Change Starts With You

We used to think we can achieve change if we have more money, time, and opportunities, or new stuff or leaders. Maybe yes.

What we haven’t realized, however, is that change is hard — changing our situation is hard and changing our old ways is hard. That’s the reason we rarely achieve change. And the reason when we can’t, we think it’s somebody’s fault — our families, employers, or the government.

Here’s the problem: We only dream of change. We don’t take actions.

Please don’t misunderstand. Our families, employers, or the government may be flawed (everyone is flawed), but doesn’t give us the license to blame them for our miserable lives. Their mistakes shouldn’t define our lives.

How Does Change Start?

It starts with changing your mindset.

Changing your mindset means redefining almost everything you believe. For example: “Does success mean having millions? Do we really need money to be happy?” If you answer yes, change it to no. And if it’s no, change it to yes. Redefine them.

Redefining things changes the way you approach life. If before you think that the only way to change our nation is through having a great leader, and then you redefine it that it’s not about the leader it’s about everyone’s collective action, you might be surprised how that one mental shift changes the way you approach life.

Soon, you’ll take actions you never thought possible. (That’s how I started self-reinvention.)

Now you have a new mind. And if you stick with it, it’ll be easier for you to develop new habits and skills. Awareness and acceptance, then, follow.

As Stephen Covey admonished in his timeless book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,“If we wanted to change the situation, we first had to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”

Mid-2014, I stumbled across Paul Jun’s Motivated Mastery. His blog is like a “treasure map” igniting my curiosity. But unlike typical treasure maps, it doesn’t point towards hidden treasures, but rather hidden knowledge and timeless lessons.

It was life-changing.

Then I noticed a gradual change. The more I read his blog — which focuses on psychology, mindfulness, self-awareness, empathy, compassion, creativity, and other related topics — the more I wanted to improve myself. The more I became willing to face the reality of change.

Besides self studying psychology and practicing self-awareness, mindfulness, compassion, and empathy, here are some of the changes I’ve made:

I began focusing on what I have.

I dropped the wishlist and focused on what I have, rather than what I don’t have. Why do I keep dreaming about new stuff? Are they needs or wants? Shouldn’t I be happy with the things that work for me? Shouldn’t I appreciate what I have? It struck me like thunder.

I started to understand the human nature.

Reading psychology topics may sound overwhelming — at least for me — but if you seek understanding, things become interesting. Understanding how human nature operates has helped me understand our annoying behaviors. Why is he arrogant? Why do they love partying? And why I don’t?

I minimized engaging in toxic conversations (particularly on social media sites).

If the conversation is all about complaints, hatred, judgment, and anything negative, I don’t feed it. I can listen, try to understand, and offer suggestions or solutions. But as much as I can, I ignore toxic conversations or topics that aren’t worth talking about (I’m still practicing this). But there were times I engaged to understand the problem. After all, the one talking is human. Maybe they need someone to talk to.

I started to manage my time.

Time management has become a mainstream advice  — easy to insist but hard to execute. But without time management, change is just a dream. It won’t happen. So I experimented routines that work for me (and still experimenting). My suggestion is to experiment what works for you.

I started learning from my mistakes.

It’s the famous cliché, “Learn from your mistakes.” But are we really learning? Most of us keep repeating the same mistakes. Then blame everyone. Two years ago, I made “learn from mistakes” a mantra. Every time I do something wrong, I journal it. Then evaluate myself: Did I commit the same mistakes?

I began pouring my energy into things that matter.

Meaningful relationships, love, peace, family, values, self-education, self-development, job, and my passions. These are some of the things — or perhaps more — that matter to me. Since reinventing myself, I’ve tried my best to focus most of my energy on these things. But I’m no perfect. Sometimes I’m dissuaded to trivial matters. Stay mindful.

I started to understand things from different perspectives.

Reading books and blogs and listening to thought-provoking speeches or podcasts have helped expand my perspective on life. The more I learned, the more I gained clarity. But it’s no easy. It requires self-awareness and constant fine tuning of the mind.

I stopped blaming (including the government), instead I understood the flaw.

It’s funny to think, even though no one’s perfect, we still blame each other. My younger self usually does that. But I’m no more my younger self. I have changed and been changing a lot for the past two years. Here’s what I’ve cemented in my mind: Stop the blame and do what you can do. Focus on the solutions, not the problems.

I started taking actions for change.

Wake up earlier, do my job well, do what I love, read more, observe, reflect, take efficient actions. Tame my distractions. Change my bad habits. Change the way I treat others. Practice empathy. Smile more. And stop overthinking. The goal is not a drastic change, but rather small consistent actions to change myself — that is real change.

Do something. Be the change.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said,

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Change your negative words and bad habits and anything you don’t like. Change your mindset, change yourself. Let’s see what happens.

When will you start?

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Jade Panugan

Some interesting questions about life and human behavior: What if there's no money? Why we often feel the urge to prove that we're right and others are wrong? Why we react to things beyond our control? Why we hate? Why it's hard to be content? I don't have all the answers, do you? Let's chat.