How to Change Your Life Even When You Think It’s Impossible
There’s no denying that some people NEVER seem to change.
You probably know someone who’s been stuck in the same destructive cycle for a long time. They may make small adjustments in their life, but there’s always some critical pattern they can’t break…
Your friend who can’t stop chasing incompatible women just because they’re hot. Your sister who keeps going back to her jerk boyfriend. Your old college roommate who’s still riddled with social anxiety and terrified of talking to new people. Your own uncontrollable temper that has cost you a relationship.
And of course, the person who can never seem to follow through on their dream of losing the weight or gaining more muscle. I’ve been there…and I’m sure many of you have, too.
But why? Are some people just meant to stay the same?
OF COURSE NOT.
I believe everyone has the ability to change and improve themselves. I built my entire business on that idea and I wouldn’t be doing this without it.
So why do some people transform while others hide in their cocoon? And how can you avoid getting trapped in the same cycle? Let’s talk about it.
The real reasons why people don’t change
I’ve found that the people who struggle with change do so for two reasons:
They don’t believe they CAN change.
They think there’s something broken or different about them (physically or mentally) that will hold them back. They think they don’t have what it takes and are destined to fail (see: learned helplessness). They assume they’re not attractive or cool enough to be liked by others.
They think it’s too late for them and they’ve missed their window of opportunity. They believe they lack the knowledge or resources to initiate change.
They don’t actually WANT to change.
They don’t want it bad enough to put in the necessary work. They haven’t seen the value in bettering themselves or accepted how crucial it is to evolve. Their fears win out.
Maybe they don’t believe they’re worthy of being better or having better people in their lives. Maybe they only want to change for someone else and not themselves; and when that person is out of the picture, they lose motivation to do anything about their situation.
And some people actually enjoy complaining and feeling miserable — often to get sympathy or attention from others.
No matter which category you fall into, you CAN change. I’m going to prove it to you.
I know you and everyone else have the potential to change
Pulitzer prize-winning author Charles Duhigg researched change extensively for his bestseller, The Power of Habit.
He found that change comes down to two things:
- Creating healthier, productive habits that help you achieve your goals (however small) and then eventually lead to lasting change. (I’ll link to a framework later with more details.)
- Internalizing the belief that you can change. Part of this may start with taking a leap of faith. But you can further convince yourself by accomplishing those previously-mentioned goals and building positive reference experiences that prove how capable you really are.
Both of these obstacles to change are completely mental. Nothing tangible or physical is actually limiting you, it’s all in your head.
So if you find yourself making excuses, excuses, excuses…
You’re not too old or physically limited. If a 99-year-old can graduate college, a 96-year-old can get ripped, and paraplegics can become happier than lottery winners — you have the power, too.
You’re not too dumb or ignorant. This is the digital age and it’s never been easier to educate yourself. There are unlimited amounts of knowledge available from people who’ve written about their journey to change.
You don’t lack the resources. You can always work on the side and save up money. You can kickstart an idea. You can ask for support or help from friends. If you look hard enough, there are always crafty ways to obtain the tools you need.
You’re not too broken. You may feel helpless from previous failures but your past does NOT dictate your future. You can always further experiment with new approaches and practice new skills until you see better results.
You’re not destined to fail. Failure is only possible if you give up, otherwise it can always be used as feedback. Every “successful” person in any field (including me) has endured failure and become stronger from it.
You’re not too unattractive or awkward. A person’s attractiveness depends on so much more than just the physical beauty they were born with. There are invaluable qualities and skills you can learn, practice, and cultivate to make you ridiculously attractive – such as confidence, leadership, sense of humor, strong body language, fashion, passion, physical fitness, conversation skills, and charisma.
There are no limits except the ones you create for yourself. Henry Ford said it best, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
Why you should change now
So now that I’ve answered your “Can I change?” question…let’s tackle, “Why should I?”
What’s the point? Why put in so much effort to change?
Maybe your life isn’t so bad…maybe you’re even kind of content. But there’s a little part of you who wants more.
Let’s pretend you’ve got two opposing voices living in your brain.
