If you read my blog posts before or know me in person, you know that I love challenges and perfecting myself. And currently, I am going through a challenge I made for myself – 365 days of change. However, recently I realized that setting realistic expectations, especially in personal development, is the key.
My changes are slow and not everything goes as planned. I pay more attention to certain parts of my life than others and it slows some changes altogether. So it made me think that this grandiose idea of changing a life or a lifestyle in a few months or even in a year (which seems like a long time but in reality it is not), is impossible.
This post is dedicated to everyone who has high expectations for themselves or struggles in staying focused on their personal development journey.
Change is not linear
Usually, the change, and especially if you make a decision to change something (versus external changes), is not linear.
I do know that change can occur fast, in a moment, or that your whole life can change in a year. Usually, those things happen because of external events. But when we consciously make a decision to improve our lifestyle or change our life, the process becomes longer and not straightforward.
I think once we remember that any lifestyle adjustments, and life in general, has ups and downs, we will be able to give ourselves more space to learn our lessons. Failure and taking a step back do not always mean you’re losing. These are normal life events that allow us to slow down, look around us and make necessary changes to keep going.
Change 👏🏻is 👏🏻not👏🏻 linear👏🏻 Life has different sides and so does change. Understanding this together with setting realistic expectations can truly do wonders.
It takes time and energy
Change is possible when you dedicate your time to building new habits and practices and getting rid of old patterns. Change is challenging and takes a lot of our energy. So while I love challenges, I realized that it was my mistake to assume that changing my whole lifestyle in 365 days would be possible.
There are simply too many aspects to it. I want to change my thinking, heal myself, improve my health and have a healthier and more active lifestyle, read more, be more creative, change my style, and learn more. It’s a lot! I am talking about the whole transformation. Basically, I am shedding my old self like a snake and moving towards a new me. Only I am not the snake and it takes more time to shed my old self, my old beliefs and thoughts that were taught to me by my relatives and society. Healing takes time.
And while I will keep working on myself and developing myself, I will not put any limits, timeframes, or expectations on my personal development. It’s simply impossible. I don’t know when I will truly feel transformed and like myself again. Maybe in a year, maybe in 3 years, maybe it will take longer. But I know that personal development, self-growth, and the nonstop exploration of this world will be constant in my life.
How long does it take to change your life and form a new habit?
I am also aware of what scientists and coaches say about habits and that we only need between 30 to 90 days to develop a certain habit. That’s great, but what I am talking about is bigger than one habit, it involves bigger changes.
The thing is, we have too many aspects to our life to be able to change them in one year. I mentioned mine above.
Of course, if you’re just focusing on losing or gaining weight or learning one skill, it’s possible to achieve it in one year or less with a lot of practice and dedication. But when we speak about the whole life or lifestyle, it will not happen in a year for many of us. For such tremendous changes, you need a lot of focus and time. And we are not perfect, sometimes we slip, we need to rest and recharge, and we can’t focus on every aspect of our lives all the time.
In my “How to improve your lifestyle in 365 days” blog post, I mentioned 8 sections of my life. So think about it – on top of daily chores and tasks, and worries there are also 8 areas of life I have to be working on? Yes, they do intertwine with each other and other aspects of my life. And yes, you can work on your health and relationships at the same time. These aspects of your life usually go parallel to each other.
But picture this, if you want to become healthy, lose weight, learn how to code, be more social, go outside more, spend more time with your loved ones, and on top of that you have to work, take care of yourself, your home, and other things – it asks too much time, and I feel like eventually, so much pressure will create a failure.
And while I said failure is a normal part of our lives, I think, we should try to avoid creating unnecessary falls. It’s inevitable but also avoidable. So when we truly want to change or improve our life and lifestyle, we have to spread our time and focus on day-to-day changes.
While, scientists can declare how long it can take us to change our habits, only we know how long it will actually take. Keep these numbers as your green light that guides you like in The Great Gatsby. But don’t let it dictate your life or don’t disappoint yourself in the end when you don’t achieve what you wanted. Go at your own pace.
No more deadlines (kind of)
Recently, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by too many things and distractions in my life – I want to learn new skills, travel more, read 100 books this year, learn how to play the piano, etc. But right now, at this very moment, I just want to focus on learning more about myself and the world and keep improving my health and diet.
I know that by September I will not understand what my personal style is and I will not have a brand new (or in my case, brand new thrifted) wardrobe simply because I will not know who I truly am. I can keep trying and I will, but my sense of style will come to me gradually. Maybe even earlier than this September but most likely not.
So this is why I am kind of against deadlines now. At least very strict ones. Having a time limit and setting expectations is good in a way because they can guide us. But we also have to stay realistic and adjust when it’s necessary.
We can also plan everything ideally, and make to-do lists for every day, but we can’t exclude external events and internal downfalls. Sometimes, I wake up and feel like I don’t care about myself and don’t want to do much. And sometimes, I drag myself to go outside, to work out, to read, or to write a blog post. Yet occasionally I allow myself to just avoid all of it and just be in a bad mood. No changes happen during that time and I am ok with it because I am still a human being who experiences different emotions, pain, etc.
But I also have to say that change definitely asks for more focus and you’ll have to keep going even if you’re in pain, don’t feel well, or just don’t want it. At the end of the day, you do it for yourself not others (hopefully).
Moreover, for any change to occur we have to evaluate our entire life and decide what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of. More often than not this also requires some sort of healing or even therapy. So deciding that by this date you’ll be healed, healthy and a completely new person is a bit naive.
I think, knowing what you’re capable of or not, what triggers you, and what improvements you truly need – is the key to any changes.
So how do I set realistic expectations and change my life?
These are the steps that help me to stay focused, go to the root of my goals, and eventually set realistic expectations for each of my goals.
- Learn what changes you need
- Learn why you need these changes
- If there are any traumas or old patterns you need, start your healing process or go to a therapy
- Write down your goals (they have to be specific, use the SMART method) and why you need these changes next to each goal
- Create a mood board or a mood board notebook
- Evaluate and reflect on your goals weekly or monthly
- Evaluate your expectations. Are they too high or too low?
- Remember that failure is also a part of the process. Failed? It’s fine, give yourself some time (a day or two to process), and then go back on track as soon as you can.
- Recognize when you feel overwhelmed and also give yourself some time
- Focus on the journey. While the destination is the goal, the journey is where you actually learn and improve
- Set deadlines but don’t depend on them too much, be realistic
- Stay focused. This is why you need to know your why
If you decided to change your life or improve your lifestyle, set goals and approximate deadlines but avoid too many expectations. Focus on yourself, your journey, and then on the final destination, and adjust accordingly. Don’t rush, have realistic expectations and remember why you want the changes, the rest will come when it’s the right time. Big changes require big improvements. But you have to start with the first small step and keep going.
The bottom line is that change is constant and not linear. There are techniques and blueprints we can adapt to fasten our changes but in the end, it’s a never-ending process.
And as always, these are the things that work for me, I am not a psychologist, your parent, or your teacher, I can’t tell you what to do. I simply share my experience and my discoveries. Find what works for you and if you already did, share it in the comments.