“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson, American author
Have you already identified an area of your life you want to change, but you keep putting off doing something about it? Perhaps you’ve read all the ‘how to’ guides under the sun and researched every technique needed to make that change a reality… yet you don’t ever take any action.
I’m sure at one time or another you’ve promised yourself that you’ll begin a new habit another day: you’ll give up smoking tomorrow; you’re going to eat more healthily from Monday; you’ll be more confident at next week’s team meeting. All too often, however, the promised day passes by and still you haven’t done anything to achieve your goal.
It’s frustrating because you want to do it, but you always delay the first – and arguably the most important – day of change. Eventually, it seems such an impossible task that you give up before you try anything.
But it is possible to start those changes today… and you can begin right here and now.
Why We Delay the First Day of Change
When we view change as being an activity to schedule for sometime in the future, we run the risk of never getting around to doing it. Imagine you’ve pencilled a meeting in your diary for next week, one that you really don’t want to attend. As the date gets nearer, you desperately look for reasons to cancel. You come up with an excuse that you’re too busy, it’s a waste of time, or that someone else would get more benefit from participating. Next thing you know, you’ve bumped the meeting from your schedule- and you breathe a sigh of relief.
Personal growth can be tough, boring even, and it often feels easier to push it back to another time rather than face it head on. As we introduce alternative patterns of behavior into our daily lives, we’re likely to experience difficult periods as our previously tried-and-tested ways of behaving are replaced with fresh approaches. This re-learning of new habits and skills can be like a personal battleground where retreat is seen as the best line of defence.
By postponing the first day of change, we seek to shield ourselves from that critical moment when we have to finally confront any discomfort. You’ve probably used excuses like:
- I’m not ready
- The timing’s all wrong
- It’s too much hard work
- I’m too busy
All of the above could be reasons you use to justify not starting today. On the surface, they may appear to be valid excuses but, deep down, they’re more likely to be a delaying tactic to put off taking that critical first step towards change.
Unless you get serious and totally commit to the changes needed for a new life, you’ll find the same old excuses apply equally no matter when you aim to begin. Be honest with yourself – if you’re not ready now, then when will you be?
How to Get Ready For Day 1
Preparation is important before you embark upon any life change. To maximise your chances of success, it’s best to do your homework and anticipate the ups, downs and challenges you’ll encounter. Plan how you’ll react when you come up against setbacks: for example, how you’ll cope when you crave that cigarette or chocolate bar you’re trying to do without.
It often helps to tell friends and family beforehand of your intention to start the change on a given day. This gives your support network the opportunity to help and encourage you on the journey. Some people also find that, by ‘going public’, they’re more likely to stick to the date they declare as ‘Day 1’. Others, however, prefer to kick off their new habit in private as they don’t like feeling under pressure from anyone else’s expectations. Whether or not you tell people at the outset is entirely your choice.
While preparation is important, don’t let it become a barrier to actually rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it. The truth is that you’re never going to feel 100% ready or equipped to cope with every eventuality, but bite the bullet despite this and deal with any issues as they develop. If you’re going to succeed, you simply have to get on with it at some point.
The ‘Big Bang’ vs. the ‘Softly, Softly’ Approach
When you’ve made the decision that you’ll introduce change to your life, you can either do it all at once or adopt the alternative habits at a more gradual pace.
When I was trying to lose weight, I always pledged to go on a diet at the start of every week. I’d spend the weekend before eating all the food that would be off limits as soon as the Monday morning came round. Then, I’d go almost ‘cold turkey’, cutting all of the unhealthy stuff from my menu. I was super-strict about what I ate and stuck religiously to a reduced-calorie eating plan. It was a case of all-or-nothing. Inevitably, during every attempt to shed the pounds, I’d succumb to temptation and sneak a snack I wasn’t allowed. This would (in my eyes) mark the failure of the diet and I’d end up repeating the whole process the very next week!
I was able to break this destructive cycle when I altered how I approached the situation. Instead of cutting everything from my eating plan, I slowly replaced certain foods with alternative, low-fat versions. Treats were ok from time to time. Rather than diving headfirst into a major revision of my previous eating habits, I took things bit by bit (literally). This meant I was able to replace the old habits at a pace my mind and body could cope with. In the end, with this different mindset, I managed to lose nearly 100 pounds.
Don’t Leave it Until Later to Start
You too might find it preferable to build up to your desired change, taking smaller steps rather than one giant leap on a specific day. For example, if you’d love to be more confident at work, there’s no need to set a date in the future to suddenly go for it. Instead, try acting a little more self-assured with one colleague straightaway. By all means, study the advice in those self-help books, but feel just as free to learn what works for you as you go along. When you feel more confident, widen your new attitude and skills to include your whole team. Your goals are more likely to become a reality when you start small.