One side tells you, “Just relax, take it easy, life is good. There’s no need to push yourself.” It convinces you that making change is too difficult, too scary, and unnecessary work.
The other side says, “But I want more for myself. What if I could get everything I want? How great could my life be?” It pushes you to pursue fulfillment and act on your desires.
That second voice is the voice that leads to long-term happiness. It’s the voice that keeps you up at night when you refuse to listen. It’s the hardest voice to quiet down and your so-called contentment will dwindle each day you ignore it.
Because that desire for more doesn’t go away. And not getting what you want will always catch up with you.
Years down the road, you’ll be the one still stuck at the same passionless job. You’ll still experience the loneliness of not making friends and romantic partners who truly appreciate you. You’ll still wish you felt healthier — especially if you start to deal with age-related health problems.
And if you never resolve any of those things, you’ll end up filled with regret. You’re the only one who can make yourself truly happy.
Change also tends to become more difficult with age. Not necessarily for physical reasons, but because of growing real-world responsibilities and deeper ingrained behaviors that we have to fight against.
And finally, by waiting to take action — you’re not building the habits and experiences that will make future change easier. Change is like compounding interest. The sooner you start giving yourself small victories, the more fulfilled, skilled, and motivated you’ll become to tackle bigger transformations.
So while right now playing it safe seems great, you’re just delaying the inevitable and making your future self deal with more hardship. Trading in long-term happiness for short-term happiness is never a viable solution.
Humans thrive because we evolve. Life is a never-ending journey where you have to adapt to create lasting happiness. I don’t care if you’re 21 or 41 — you need to accept that the time to change is now.
So…how do you finally change?
Once you’ve accepted that you can change and that you want to change, you need to understand how to go about it.
Create a list of goals — small to large. Keep an ongoing document. You can even categorize them into segments like short-term (this week), medium-term (one month), and long-term (one year). Writing down ideas makes them concrete and will make you much more likely to actually follow through with them. A great book on being more productive is David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
Break down larger or more difficult goals into smaller, more manageable steps. Many people get discouraged from change because they try to do too much at once and become overwhelmed. You have to be patient and make things as easy as possible for yourself.
You don’t need to hit the gym 3 days a week to start, you can do a couple sets of pushups tonight while you watch TV. With each little victory, work your way up to a more challenging step that brings you closer to your bigger goal.
Replace unhealthy habits with better habits — especially in relation to those goals. Many of the destructive habits we have are so ingrained in us that we act on autopilot. You need to start recognizing your “habit loops”. These are our unconscious routines that are fueled by certain triggers and the need for reward.
Sound complicated? It’s really not. Charles Duhigg actually has a simple 4-step framework that will take you all of about 15 minutes to learn. Once you’ve understood how to identify your habit loops, it’s easy to start taking steps to change those behaviors.
Sharpen your tools to build a strong foundation for change. Sure, you can build a house with a hammer…but why would you when you can use a nail gun? Setting goals and fixing bad habits is crucial to change, but being better equipped will make the process that much easier.
Be aware of the inefficient tools hindering your progress and get new ones that propel change. For example..
- If you always feel helpless or clueless, educate yourself and practice becoming self-reliant.
- If you always make excuses, call your bullshit out and challenge your limiting beliefs.
- If you always procrastinate and put things off, force yourself to be held accountable. Or get someone like a friend or a coach to help you.
- If that little voice in your head always says “you’re not good enough” or “you can’t do it”, defeat your inner critic.
- If fear of rejection stops you from making changes, try some rejection therapy.
- If you don’t even know your problem areas, start practicing mindfulness and proper self-analysis.
Don’t aimlessly hope for change and become frustrated when it’s not working. Develop the right mindset and abilities to facilitate change as smoothly as possible.
Change may not always get you everything you want. And you may not always end up exactly where you expect. But if you’re willing to believe in and pursue the power of change, you’ll always improve yourself and your quality of life.
I hope I’ve given you enough insight, angles, and knowledge to prove that you can change.
So the thing you need to ask yourself is not “can I change?” but “will I?”