Our happiness and success rely on thinking constructive thoughts, acting with intent and creating strong relationships with others. The good news is we have control over all of these areas. We can choose to change.
These are the most common changes that can make the biggest impact in your life:
1. Mind your mind.
Your thoughts drive how you feel. How you feel drives your actions.
It is impossible to be confident and self-assured if your thoughts are filled with self-doubt and judgment. If you would never speak to others the way you internally speak to yourself, you can change.
It takes time to reprogram your thinking, but self-awareness is step one. Be more aware of your thoughts. Ask yourself: What is on my mind right now and why? Are my thoughts helping me?
A pause to reboot your internal thoughts can help you become more intentional and positive.
2. Separate how you feel from what you do.
Take time to acknowledge how you really feel. Minding your mind doesn’t mean hiding or ignoring your feelings. But separate your feelings from your actions—your actions are a separate decision.
For example, if I am frustrated that a peer is difficult to work with on a project, I can acknowledge my frustration and then separately decide how to handle it. Or, a friend constantly misses commitments and you feel angry. Rather than ignore it or end the friendship, choose to be open and direct about the impact his or her actions are having on the friendship.
Your actions are a separate decision that you alone make based on your feelings.
3. Stop comparing.
There will always be someone more successful, more accomplished, with more medals, more money and a better promotion. This constant comparison game means you’ll likely never measure up. The bar is always moving and usually it’s up. So have your own internal bar of success based upon what matters most to you, your starting point and the progress you’ve made.
As a career mom, I learned over time that my value wasn’t measured by how much I volunteered at my sons’ schools compared to other mothers. My focus was on how our boys were doing and if they were thriving, rather than comparing myself to moms with more available volunteer time.
Find the real meaning in your efforts. Meaning is a powerful way to overcome comparison to others as you focus on impact and contribution.
4. Claim time for yourself at the start of each day.
Time is our greatest asset. If we are intentional in how we use it, we have a better chance of living the life we want. How you start each day plays a big role in being intentional.
Find a few minutes to think about how you want to spend your day, both in terms of time and the thoughts you want to have. Prayer, meditation, exercise and a little quiet time to think can have a monumental impact on your day, week and year.
I always ask my clients when they can create this thinking and planning time, and where this can best occur. My most important decisions and changes began after I had the time to really think about what I wanted.
Find a quiet corner to pause rather than a busy kitchen—make the time in your busy life.
5. Do something new every week.
Predictable days and habits keep us in a rut. Every week, pick one new small change you want to make.
A friend of mine declared a “year of living differently.” She took cooking lessons, made changes to her house, planned several small weekend trips and learned to fly fish.
Intentionally shake up the routine and try something you’ve never done before. Even a small change, such as watching an interesting TED Talk while getting ready in the morning or experimenting with a new menu item on the grill can trigger new energy.
6. Listen even when you want to talk.
Listening is the most powerful learning tool and relationship builder you have at your disposal, but in our fast-paced, technology-driven world, it is wildly underutilized.
Ask questions and really listen, rather than thinking about what you are going to say next. Your full attention is one of the greatest compliments you can give to someone.
7. Battle the addiction to being right.
The desire to always be right can overshadow even the strongest relationship. Being right at all costs might fulfill an inner need you have, but often at the expense of someone or something else.
Consider this situation: Is there only one answer? Do we need to agree? Is there new information here that I haven’t considered?
Of course, keep your point of view and speak up for values and causes that matter. But if your desire to be right overtakes you in any situation regardless of importance or relationship, a change might do some good. There is no joy in “winning the battle but losing the war.”
Small changes made consistently over time can have a big impact on your life. And they are all actions you can take starting today.
Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm she founded in 2004. Previously, she was a senior executive at Accenture and has been recently featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, Money Magazine and Working Mother. Patti is also an instructor for SMU Executive Education and a keynote speaker on “Leading Change.” Her first book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life, hit shelves in May 2014. Visit her website at PattiBJohnson.com.