5 Steps to changing your life in 2019

As we begin 2019, many of us will be reflecting on our successes and disappointments of 2018, and on what we want to achieve or do differently this year. Better work/life balance perhaps? Greater personal fulfilment? More self belief?

As an executive coach, clients come to me looking for support to change something about their life, which inevitably spans all elements of their life, professional and personal. If you want to make some kind of life change this year, here are five steps and some useful exercises to help you in developing a life changing plan for 2019 and beyond.

Step 1: Why do I want to change?

Being clear on your ‘why’ allows you to focus your actions and decisions on making the right change for the right reasons. Before you do anything else, write down one sentence that sums up what you want to change about your life and why. For example: ‘I want to change my work life balance because I want to have more energy to spend quality time with my family‘. Or: ‘I want to change my career direction to feel that my work is worthwhile and aligned with my values‘.

Next write down at least one thing that you will gain in your life (i.e. the ultimate payoff), if you are able to achieve this change. For example: ‘I will be healthy and live longer’, or:‘I will have a better relationship with my partner and/or children’.

Keep this in mind as you go through the following steps.

Step 2: Where am I starting from?

Gain greater awareness of yourself and your situation so that you can take the right action to achieve your life change:

  • List your top five core values and rate each one against the extent to which you are living these in your life (1= not at all, 10 = completely). Reflect on the reasons for your scores.

  • Complete a wheel of life to evaluate your satisfaction with all parts of your life. Reflect on the reasons for your scores.

  • Do a personal SWOT analysis (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

  • Identify where you are holding yourself back. Over a week, write down the negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that frequently come up for you. For example, ‘I’m not as good as other people‘, ‘I’m a fraud‘, ‘People will think I’m a failure‘, ‘I must work late to be successful” plus any other ‘I must…‘ or ‘I should…‘ thoughts that come up. For each belief or thought, reflect on what the payoff has been for you in having this thought or belief (e.g. keeping you safe from criticism), and also what the consequence has been for your life (e.g. preventing you showing your real self at work).

  • Reflect: From completing these exercises, what have you learnt about yourself and the life change that you want to make?

Step 3: Where do I want to be?

Now it’s time to dream big. Don’t limit yourself. You need to feel inspired, enthusiastic and motivated to achieve your life change:

  • What would it mean to be living each of my core values to the full in my life? Note down your thoughts next to each value. For example: ‘I would volunteer regularly for a cause that I believe in‘, or ‘I would spend more time outside the business‘.

  • Where do I get my energy from? Over the course of a week, reflect on the times in your life (including childhood) when you have felt completely ‘in flow’, energised and motivated by what you were doing. What activity were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? Then take note of the times when you have felt the opposite. What does this tell you about what you really want from life?

  • Visualise the future. What do you want your life to be like in x months’ or years’ time? Close your eyes and take a few minutes to imagine that you are living this vision. What are you seeing, doing, saying, feeling and thinking? Create this vision in a way that you can refer back to it and refine it later. Use whatever format works best for you: a list, a mind map, drawings, cut & pasted images, post it notes etc. Imprint this in your mind. Post your vision somewhere that you’ll see it regularly.

  • Define three personal change goals that will enable you to achieve your life vision. For each goal, define at least one measure of success, i.e. how you will know that you have achieved this.

  • Reflect: How committed am I to achieving my life goals on a scale of 1-10? (1 = not committed, 10 = fully committed). What do I need to do to get closer to a 10?

Step 4: How will I get there?

Next, spend some time getting clear on how you will achieve your life change so that you can start to take action, one step at a time:

  • Options. List all the things that you could try to achieve your goals. What are the risks and benefits of each of these? Which options are you most committed to progressing?

  • Knowledge. What and who do you know already that could help you to achieve your goals? Where are your knowledge gaps and how could you fill these?

  • Positive thinking. Where you have identified limiting beliefs and negative thoughts previously, take one and notice when it pops up in your mind over a week. When it does, practice exchanging it for a more useful belief or thought that you want to tell yourself instead. Keep practicing this and notice the difference to how you feel and behave over time.

  • Doing and being. Make a list of the things that you will be doing, and another list of the ways that you will be ‘being’ each day that will achieve your life change. For example, ‘doing’ might be not checking your emails at a weekend. Being’ might be having a positive, relaxed or calm energy. Remind yourself of these regularly.

  • Plan. Write down what actions you commit to taking to achieve your life change, with timeframes that you can use to hold yourself to account. If your goals seems too difficult to achieve at this point, focus instead on the actions that you could take to make even a few baby steps in the right direction.

  • Relationships. Who do you need to engage in your life change? What do you need from them? What do they need from you? Which relationships will serve you in making this change, and which won’t?

  • Reflect: What are my next steps? How confident do I feel in implementing my plan on a scale of 1-10? (1 = not confident, 10 = fully confident). What would get me closer to a 10?

Step 5: How am I doing?

Once you have started to make changes in your life, regularly reflect on your progress to recognise your achievements, build greater self awareness and adapt your approach as needed:

  • Redo your wheel of life and notice any changes in your scores and the reasons for these.

  • Revisit your values and periodically score the extent to which you are living these, noticing any changes.

  • Reflect: What have I achieved? What have I learnt? What do I want to stop / start or keeping doing?

Conclusion

Here we’ve explored five steps and some example exercises that will help you to create a plan to change any element of your life as you embark on 2019. When used in a coaching relationship, these exercises are played in over time with clients, not always sequentially (there’s lots of jumping backwards and forwards) and only where relevant, so take the same approach with your own life change.

Keep your ‘why’, your vision and your goals in mind at all times. Don’t worry if you don’t have a plan that is mapped out to the letter, or if your life change feels unachievable at this point. Focus each day on making baby steps towards where you want to be, reflecting regularly on how you are doing and you’ll be amazed at how your life will gradually start to move in the direction that you want it to.

What life changes do you want to make in 2019, and why?

 

Sihem Bounoua is an Executive Coach and Founder of Rhapsody Senior Professionals (www.rhapsodycoaching.co.uk/seniorprofessionals) and Rhapsody Medical Leadership Development (www.rhapsodycoaching.co.uk/medical).