Disrupting your familiar existence is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding things you’ll do.
“Making a big change can increase your sense of life’s possibilities. As you rise to new challenges, this can also increase your resilience,” says Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness. “Bold moves can also lead to rapid personal growth, build your independence and confidence, and add more excitement to your life.”
“Taking action first without overthinking it triggers motivation, especially if there’s a celebratory element to what you’re doing.”
The leap of faith necessary to do something totally different has other powerful effects on the brain, Hanson adds. “Big changes call for a creative, even playful attitude, and studies have shown that playfulness boosts the activity of neurotrophic chemicals in the brain that help you learn and grow from your experiences,” he says. “This lets the life lessons from big changes really sink in, which in turn helps you stay motivated.”
Change also gives you a huge emotional lift. People who made big transformations—such as leaving their jobs or going back to school—were happier six months later than those who stuck to the status quo, according to a survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Best of all, the spark you feel from shaking up your life continues to burn brightly. “Change leads to more change,” says B.J. Fogg, Ph.D., a behavior scientist and the founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. “When you make a big adjustment, you also tend to switch up your environment, your schedule and your social circle. That ensures that you keep evolving and advancing.”
The hardest part about making a change is taking the first step. We asked experts for their best strategies to kick things off, and they gave us two surprising suggestions that run contrary to the standard advice—and have been proven to be much more effective. Give them a try.
“Let loose. Making big changes calls for a playful attitude and a sense of adventure, experts say.”
Start with a bang
Once you’ve decided to move forward with a big change, go full force. In Carol’s case, she moved into her own place and was exhilarated to start over. If you want to relocate to a different region, rather than doing research and getting bogged down in data like housing prices, take a trip to your dream destination and experience what it’s like to live there. “Taking action first without overthinking it triggers motivation, especially if there’s a fun or celebratory element to what you’re doing,” says Stephen Guise, the author of How to Be an Imperfectionist. Beginning your journey with something mundane like research slows your progress and is likely to make you stall out.
Play the long game
Giving yourself a specific deadline for success sounds like a reasonable idea for someone looking to make a life switch. But that can actually work against you by creating too much pressure, Guise says. If you truly want to transform your experience, he suggests not giving yourself a finish line at all. “When you start heading in a new direction, you should be thinking, ‘I’m going to be doing this and enjoying it for the long term,’ not ‘I need to accomplish this in 60 days,’ ” he says. This mental shift makes you more resilient to obstacles you might run into along the way, says Guise. If you’re not chasing a particular end date, problems and setbacks are less discouraging—and it’s much easier to put a bad day in perspective and move forward again tomorrow.
Go for it! Jumping into change without overthinking it will keep you motivated. Studies have shown that people who made big changes in their lives are happier six months later than whose who didn’t. Maintain a playful attitude and a sense of adventure, experts say.
As seen in the pages of Sweet July Magazine. Images Courtesy of TONL.