How to Make Serious Life Changes

Three Methods:Modifying BehaviorsExamining Personal MattersBecoming a Better You

Have you arrived at a point where you have realized that your current life is not all that you imagined? Maybe you have slipped into complacency at work, school, or in your relationships. Maybe you have developed a serious bad habit like smoking, drinking, or using food for comfort. It's insightful that you already recognize a need for change. Awareness is the first step. But, serious life change takes careful planning and commitment. Learn how to implement major change in your life starting now.

Method 1
Modifying Behaviors

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    Create a behavior modification plan. If you truly want to make serious life changes, you can't just say you will and let it alone. You need to commit. A behavior modification plan is an action-oriented way to commit and monitor your changes. Behavior modification means exactly what you think it means--it's a method of changing the way you act to certain stimuli in your environment.[1]
    • Behavioral modification techniques allow you to replace undesirable behaviors with those which are desirable through a range of approaches. One of the most common approaches is positive reinforcement, which is the process of increasing a specific behavior by adding a reward when it occurs.
    • Behavioral modification is a psychological concept that can be used for virtually all behaviors that you want to change by either completely getting rid of them or increasing how often you do them. You can use these principles to stop smoking, lose weight, get up earlier, or end your procrastination problem.
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    Observe and describe the behavior. Behavior modification requires that you thoroughly understand the undesirable behavior in order to replace it. You might ask yourself any or all of the following questions to get a better handle on the behavior and when/why/where/how it happens:[2]
    • When do you do it? What times? How long does it last? Who is usually present when it happens? How does this person impact the behavior? What things are present in the environment a few minutes before it happens? What things are present in the environment a few minutes after it happens?
    • For example, in order to lose weight you may want to reduce the amount of fast food you consume each week. You will first need to know how much fast food you are eating, and under what conditions.
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    Measure your baseline. Just jumping right into a behavior modification plan without collecting any data beforehand can jeopardize your results. Spend several days or weeks carefully examining the occurrence of the behavior that you want to change, answering some of the questions that help describe it.[3]
    • Methods for measuring might be to tally the amount of fast food meals you eat each week, as well as determining exactly what you typically order and how much you eat of these meals (e.g. burger, fries, and milkshake with a total of 1238 calories).
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    Come up with a replacement behavior. Since you are looking to make a major life change, odds are, you want to stop some undesirable behaviors. As such, it can be helpful to devise a list of alternative behaviors you can do to help with the transition. Once you closely understand the reason you engage in the undesirable behavior (by describing and observing it), you can then find healthier behaviors that meet the same urge or stimulus.[4]
    • For example, if you realize that you always eat fast food on days you work late, you can pack a snack or prepare a few healthy meals ahead of time to suit this purpose. If you want to cut back on alcohol and tend to drink socially, you might skip a few hangouts or ask your friends to meet up for coffee instead.[5]
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    Monitor your progress.[6] As you start your behavior modification plan, you will want to continue collecting data throughout. Doing so helps you identify patterns or even new stimuli that promote the undesirable behavior of which you weren't aware.
    • On the positive side, writing down how much the undesirable behavior is occurring and how much the new replacement behavior is occurring can show you whether you have truly decreased the likelihood of it happening.

