feel like an utter failure. Then get up, brush yourself off, and try again. With determination, you can defeat failure. Because the only way to truly fail is to stop trying.

Hope

Just like self awareness and mindfulness work together, so too do determination and hope. If you get to a point at which you feel hopeless, no amount of determination is going to get you through.

You must always hope for the change you crave. You must never succumb to beliefs that it’s impossible to do. As long as you have hope, you have power.

Never give up hope. Each day is a new opportunity to learn, to try again, to figure out something new. Therefore, you never run out of options.

It’s Never Too Late

When we understand the journey ahead, it’s easy to think that we’ve gone too far down a bad path. But it’s just not true.

It’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to become exactly who you want to be. In fact, there’s no better time to start than right now.

Image Credit: Joseph Barrientos