When I first became a new mom to Matthew, I was completely overwhelmed with everything I needed and wanted to accomplish each day. But with such little time left that wasn’t spent caring for an infant, I had no idea how I was going to fit everything in. It seemed like prior to having a baby, I had so much “me” time (although I didn’t really realize that until it was gone!). There was time to spend with my husband, time that I could spend on my goals, time for what needed to get done around the house, and luxury time to just do nothing or spend it on my mindless guilty pleasures if I wanted to. But suddenly that was all gone.
And things started to go downhill. I was so stressed and overwhelmed. And I felt like I had to be spending all my maternity time with Matthew – not only because he loved to be held and was a new and important part of my life, but he was an eater! We made the decision to breastfeed for the entire first year of life, which put a lot of pressure on me and made it so that I was always around him. And there’s not much else you can get done when either holding or breastfeeding an infant.
And since Matthew was born premature and with a low birth weight, the nurses and doctors kept stressing to me how I needed to keep him warm all the time so that he wouldn’t be expending calories on staying warm himself, and how I needed to be extra responsive to his hunger cues to allow him to gain the weight he so desperately needed. As a first-time mom, this made me scared to take him anywhere, expose him to any potential viruses, or even take him outside (he was born in February in central Maine – not the warmest place or time of year for a tiny newborn!). So not only was I exhausted from the lack of sleep and all the body changes from labor, delivery and breastfeeding, but my formally really active and physically and intellectually stimulated self was suddenly cut off from the world. I rarely left the house during my maternity leave. I managed to get in a shower and a treadmill workout each day, but I was stressed leaving him alone for naps while I did that. And other than reading while he slept in my arms, I stopped doing almost all the other activities that I loved – yoga classes, pole classes, Zumba, getting outside for at least 30 minutes a day, seeing friends, and spending time on my other hobbies. I loved my new baby with all my heart, but I dreadfully missed my former life. And the fact that everything seemed to change so suddenly and so dramatically was more than I was ready for. It was really hard, and for a while I was a bit depressed. Not the deep post-partum depression that can hit and be devastating, but enough that I wasn’t super happy with how my life was going. And it was enough that I thought I wouldn’t be able to make things better.
But as Matthew kept getting stronger and putting on weight, and his doctor checkups became more and more positive and routine, I realized that it was time I do something to make me the full and happy person I wanted to be again. I was getting comfortable enough in my role as mother, and knew that my old life was my old life. But I didn’t see why I couldn’t try to bring some of my old life into my new life – in whatever space I was able to find to fit it in.
So I took some steps to figure out what was important to me and what I most missed, and then figured out how to bring as much of that back as I could without overwhelming myself in the process. (Bonus: You’ll find that as your child gets older and more independent, you can add back in more and more.) These steps completely changed the course of my life from then on, and I know they can do the same for you!
Step 1: Do a results inventory of your life.
What is a results inventory? Simply put, it’s looking at the current results of everything in your life. Results never lie. They give you a clear and honest picture of how what you are currently doing leads to where you are right now. I want you to look at:
- Your relationship with your spouse
- Your relationship with your children
- Your relationship with friends and family
- Your bank balance
- Your body
- Your health & results of your last physical exam
- Your energy level
- Your happiness level
- The state your home is in (organized vs. chaos)
Look at every area of your life that matters to you and honestly assess how you stand. Are you happy with what you are seeing? Or do you see that part (or multiple parts!) of your life needs major improvement?
Step 2: If you find results you don’t like, list them all out, in order of which is most important for you to fix.
We all have things we want to change, but some changes in life will make more of a difference to our overall happiness than others. Some changes will seem so far out of reach that we can get discouraged before we even start, while other changes might not seem as daunting and therefore are thought to be much more obtainable. List first those things that are most important for you to fix, and if you have two of the same priority, list the goal that seems easier to obtain first.
The reason we are prioritizing our list is because we only have so much mental energy, so much willpower, and so much effort we can put into change each and every day. And this amount of energy will even change day to day – depending on how rested you are, if you are healthy vs. sick, and how stressed out you are from outside factors in your life that you have less control over (weather, your commute, your job, your boss, family and just life itself).
When making changes, you want to just work on one thing at a time. If you spread your energy and mental efforts over too many things, nothing will get the attention it deserves, and you will be discouraged because you won’t seem to be able to move the needle on anything you are working on. And if you don’t see progress towards your end goal, it’s inevitable that you’ll give up.
