When she sends me the “I want to burn this place down” gif from Mad Men I know I need to actually call her – rather than send the usual series of heart and strong arm emojis.
“What’s up?” I ask. I know things have been less-than-ideal in my friend’s life for a while now, but I didn’t realize we were talking season 7 Joan Holloway levels of frustration.
“I hate it. All of it. This stupid job. My hair. I hate all the clothes in my closet. You know I love my dog but even walking her is a production of yanking and barking. And I’m never going to pay off all that school debt. I want to do-over card. I want to burn it all down and move somewhere new and be a totally new person.”
Friend. I GET IT. When we want everything to change, it’s hard to know where to start. When it feels like nothing is quite the way you want it, where do you start when you don’t know where to start?
I asked my friend if she was venting and wanted me to listen or if she wanted me to put on my coaching hat and give her advice. (<- something I’m working on because often our friends just want us to listen and not give them unsolicited advice!)
She wanted me to give her advice, so I did. And if you’re in the same ‘I want to change but I don’t know where to start’ place, I’m about to give you the same advice!
Where to start when you don’t know where to start
Start with the obvious thing you KNOW will improve your life
Bluuuuugh. Probably not what you were hoping to hear, right? But the totally unsexy truth is that no matter what we’re trying to accomplish or what we’re struggling with, we all benefit from:
- Getting enough sleep
- Moving our bodies (in a way we don’t hate!) at least a little, every day
- Seeing or talking to friends regularly
- Not being constantly dehydrated
“But Sarah! I’m trying to train for a marathon / build a successful freelance career / save up for IVF treatments! I’M NOT INTERESTED IN STARTING WITH ‘DRINK MORE WATER’!”
Friend, I get it. But the truth is: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs isn’t messing around. Until we meet our most basic physical and emotional needs, we’re really going to struggle with stuff like “launch a podcast” or “navigate adopting a child through foster care” or “find a new job.”
Also? When we’re well-rested, hydrated, and supported we have more energy, creativity, and focus to go after what we want.
Sometimes we want to believe that success is magical or special or a mystery - but a surprising amount depends on unsexy things like hours slept, glasses of water consumed, and the number of high five emojis in the text chain. Click To Tweet
Start with something binary
Already got the basics down? I am high-fiving you through the internet! What’s another place to start when you don’t know where to start? The binary behaviors and choices in your life.
Many of the things we want to change in our lives are a little squishy and grey area-y.
We want to stop stalking our ex on social media, but then they show up in a friend’s photos on Facebook and we read all the comments. Does that count?
Or we want to read more. We take a writing class and the professor assigns several books so we read them. Does that count?
Set yourself up for success – and create momentum and motivation for future success – by choosing a binary change. Either you did it or you didn’t.
Either you took your medication or you didn’t.
Either you did your physical therapy exercises or you didn’t.
Either you sent the networking email or you didn’t.
When we give ourselves black and white, tangible, check-off-able goals, we’re more likely to achieve them.
Start with something that’s semi-public
If you’re already doing the basics and that binary advice doesn’t apply to you, try changing something that’s semi-public.
Why? Because when we do things in a semi-public way we’re creating accountability and creating the identity for ourselves as someone who does _______________.
(And usually those identities are positive and we want to keep them!)
A semi-public change is a change that involves other people or is witnessed by your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
If you and your co-workers eat lunch together every day, and you start bringing lunch, they’ll notice + comment and you’ll feel accountable to keep it up.
If you and your partner get up at the same time every day, they’ll notice if you start drinking a big glass of water before breakfast or stretch while your Poptart is toasting. Accountability, ahoy!
If you get coffee at the same coffee shop every morning, the barista is going to notice if you switch to decaf or tea. You just created accountability, friend!
Change is possible, y’all. I see it every day with my students and coaching clients. I know that starting small might seem silly or ineffective, but I promise you – it’s not.
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash