Undoubtedly, my 30s have been my favorite decade thus far. Sure I’m not as wrinkle-free as my 20s and find myself enjoying a “wild” Friday night of pj’s and Settlers of Catan with friends more than a late-night out in the city, but it’s the decade where I’ve seen the biggest change in terms of becoming the me that I wish to be.
This transformation didn’t occur overnight. It took years of deliberate introspection about the person that I want to become, identifying my core values, and trying my best to make sure that my actions were in accord with these values.
Now we can ask ourselves, are there actionable steps and objective data that we can use to ensure we are taking the steps needed to transform into the highest version of ourselves? Absolutely!
Step 1: Create Your Personal Mission Statement
The first step is to figure out who that person is. What are your core values? What type of lasting impression do you wish to make on the world? I go about answering these very difficult questions by creating a personal mission statement based on different life categories that are important to me. For example:
Body/Health/Mind: I honor my body through exercise and proper nutrition. I am in control of the decisions that I make. My emotions do not dictate my actions. I take time to relax and celebrate my accomplishments.
Personal Development: Each day I continue to grow. I look for opportunities to explore new ventures. I am adventurous, well-traveled and well-read. I am charitable and volunteer my time to help others.
Family and Friends: I am an ally who supports, aids, and encourages my loved-ones to reach their full potential, accomplish their dreams and enjoy life to its fullest. I do so not only with words, but also by taking action. I am engaged and present in conversations. I listen. I speak the truth whether or not it is difficult to say.
Profession: I am a life-long learner and teacher. Each day I work to ease suffering and aid in the restoration of health for my patients. I recognize that parts do not supersede the whole and adopt a comprehensive treatment plan which bears in mind the mantra, “Do no harm.” Helping others to find happiness, fulfillment, and value in living is of the greatest importance. I approach each day with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for helping others.
Step 2: Develop an Action Plan Through Education
Now that you have some sense of who you wish to be, it’s time to develop an action plan. But how do you know what steps to take? How can you make sure you are not making the same mistakes as others or wasting time reinventing the wheel? In my opinion, the best way to do so is through education.
Develop a voracious appetite for learning. Look up books that cover areas that you wish to improve upon and start reading. To do this in the most cost-effective manner possible, order these books through your public library. A more expensive option, but one that saves you time, is downloading books to your Kindle or listening via Audible.
You can easily track books via Goodreads. Goodreads is a digital library that allows you to record the books you’ve read or those that you wish to read in the future. It’s a great way to track the type of content you are consuming and make sure it’s in line with your core values and mission statement. It also has a fun social component that allows you to interact with friends, read reviews, and follow your favorite authors.
If you list, "being the best parent for my children” in your mission statement, make sure you are reading books on parenting. If you are interested in strengthening your marriage, make sure to pick up books on relationship building. If your core value is to live a healthy lifestyle, make sure you are reading books on health, nutrition, and fitness; not just books on personal finance, etc. Essentially, make sure you are reading books that are in accord with the areas you wish to change.
Step 3: Track Your Spending
Perhaps the most telling of all steps in terms of our actions being aligned or misaligned with our intentions is our spending. Websites like Mint and Personal Capital can help you keep track of your spending and are free to use. You can also go old school and track your spending on an excel sheet.
Break down your spending into categories. Are these categories aligned with the type of person that you wish to become? Do you want to live a healthier lifestyle but find that you are spending an exorbitant amount on fast food and alcohol. Well, if that’s the case, your spending is misaligned with the person you wish to become.
Find these incongruencies and change them. Invest in the higher version of yourself and watch as this investment continues to pay dividends for years to come. For more on the importance of tracking your spending, check out this post.
Step 4: Track Your Habits
Tracking your habits daily is a great way of ensuring change in the right direction. For more on how to create a habit that sticks or utilize a strategy called, "Habit stacking" check out these prior posts.
A free and useful app for tracking your habits is Way of Life. Essentially, this app has you enter habits that you wish to make or break and allows you to record if you hit your goal that day.
Did I smoke cigarettes today? Nope. Did I drink 80 oz of water? Yep. Did I make it to the gym? Yep. This data can then be trended over time so you can see the progress you are making toward your goals.
Step 5: Celebrate Your Wins
It’s important to take time to reflect back on the person you are becoming. Revisit the goals you set for yourself several months prior. Did you accomplish what you intended? Does the above data support that you are transforming into the highest version of yourself? If so, make sure to celebrate these wins to positively reinforce the steps you are taking. Doing so will help these habits to become better integrated into your every-day life.
Change is never easy, but the fact that you are seeking out knowledge on this topic means you are already taking actionable steps toward becoming the best you. Remember, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”-Gail Sheehy
How about you, do you have any advice on actionable steps for implementing positive change? What tools do you use to help you do so? What are the best ways to make this change long-lasting?