But if you can focus on just one thing at a time, one change that you want to make, you’ll be able to put forth all your effort and energy into that one thing. And it will make a difference. It might not always progress as fast as you’d like it to, but if you are focused, you will make progress. And progress towards your goal not only makes you happier for achieving what you set out to change, but it makes you more motivated to keep the changes going and to achieve even more in your life.
Step 3: Once you have your list, give yourself some homework.
Here’s where most people get stuck. The only way to make a change is to take action and to take responsibility. You can dream all you want, pray all you want, wish for changes all you want, but until you actually do something different, nothing will ever change!
So for the next 90 days, don’t blame anyone. Don’t complain about anything. Don’t try to justify anything. Just take 100% responsibility for everything that’s in your life. And take 100% responsibility for everything that’s NOT in your life. And then start taking actions that will get you different results. And keep at it till you see changes. Because if you keep doing the same stuff you are doing, you’ll keep getting the same results you’ve always gotten.
Step 4: Don’t trust your brain.
Making change is hard. And some changes are so much harder than others, depending on which part of your life you’ve decided to fix first. Whether you are trying to change jobs, lose weight, clean out your entire house, etc., you will come across things that are not easy. And you may have some really uncomfortable decisions to face that bring you stress – either stress of the unknown, or stress of just moving away from what you are “comfortable” in (and remember, comfortable does not always mean good or happy!).
But you can’t trust your brain. Your brain is not there to make you happy or rich. It’s there to keep you safe and to help you avoid damage and death. That’s why often it talks to you in negative and discouraging tones. Your brain wants you to take the safe road. But it can also be very irrational. What it might discourage you against because it’s “new” or “unfamiliar” could be the very thing you need to do to move your life in the direction you want it to be. You can’t believe the negative self-limiting thoughts that try to keep you back.
Step 5: Change your environment.
Environment is stronger than willpower. You have to makes changes to the environment you are in if you want to make changes to your life. If you are in a negative environment, you will stay in a negative place. This means if you want to lose weight, you have to take the unhealthy food out of your house (where you are more likely to eat it) and fill your home with healthy options. If you want to change jobs or start a side venture, you’ve got to start hanging around with positive people who support you in your decision. And if you want to get organized, you need to be with people who value the same thing you do, and who work at keeping their home and their life running smoothly.
Who you hang out with, and the types of environments you spend your time in, has some of the greatest impact on who you become. There’s a famous quote by Jim Rohn that says:
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
So if you want to know who you are, look around you. And regardless of if these people are friends, family or coworkers, you may not necessarily be happy with who and what you see. Some people you can’t eliminate from your life, but you can take steps to minimize your interactions with those who don’t affect you in a positive manner and don’t support your goals. Instead, work to find people that can help you move forward, and who you can help move forward as well. As with everything in life, it’s not just what you take, it’s what you can give.
Step 6: Find a way to stay accountable.
As you move towards your goal and you start making changes towards the life you want to live, you will always run into something that will try to slow you down or stop you. There are roadblocks that pop up no matter what we try to do in life – whether they are financial roadblocks, self-limiting beliefs, an illness or injury, feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or if Murphy just has a tendency to visit you often. Regardless of what happens, it will be very tempting to just throw in the towel and quit on what you had decided to change. It will seem easier to just stay where you are instead of putting in all the hard work to get to a better place.
You need to find a way to stay accountable to your goals. Most of the time, that means you tell someone who you can check in with often what your plans are and what you are trying to achieve. That way, every time you see that person, they can ask you how you are progressing. Knowing that you have to be honest and that you don’t want to let this person down can be a great motivating factor to keep you going when the times get tough. This could be a spouse, a good friend, a family member, a coworker, or even just a declaration on social media (especially if you have some people following who are bound to check in with you after they see a goal set). Either way, find someone who can hold you to your promise to change, who will check in with you often, and will motivate you when it seems too tough to keep going.
Change is hard.
It may be one of the few constants in life, but making changes is something that never really seems to get any easier. However, when you systematically focus on changes that you want to make, and deliberately make a plan to get there, achieving that goal can improve your life way beyond what you imagined. Whether that means you have more energy to play with your kids, more time in your day to spend on you, increased health to travel like you’ve always wanted, a slimmer body to look fabulous in your clothes, a house that’s organized and you aren’t embarrassed to have people see, or a more intimate relationship with your spouse, it’s going to be worth the effort.
And I’m here to help you in any way that I can. If you need help moving towards your goal, or just can’t figure out what that goal should be, I’d love to hear from you. Send me a message via the Contact Page and let me know what you are struggling with the most. I read every email that comes in, and will be happy to get back to you with some thoughts and suggestions!
All the best!