This is where a lot of life changes begin. At rock bottom.
Rock bottom is a deeply personal place – no two rock bottoms are alike. It doesn’t matter how you got there, just that you did. Many of us don’t take action until we hit rock bottom. We’re willing to put up with a lot of discomfort, even pain, rather than face up to what’s right there in front of us.
That something is wrong with how we’re living.
And that we need to do something about it.
Here are 10 steps to help you take action when you know you’ve hit rock bottom.
1. Thank yourself for realizing it
Change cannot happen until you realize something’s wrong. Most people are unwilling to face up to this, and, with their heads down, carry on as they have been for years. You, on the other hand, have been courageous enough to realize that something’s wrong. So take a moment to thank yourself for this – it can do a lot for your self-esteem.
2. Accept that you can’t go on living like this
After thanking yourself for noticing that something’s wrong, you need to take another courageous step. You need to accept that this way of living has to stop. It’s one thing thinking that something has to stop; it’s another believing it with every cell in your body. This is what acceptance looks like.
3. Figure out how you got to this place
Before you can move forward with purpose, you need to understand what you’re moving away from. So it’s worth spending time figuring out how you got here. How have you been living? What have your priorities been? Are you proud of what you’ve been focussing on? You need to answer these sorts of questions so you have a good idea of what lies behind the life that led you to rock bottom.
4. Figure out who you really are
As adults, many of us believe we know who we are. We equate our age with our level of knowing, not realising that the discomfort we’ve felt for much of our adult life is caused by a disconnect between who we think we are and who we really are. In order to figure out who you really are, you need to ask yourself some questions, and some of the answers to these lie back in your childhood. These three questions have helped a lot of people figure out who they really are:
What’s important to you? Are there any personal qualities you want to be known for? What do you value above all else? What qualities in others do you admire?
What do you love doing? Go back to your childhood, from as far back as you can remember until you were about eight. During this time, you were really you. After this age, you were being moulded by society to be a certain person.
What are you truly good at? The things that come naturally to you, rather than the things you’ve learned to master.
5. List the changes you want to make
When sitting at rock bottom, we may see a lot of things that we want to change about our lives. To exercise more. To eat healthier foods. To deepen a relationship. To drink less. To have more fun. To start a spiritual practice like meditation. To spend more time with loved ones. To work less. To learn to love ourselves. To declutter. To move house. To change job. To leave a relationship. Etc. Whatever your list is, make sure that you document it now, when you’re at rock bottom, so you don’t forget anything important.
6. Prioritize your list of changes
In order to take action and make changes in your life, the changes must be manageable. Trying to do a list of 10 things at the same time is a recipe for failure, so you need to prioritize them. Start with the ONE thing that you want to change most. Then your top five things. Then the rest. And do them in that order, without starting a new one until you’ve fully succeeded in making the change above it..
7. Make a plan of action
This is how you turn your fantasy – a changed life – into a reality. Most intentions to change fail because people are unable to take action, so this is a really important step. Take your number one change and decide how you’re going to make it happen. What specific things are you going to do? How often? With what goals in mind? For example, if your number one change is to exercise more, list the types of exercise you’re going to take, their frequency and where you want to get to in the end: hiking 5 km every weekend (goal: 20 km hikes); walking vigorously for 30 minutes every day; rowing twice a week (goal: racing every weekend); etc. Do this for every item on your change list, but only when you’ve succeeded in making the change above it. Be sure to keep your goals achievable – you don’t want them to discourage you.
8. Be accountable
There’s nothing like monitoring your progress to keep you moving forward. Maybe you’d like to have someone with whom you check in every week to discuss how you’re getting on – someone who will lovingly kick your butt if you need it. Or maybe you’d like a tool like a change log where you document the specific things you’ve done every day to make your change happen. Or maybe you’d like to combine these two, showing your change log to your person every week. It doesn’t matter which accountability system you choose, just make sure you have one. It will dramatically increase your chances of success. (Check out stickK, which uses a Commitment Contract with a Referee or financial stakes to maximize success.)
9. Have a support system
As you make changes in your life, you will have set backs. This is guaranteed (see this blog post for why). So you really need to have some people cheering you on from the sidelines – people who will be there for you, no matter what. It’s so easy to get knocked off course when things don’t go well. And, after all of the courage and effort it’s taken to get to this point, the last thing you want is to be knocked off course.
10. Celebrate your successes
Every time you reach one of your goals, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back! One of the biggest momentum boosters comes from recognizing how much progress you’re making as you go along. Celebrate in any way you want – you might want to ‘phone someone who didn’t think you could do it to tell him/her that you succeeded, or to treat yourself to something you love, or to go away for the weekend. You’re rocking those changes, so acknowledge it!