Method 2
Examining Personal Matters

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    Assess yourself. Before you can make lasting change you must decide exactly what needs to be changed and understand why. You need to know your values, your personal strengths, and areas of weakness. These shortcomings can guide you in recognizing areas in your life in which you would like to direct more time, energy, and resources to improving.
    • A great self-assessment resource is the Life Values Self-Assessment that you can find by doing a quick Google search.[7] This assessment allows you to rank your core values by order of importance in order to determine which are most relevant to you having a fulfilling life.
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    Prepare for roadblocks. There is a reason that making the changes that you want are hard, and why they haven't already been made. Try to figure out what is holding you back, be it a lack of time or willpower. The problem will be much easier to tackle if you understand the source of the resistance.[8]
    • Sit down and make a list of all the things you think are standing in the way of you making a change in your life. Be honest with yourself. Many of these obstacles will probably be inner sources of resistance that only you have power over.
    • For example, maybe you are afraid of change. Or, maybe you lack confidence in your ability to change. Carefully examine your situation to determine what you are up against.
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    Seize opportunities. Even when we have all the makings of a truly wonderful life, it can still suck if we look back and regret all the chances we didn’t take. Perhaps you had the chance to relocate for a dream job on the other side of the world. Or, you were undecided as to whether you should propose to your college sweetheart. If you truly want to make serious life changes, you will need to learn how to spot good opportunities and pounce on them before they disappear.
    • Opportunity looks different depending on your unique values and goals.[9] In general, it’s presented as a chance to do something meaningful, challenging, or scary. The challenging part is why so many people let opportunities pass them by. They don’t usually come wrapped up in a bow—they require us to grow and perform to win them.
    • You can seize opportunities by removing the constraints society places on you. Ask yourself what you would do if you could not fail. Be open to possibilities around every corner, even if they are unexpected or not wrapped in the best package. If a choice looks like it can benefit your future, take it.
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    Make a plan with small steps.[10] What is it that you need to do to take you from point A to point B? Break each problem down to its simplest components until you can draw a map leading from where you are to where you need to go. You might have to ask yourself if what you want to achieve is worth what you have to do to get there.
    • When you make your plan, be sure that it's feasible. You don't want to develop an action plan that requires you to eat the whole elephant in a day. Instead, break down large tasks to make them more manageable. When you're faced with actually eating the elephant, the only feasible way you can do it is one bite at a time.
    • Make your plan as clear and detailed as possible. For instance, if you are trying to lose a large amount of weight, you might focus first on changing lifestyle habits, such as your diet and activity level. You can set a deadline outlining a date by when you want to see changes in this area. Then, you might focus on sticking with these changes, tracking the results you see over time. It's overwhelming to have the goal that "I need to lose 100 pounds," but it's much more realistic to say "I will eat more vegetables, cut all beverages except water, and walk 3 miles each day."

Method 3
Becoming a Better You

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    Be more mindful. Mindfulness is a practice that can positively influence both your physical and mental health. Learning this practice can help you enjoy greater awareness of yourself, and as a result, limit the undesirable behaviors you develop. Mindfulness helps you better react to stress, improves sleep quality, decreases worry and anxiety, and promotes life engagement.[11]There are a variety of helpful mindfulness techniques.
    • Basic mindfulness meditation is used to promote relaxation and calm. Sit comfortably and quietly in a room with no distractions. Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth, keeping your focus on your breath. Allow your thoughts to enter and depart from your mind freely with no judgment. There is no need to criticize yourself for letting your mind wander—just notice that you have become distracted and promptly return the focus to your breath.
    • Urge surfing is a great technique for those with addictions or other unwanted behaviors. You simply sit quietly while deep breathing as cravings manifest. You will notice the physical sensations happening in your body due to the craving. Rather than wishing that the craving go away, tell yourself inwardly that--like the tides of an ocean--it will naturally fade in a few moments.
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    Assess your social circle.[12] When you are hoping to bring about major changes in your life, you must activate those around you in this venture as well. No, your friends, coworkers, and family members don't have to go on this journey with you, but you do need to determine whether they are helping or hurting your progress.
    • Sometimes, our friends are so used to us acting a certain way that they rebel against us if we change. If you have anyone in your social circle that is unhappy about you making positive changes, or is trying to sabotage your growth, you need to take action.
    • For example, you are trying to lose weight but have a friend who is always bringing you cupcakes. You will need to confront the person to ensure that you do not get off track with the sweet treats. You might pull your friend aside and say “Hey, Alice, I know you mean well by bringing cupcakes, but I’m trying to cut back on baked goods. How about next time we get together and make fruit and yogurt parfaits?”
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    Find an accountability partner.[13] No matter what kind of big life changes you are undertaking, such an endeavor can be stressful and frustrating. Having someone with you on your journey can be an invaluable asset, as this person can hold you accountable for reaching your goals.
    • An accountability partner is someone who you will have to keep updated on your progress. This person may offer you advice, support, or just try to motivate you when the going gets tough.[14]
    • Your accountability partner can be anyone or several people. Your partner or spouse, a sibling, a close friend, or coworker can all help you during this life change. You can even find an accountability partner through an online forum or chat room who is going through a similar journey as you, or who has already made a significant change.
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    Be patient. Whether it's a new exercise program or a complete overhaul of your relationships with the people that you know, once you have your plan, don't give up on it. Work hard to ensure that you reach your overall goals. Changing any part of your life can be a grueling process, celebrate every small win and keep pushing towards the finish line.


  • Do not give up. This cannot be stressed enough. Giving up on it is the reason that the change has yet to happen in your life.
  • Use this website to find how-to for roadblocks that you are unsure of how to clear (such as not having the willpower).


  • Make sure that you really want the changes that you plan to undergo. Once you form the habits for your choices, they will be as hard to break as your former ones.

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Categories: Creating Life Balance