In early 2013, I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made because I knew I’d hit bottom and desperately needed a change. It was a change I’d wanted to make for years, but could never quite follow through on, and now I realize what I was doing wrong as well as what I am now doing right.
After yet another painful breakup with someone I was sure was my guy, I decided I would take a break from dating. Not just a few weeks or months off, but many months—and a full-stop break with not so much as even a flirtatious message or a friend date with a guy. I decided I would stay single until my 30th birthday in November—maybe even longer. I’ve been single for three months so far, and even though that may not seem like a tremendous accomplishment, it has brought some drastic positive changes to my life, and I want to share some tips for those of you looking to make a huge change in your life.
Whatever the drastic change you might want to make in your life is, just substitute the word “dating” for whatever thing you want to change in your life (e.g. spending, eating, overworking, procrastinating).
1. Get to the root of what you really want to change.
I thought that what I needed to change was who I was dating or how I was dating. I jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend, looking for the “right guy.” What I eventually realized is that I had to change how I was thinking and how I was living. When you are looking to make a huge change in your life, it’s easy to try and change a symptom rather than the cause. Compulsive dating was a symptom of a larger problem of spiritual emptiness and fear-driven self-seeking I was experiencing, and that wasn’t going to change until I started to change how I thought and lived.
2. Get a mentor who can guide you and keep you accountable.
One of the first things I did when I made this decision was find a mentor who I felt I could trust, identify with, and learn from. She gives of her time and energy generously because she knows how much she is helping me—and guiding me keeps her strong and on track. When I used to seek out mentors, I’d try to make them be my friend and my mentor. Then, I’d stop wanting to be open and vulnerable with them, because after all, we’re homies! I thought, Let’s keep it light and fun and easy. This didn’t end up working out well. Now, I let my mentors be my mentors, and I let them see me even when I’m struggling—especially when I’m struggling.
3. Try not to change what doesn’t need to be changed.
One surprising piece of advice that my mentor gave me was that since I was making the huge decision to take a year off from dating, I shouldn’t make any big changes in other parts of my life—no new jobs, no moving, no getting a dog, etc. These are all things I had set my mind on doing. However, I decided that my mentor had been through this before me, and maybe she actually knew what she was talking about. I decided to renew my lease, keep running my business just as I had in years past, and not get a dog. After deciding to keep those things in tact, I now realize what good advice that was. Though the external circumstances of my life have largely stayed the same, I’ve changed a lot on the inside—and that is definitely enough change to get adjusted to for now.
4. Surround yourself with support.
Ambitious people are often very focused on achieving things “alone” or doing it themselves. I always thought I could change my life by reading yet another self-help book or saying more affirmations. That may work for some, but it didn’t work for me. I found other women who had at one point decided to take a break from dating and change their lives from the inside out, and I talk or spend time with at least one of them every single day. This helps me in a myriad of ways, one of which is reminding me why I made this decision in the first place, keeping me balanced and on track, and helping me be of support to someone else who shares my goal.
5. Find and rely on a Higher Power.
I’m very comfortable with the idea of God, the Universe, a power greater than myself—but I sure wasn’t comfortable letting God be God. I was the type of person who prayed—but for what I wanted to happen. I would ask God for help, but it was more like recruiting a volunteer to do my bidding. I realized that my own power and decisions had gotten me into all the mayhem I’d experienced thus far (if you’re curious about what kind of trouble I got myself into, read my book), and that maybe I should try seeing what God had in store for my life. It doesn’t matter who or what you consider your Higher Power to be, just as long as you can allow the possibility that there is a force greater than yourself that can guide you. Then, try to stop directing every moment of your life and see what that power is trying to tell you.
6. Realize you don’t have to do it perfectly.
Yesterday, I was having lunch with my mentor, and I said to her, “For so many years, I wanted to stop dating compulsively and jumping from relationship to relationship, but I just couldn’t. I knew that there were things I could do to make better decisions, but I didn’t want to make better decisions. I didn’t want to get better, I wanted to get perfect.” For years, my obsession with doing things perfectly kept me from simply trying my best to do things better.
I think there are a lot more techniques involved in making lasting change, but those are just a few that have helped me so far. I think our generation is very interested in the notion of change and discovering one’s destiny, but so many of us seem baffled as to how to get the change we want or how to live out that destiny—rather than someone else’s vision for our lives. I hope that these few pieces of advice provide a small step in the right direction for those of you looking to make a huge change in your life and wondering where to start.
Have you ever used one or some of these techniques to make a huge change in your life?