Article Originally Published in Forbes, 3/2020.
I’ve learned a lot over the past few months about making changes and forming new habits. I’m not a psychologist though I have studied consumer behaviors and mental mindsets. I’m sharing a personal story with the goal of inspiring and encouraging other busy people to make changes in their lives. I’ve found that change (especially when it’s controllable) often yields greater happiness. That’s what happened to me, and I’d like to pay it forward. It’s clear that the more satisfied we are individually and as leaders, the better we can contribute at work and at home.
My journey began on December 23, 2019. While eating dinner with my family, I turned on a Netflix documentary called What the Health. I was fascinated by the show that I watched The Game Changers right after that. I was intrigued by the stories of those who had switched to a plant-based diet and no longer suffered from stomachaches, which I’ve endured since childhood. So, I decided to begin my own experiment having never made such a drastic change before. Within a few weeks, I quickly felt positive impacts from my new whole foods lifestyle.
We all face changes. It’s inevitable. Whether it’s a big change (like working from home during a pandemic) or a small change (like starting an exercise routine). Whatever you are dealing with in your life, here are my top 10 lessons for personal and professional growth:
1. Just do it.
Don’t hem and haw when faced with change. As Nike says, just do it. Hesitation often leads to doing things the same old way and expecting a different result. Make the decision to start. If you’re unhappy, then give yourself permission to modify or stop what you’re doing without any guilt. There’s no one right or wrong way to do anything. Make your own path and do so with purpose.
2. There will be a lot of naysayers. Tune out the noise.
Everyone has opinions, and they often don’t hold back. That’s OK, but surround yourself with like-minded people. It makes the journey more enjoyable.
3. Look for opportunities that support your change.
I didn’t realize how many plant-based food options there would be in restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. Even fast food and chain restaurants are catering to vegetarians and vegans. Starbucks recently announced that it’s adding oat milk to its menu in 1,300 stores.
As I discussed in a recent article, personalizing the customer experience is a smart business strategy to differentiate your brand. In the context of change, this also reinforces my point. When you commit yourself to making a change and keep your eyes open, you’ll see many opportunities all around you.
4. Small changes often have big impacts.
I’ve found that when we overthink or overcomplicate a task, it leads to accomplishing nothing. So, break down tasks in the pursuit of change. Remember that every action counts. If you only have 30 minutes to exercise instead of your usual hour, for example, commit to it for half an hour rather than pushing it off for another day — or never.
5. Be the master of your own fate.
There’s an inspiring line in the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” I first heard this quote in the movie Invictus, which my friend had recommended to me and I now recommend to others.
You control your destiny. The choices you make today impact tomorrow. Build your self-confidence and believe you can make positive changes. That’s when you will do the unimaginable. Morgan Freeman talks about this in more detail.
6. Be mindful — and reap the positive benefits.
Since switching my food choices, I am more mindful when shopping, cooking and eating. I now read labels, which I had never done before. I’m tasting so many new foods and trying restaurants I’d never had thought about. My diet requires me to get more creative, and that makes life more fun. So slow down and enjoy the little things about the change you’re making. I’ve found that being mindful about positive change amplifies happiness.
7. Find (and maintain) a support network.
When making a change, communicate to your friends and family that you need their support. Leverage communities on Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms — there is so much knowledge-sharing to go around. Find a partner and hold each other accountable.
8. Move forward from fear.
With any new habit, it’s normal to feel doubtful and fearful of the unknown. Recognize that it’s OK to feel that way but move forward without letting it hold you back. You’ll be glad you did. If you need inspiration, I recommend reading Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.
9. Recognize that change is not easy, but self-control is empowering.
Conquering anything challenging, whether it’s a new diet or exercise plan, or a new job or project can feel overwhelming when you first get started. Practice does make perfect and becomes rewarding. Be intentional and focused on your purpose by reminding yourself of the “why” behind the change every day.
10. Everyone has stories. Listen and adapt to what works for you.
As human beings, we’re all experiencing life in different ways. Take the time to ask questions and share your experience. Read books. Listen to podcasts and TEDx Talks. You may be surprised when something you already know resonates in a whole new way. Epiphanies happen when least expected.
What changes have you made and how has it affected your perspective? Which tip above resonates with you most, and what would you add to the list?
p.s. Since writing this Forbes article earlier in the year, I’ve given up a vegan lifestyle but have maintained healthy habits and proved to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to. You can too.