When you set a date sometime in the future to start your first day of change, you focus all your attention on that ‘big day’. All your efforts are aimed at that watershed moment. There’s an in-built pressure on you that it’s got to work at that one time – or else you’ve failed.
As you come to the end of this article, ask yourself what’s to stop you from quietly beginning your first day of change right now?
No fanfare. No fuss. Just gradually put into practice the tips and advice you’ve read on how to do it.
This time is as good as any to start.
What’s holding you back from making those changes you want in your life? How do you motivate yourself to actually begin the process of change?
Please share your tips and thoughts in the comments.
Photo by Martin Neuhof
Scribd is a ticket to endless knowledge and entertainment. This unlimited subscription service has been described as the "Netflix for books" because it gives access to millions of audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, comics, and sheet music selections. You can try Scribd free with a 30-day trial. Click here to learn more about Scribd.
Follow us on Instagram
14 thoughts on “Start Your First Day of Change Right Now”
This sounds so familiar (especially the diet!). I prefer now to make small choices, day to day, towards what I want to achieve and over time, these small daily choices make a big difference.
I agree with you… smaller choices are much more sustainable than big dramatic ones. These can often feel like shocks to the system and our mind just can’t cope and rejects.
Little changes to our daily habits help us to ‘acclimatise’ to the new ways- making us more likely to stick at it.
This post really spoke to me because I have been the queen of delay tactics. Most of my life I’ve been an avoider. This kept me from living a full life. Insecurities held me back for way too long. It’s true preperation helps alot. Usually my motivation comes from being fed up enough to do something about it. Really getting to a point where I have had it, is a motivator. I use anger as fuel. It’s actually quite empowering!
I’m glad you’ve worked out what works to encourage you to make any changes in your life.
Frustration, or anger, can be a negative influence when we aim it at ourselves continually without taking any action. It can be a vicious circle. However, if you use it in a positive way to motivate yourself to actually DO something, you can certainly turn it to your advantage.
I really liked what you said here about personal growth being tough and boring even!
Personal development can be so tough because it’s all about yourself, you aren’t bouncing ideas off others, or working with others. Often you don’t notice the improvements you’ve made until days, weeks or months later.
And there seems to be a part of me at least, that is resistant to working on myself, a part that moodily tells me “it’s enough already, just chill out and have fun, be average, stop aiming for more, stop trying so hard”.
So I think you’re right, big bursts of personal development aren’t as effective as gradual, integrated change.
There’s definitely a balance we need to strike between making change in our lives and becoming overly obsessed with it.
I feel that when we ease the pressure on ourselves by introducing smaller changes we can relax into those new habits. Being relaxed doesn’t mean not being as committed to the change- it simply means we don’t stress about failing in such a big way. And worrying about failing is not particularly helpful or healthy.
This makes a lot of sense. I too have suffered setbacks from trying to change to much too soon. With diet and exercise. With my career. It’s like sprinting versus being a marathon runner. You want to be able to maintain the change. So start will small things you can commit to daily. It’s consistency that makes the difference.
Thanks Scott and everyone for this stimulating article and discussion. One thing I notice in myself is when I am faced with a decision on whether to do something the old way or a new way. When I choose the old way there isn’t much energy or movement in my state of mind or my life. I stay in the same old familiar groove, and life has less colour and dynamics.
But when I choose a new pathway, it feels energizing and it also wakes up my world. Everything becomes more interesting and I am more engaged with people and my environment as I go about my day.
It can certainly re-vitalize us when we choose to step out in a new direction in our lives. Even doing an ‘old’ activitity – one we’re used to – in a fresh way can be just the kickstart we need.
When we do the same old things in the same old ways, we tend to get the same old results.
Great advice, Scott.
One exercise that helps me IMMENSELY is this:
What is the number one thing that you can START doing right now that will have the greatest possible impact on your life?
What is the number one thing that you can STOP doing right now that will have the greatest possible impact on your life?
Follow your answers and feel the change!
thank u. i need changing in my life.
I really like your suggestions, Scott. I believe that fear is the primary obstacle to change. When we make the change too big, we fear the process. We also fear failure. Taking things one step at a time, and starting with the easiest step, addresses both types of fear. We may still experience the fear, but it’s no longer overwhelming. And if we do fail, the failure feels smaller – and therefore easier to overcome.
Very nice article., thanks so much, is really motivating !
Its like you read my journal Scott!! I always swear that i will start eating healthy on Monday then when i mess up on Wednesday, the eating plan is scrapped. And when the 1st of the month lands on a Monday i write all this changes i will make in the new month but by 3rd its history…Highly motivated by your article!!