“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Consider applying Gandhi’s refrain to yourself: Be the change you wish to see in yourself. Of course, that’s easier said than done. So, here’s a plan for how to become closer to your ideal you.
Begin by reflecting on the well-used thought experiment of imagining what you’d like people to say about you on your 100th birthday. Write down each comment.
Then consider all the ways that you are already being, or making steps toward being, your ideal self. Keep in mind that even small actions count. For instance, if you’d like to be a world traveler, it’s significant if you have given thought to the parts of the globe you’d like to visit. You have taken yet another step if you have already developed a plan for how to save for your first trip. Note that in this example, you may have never left your hometown. Still, it’s important to give yourself credit for what you have done. Use the satisfaction you feel from this to motivate you to take another step.
It can help to remember that you very much are the life you lead—so lead that life mindfully. Assessing daily choices can offer guidance for what you must change in order to become the person that people may one day toast. Here are some examples:
You are the values you embody: If you wish to be the type of person who is kind, generous, well-read, has integrity, advances in a chosen profession, or pursues justice, then act accordingly. Think about the opportunities that exist in your life (or find ones) to make them happen. If you don’t know how to start, then your first step is to talk with people who might know something that could help, use a search engine to learn more, or get the help of your local librarian to explore the topic. If you are frozen by fear, explore ways to overcome that fear, such as what I offered in my post Fear Failure? Here’s a Note to Your Inner Self-Critic. If you commit yourself to living your values, there’s no reason you can’t at least move in that direction.
You are who you befriend: Think about who you choose as friends. Are they people who are goal-driven or more lackadaisical? Do they prioritize earning a good income or fighting for the environment? Do they donate to charities? Which ones? Which characteristics attract you most? Your answers make a statement about what you value and about the kind of support (or lack of support) you have in becoming the person you want to be. If you are not comfortable with what your choice of friends says about your values—or you realize they are supporting who you are now, but not who you want to be—then maybe it’s time to expand your social circle.
You are how you use your time: If family is important to you, make time for them. If work or education is important, make time for that. Of course, you will not simply value just one area of life. So make sure that you are balancing the time you spend in accordance with your different values. Otherwise, you will certainly have regrets in the years to come.
You are how you spend your money: There is almost always more that people would like to spend their money on than the amount they have in the bank. So, think about what you choose to spend your money on. Does it truly reflect your values?
You are what you eat: People’s choice in food often says more about them than they realize. Are you devoted to healthy eating? Are you a vegetarian or vegan or pescetarian for health or ethical reasons? Do you prefer a basic diet or are you more of a food adventurer? If someone serves you food you generally don’t eat, would you eat it or politely decline? As you answer these questions, think about what they say about you.
Of course, daily life involves many, many more choices and actions. The idea is to think about each one and what they say about you. If you like them, stay with your choices. If you don’t, it’s time to make a change. There is no crime in being stuck in repeating a pattern that you prefer not to have. But then, ask yourself whether you are working to change it. Remember, life is not a snapshot in time. It is a path. So, if you were celebrating your 100th birthday today, could you say that you are proud of not just the life you’ve led, but also the path you chose for your future?
I am a clinical psychologist in private practice and on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ; I am also the author of Insecure in Love.
Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate self-awareness.