Simple Ideas To Help You Make Meaningful Change

Heather Cherry— 

Significant changes or epic moments don’t happen overnight. And in most cases, those breakthroughs are not spontaneous—instead, they are more of a tipping point. These moments may feel like an “aha moment.” And they usually occur when the ideas that have been permeating in your mind finally get enough attention to dominate your thoughts. 

But sometimes, your thoughts affect how you react. This is because your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles—meaning, you are what you think. And it can also be the reason why when you’re unhappy, you seek to enact change. But this cycle often falls flat, leaving you right back where you started—and also susceptible to repeat it again. 

This failure to change doesn’t mean you’re failing. It could simply mean you’ve devoting your attention to outwardly things—your environment does have a role, but isn’t solely to blame. When you focus on external factors, what you’re addressing doesn’t get down to the root cause (which is often related to how you think.) 

If you want to make meaningful change, you must first dive into the inside—taking a look at how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are linked. Use these simple ideas to get started. 

Mine Your Mind

Your thoughts affect how you feel and create your reality. And how you think causes your actions. The way you behave and act define who you are and what you experience in life. Additionally, the way you behave and act is a result of how you think, feel, and do.

One of the first steps to making a lasting change is by practicing self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do (or don’t) align with your internal standards. When you become self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior to your values, and understand others’ perception of you. 

There are two states of self-awareness. The first has to do with public perception—being aware of how you appear to others. This level of awareness often affects how you adhere to social norms, but also the behaviors you decide are socially acceptable. 

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The second state of self-awareness is the internal version. Internal self-awareness is when you can look introspectively and approach your feelings and reactions with curiosity. In many cases, when you look introspectively, you may notice how your emotions are closely tied to  your actions. 

Becoming self-aware involves assessing and expressing your emotions. When they’re aligned, you have access to important knowledge that helps with decision-making, relationships, daily interactions, and even self-care.   

To assess where your emotions are at this moment, ask yourself a few questions. 

  • What is on my mind right now and why? 
  • How is this making me feel?
  • Are my thoughts helping me?
  • What are my thoughts and feelings suggesting I do?

Self-awareness empowers you to influence the outcome of what happens next. It also can help you develop an understanding of multiple perspectives, build better relationships, and make meaningful change. 

Stay Keenly Aware Of Negative Self-Talk

positive changes

Another important part of making lasting change in your life is the ability to recognize negative self-talk—the inner dialogue that limits your ability to believe in yourself and your abilities. Negative self-talk can be any thought that diminishes your ability to make positive changes in your life. 

It is impossible to make meaningful change if your thoughts are filled with self-doubt and judgment. How you feel is a reflection of what you’re thinking about. And since emotions and the body’s reactions are triggered by your thoughts (and what you give attention to), you’re living in a world of thought. 

It is important to recognize and identify negative self-talk when it’s happening, but also be keenly aware of why. Focusing on negative thoughts may lead to decreased motivation and feelings of helplessness. It can also lead to an inability to notice and take advantage of opportunities. 

Other consequences of negative self-talk include: 

  • Limited thinking
  • Perfectionism
  • Feelings of depression
  • Relationship challenges

Negative self-talk can take on many forms. If you feel negative self-talk creeping in, use these steps to banish it before it takes hold. 

  1. Catch your critic: Identify, acknowledge, and then stop the negative self-talk as soon as possible. 
  2. Sift through your thoughts and feelings: Your thoughts and feelings aren’t always based on reality. If you have a strong negative feeling or thought, first think about it. Is it helping you or hurting you? If it’s not a helpful thought, what facts and evidence do you have that support against your reasoning? For example, if you’ve made one mistake as a leader, don’t discount all of the other good things you do or have achieved. 
  3. Swap negativity for neutrality: The best way to combat negative self-talk is to neutralize it. How can you shift your negative thoughts into more objective, neutral ideas? For instance, negative self-talk might be that you ‘hate’ doing a certain task. But a more neutral thought would eliminate the negative power by stating you dislike doing the task instead. 
  4. Cross-examine yourself: Pretend your inner self is on the stand. Now imagine your inner self as being your best friend or colleague. What would you say and how would you cross-examine them? Remember, you would never speak to your best friend or colleague the same way you talk to yourself. 
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If it’s enabled, negative self-talk can be very hurtful and demeaning, so it’s important to keep your perspective in check.

Unveil Your Inner Saboteurs

Negative thoughts and feelings are often derived from your personal saboteurs—a term used to describe the mental and emotional patterns that dictate your decisions. Saboteurs often begin as a means of protection during childhood—usually arriving as an aid against real and imagined threats to your physical and emotional self. 

As you grow and no longer need the defense mechanism, your personal saboteurs become little monsters inside your head and cause negative consequences. 

For example, Positive Intelligence says “The Judge” (also known as the master saboteur) is universal and affects everyone. This saboteur is the one that beats you up repeatedly over mistakes or shortcomings. On its “good” side, it is meant to warn you about future risks or alert you to danger. But if The Judge saboteur is left without boundaries, it can influence your other saboteurs, increase your stress and happiness, and reduce your overall effectiveness.  

According to Shirzad Chamine, CEO Coach and Lecturer of Positive Intelligence at Stanford University, “Your Saboteurs claim they are good for you. Saboteurs have successfully pushed you to improve and succeed through fear, anxiety, blame, shame, guilt, etc. However, research shows you would succeed even more if you were pulled by your inherent positive feelings of curiosity, compassion, creativity, love for yourself and others, and love for contribution and self expression.”

Saboteurs can become problematic if they stick around and negatively influence your decisions; how you think, feel, and react.  

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Here’s how to overcome your inner saboteurs

  • Analyze: Decide where the inner destructive thoughts originated. 
  • Recognize: Acknowledge your saboteur and your sabotaging thoughts. 
  • Challenge: Just like with negative self-talk, ask questions of your sabotaging thoughts—are they helpful or hurtful? Provide evidence to support your claims. 
  • Mindful: Practice mindfulness when it comes to your thoughts. Be intentional with what you let stay or the thoughts you let fall to the wayside.

Making meaningful change may not seem easy, but it will always be worth it. Be kind to yourself as you go along this journey—especially because your saboteurs have been around a long time and created deeply-ingrained habits. 



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