I know this feeling of sameness so well. It starts with being grumpy for a few days or weeks – on edge, short-tempered. Then I’ll start sleeping poorly. I know that it’s taken a hold on me when I don’t want to get up in the morning, when I pull the covers over my head instead of going out on a run.

After a lot of machinations, including denial, a temper tantrum or two, and maybe even outright depression, it will occur to me that something has to change in my life. Sometimes, it’s just a routine that needs to be altered, but other times, I realize I need to make a broader transformation.

When I finally make my way through what’s really going on with me and make a change, I experience one of the best feelings in life. As writer Ellen Glasgow once wrote, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.”

Still, making a change is not always easy. Where do I start? How big a change should I make? If your life needs some shaking up, consider these five ways to get things going in a better direction.

Make a Small Change in Your Regular Routine

Drive a different route to work or the store. Read a genre of book you don’t normally read. Go to the movies in the middle of the afternoon. Take a long walk on a new path. Any kind of change will begin to break up the pattern, and you’ll start to feel more creative about everything.

If you give it a few days, you will also start to feel a growing sense of empowerment because you’re taking over the reins of your life.

You’re starting to control what you can control – parts of your schedule and the items and events that receive your attention. You’ll be surprised how much these small alterations begin to work their way into larger areas of your life.

Engage in a Life Inventory

Divide a sheet of paper in half the long way. On the left, list the activities and interests in your life that truly benefit you as a person. On the right, list those that do not. Just brainstorm, and don’t spend too much time on each item. There is no right or wrong answer.

This will give you a literal picture of how you’re viewing your life at this moment – what’s working for you and what isn’t.

If you’re like most of us, there are things on the right side of the page that you can’t do anything about at this point. You may have a few years until retirement, for example, so you can’t quit your job, even if it is no longer satisfying.

But if it’s there on the Non-Beneficial side of the page, you can break it down into a page of its own. What’s working for you at your job and what isn’t? Are there parts of it you can change? Are there different ways to approach it?

Take Control of What You Can Control

According to motivational speaker Steve Maraboli who wrote Life, the Truth, and Being Free, “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” An inventory can help you see exactly what you’re working with.

Add Something New to Your Life

If you’re bored, or in a rut, or frustrated with the rat race, adding an entirely new activity can change your outlook, your routine and even your set of friends. Join a book group, take a class at a local community college, find a maker’s space in your area and start painting.

We all have long lists of things we’d like to try and now is the perfect time to do it. You don’t have to view it as “the thing you were meant to do”, rather it’s just something new you’d like to try.

Let Something Go

If there is something you’d like to let go of, and you can do it, then go for it. Maybe you have a relationship in your life that’s no longer working.

Perhaps you participate in a regular activity that has ceased being interesting to you. It might even be time to quit that job and start another one, if you can do it without blowing up your whole life.

We hold onto things because it sometimes makes us feel safe to do so. But if it’s slowly killing us, it’s time to let it go, start a new life and just breathe.

Journalist Linda Ellerbee wrote, “What I like most about change is that it’s a synonym for ‘hope.’ If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is, ‘I believe in tomorrow and I will be part of it.’”

Schedule Regular Attitude Check-Ups

Just like we do with our physical health, we need to check our attitudes consistently to make sure everything is working as we want it to. Especially if you’re making changes, you need to check in occasionally to follow-up on your feelings about these transformations.

You may find yourself happier back at square one, or you could decide to change things further. The point is to be conscious about what’s working for you and what isn’t.

When sailing ships enter into areas with calm winds, they can get trapped for days or weeks at a time. This is called the ‘doldrums,’ and it can happen to people, too. If we stay in one place too long, we can get stuck – a feeling very similar to the one where we don’t want to get out of bed.

Change can be scary, but it can also be the catalyst that will help us enjoy and appreciate our lives in a new way. Take an inventory and make a change. It’s the difference between slogging through life in an unconscious state and being truly alive.

What can you change in your life that would make it more interesting? If you could add something new, what would it be? If you could let something go, what would it be? Please share your thoughts below.

Ginny McReynolds is a longtime writer. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, and writes about communication, retirement, reinvention, self-concept and creativity in The Washington Post, Curve magazine, and Together.guide. Please visit her blog called Finally Time for This: A Beginner’s Guide to the Second Act of Life.

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