How to Change Your Life Completely (Even with Chronic Illness)

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Inside: Self Help is a multi-billion dollar industry where millions of people ask the same question – How to change your life completely? Read on to find out how I completely changed my life in a span of 2.5 years and the steps I took to get there.

Disclaimer: All of these thoughts are my own. However, as an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission if you purchase from one of the links below.

Do you find yourself repeatedly failing to commit to goals that you’ve set over and over?

Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and wondered how they were able to accomplish the things that you want?

Do you look back and think, “Man, if I just would have kept at XYZ, where would I be now?”

If you’re wondering how to change your life completely, then keep reading…

How I Changed My Life

I recently found an old blog post from 2017 where I listed out my goals for that year and things I wanted to do to change my life:

  • Do yoga everyday

  • Learn about holistic medicine

  • Learn to garden

  • Write for a living

  • Do freelance work

  • Become more spiritual – in whatever sense that means
  • Meet a guy who likes to travel

  • Have kids

  • Be a hot mom that shops at Whole Foods

  • Become part of an awesome friend group

While some of the goals were incredibly embarrassing (and albeit not that difficult), I managed to achieve all of them (to some capacity) and completely change my life by 2020.

At the time, I was a self-proclaimed party girl who lacked long term vision and believed I had years to go before I needed to settle down. However, life rarely works out the way you think it will, and, in my mid-20s, I found out that I had the early signs of a possibly terminal illness. I became determined to change my life. The only problem was that I was stuck in a sea of bad habits, without the slightest clue of how to change.

The Person I Used to Be:

  • Never made her bed
  • Smoked cigarettes occasionally
  • Drank 5x a week
  • No self-care routine
  • Didn’t plan ahead for anything
  • Left the TV on in the background all throughout the day
  • Didn’t have a savings plan 

While the old me might have been a fun hang, I was slowly killing myself and I knew I had to change my life. As I reflect on the steps that I took to change my life, here are the things that stand out when wondering how to change your life completely…

How to Change Your Life Completely (Even with Chronic Illness)

1. Take Responsibility for Your Choices

2. Envision Your Future Self

3. Avoid Excuses

4. Introduce Habits

5. Start Small. Start Now.

6. Don’t Give Up

1. Take Responsibility for Your Choices

The first step in how to change your life completely is taking responsibility for where you’re currently at. 

With some exceptions, almost every decision you’ve made in your life has gotten you to where you’re at today. In other words, you are the accumulation of the choices you’ve made.

While it may be easier to blame other things, you will never accomplish your goals unless you take full responsibility for your choices. Until you do, you’ll be left playing the victim.

For example, I traveled a lot in my early 20s and failed to save money. When I came down with an incredibly rare disease at 25-years-old, I had nothing put back to help pay for medical expenses. Due to my financial negligence, I was forced to put medical bills on a credit card.

Obviously, this caught up with me…

Eventually, the time came to discuss finances with my soon-to-be husband. Telling him about my nonexistent savings account wasn’t the proudest moment of my life, and while exorbitant medical bills on a meager salary didn’t exactly set me up for success, there were other ways I could have saved.

But I didn’t. And I own that.

So, what did I do to change my life?

Well, for starters, I put myself on a strict budget where I set aside a certain amount of money a month to pay off debts. This meant getting a roommate, only buying one pair of $15 sandals from Zappos and selling old clothes on Poshmark. 

Did it suck? Absolutely.

But it was time to stop putting off the inevitable and finally take responsibility for my choices.

We’re all flawed to some degree and that’s OK. But in order to change your life, you must admit that maybe you’ve made a few misguided decisions along the way. I mean, if you hadn’t, then you wouldn’t be reading this article, right?

The positive side is – who you are today, doesn’t have to be who you are tomorrow. 

Which leads to my next step of how to change your life completely…

2. Envision the Person You Want to Be

Woman Stares into crystal ball and wonders how can I change my life

In order to change your life completely, you have to figure out the changes you need to make. Picture the best version of yourself (or someone who’s currently living the life you think you want) and ask yourself:

  • How do you look?
  • What clothes are you wearing? 
  • What job do you have?
  • Where do you live? 
  • What are your hobbies?

Envision the person that you want to be in the future and note the differences in that person and who you are right now.

For instance, maybe you want to turn your photography hobby into your main job. You know that means creating a website, marketing yourself to clients and committing to delivering quality service. 

The next time that you want to skip a day of working on potential leads, ask yourself: “Is this what a successful photographer would do?”

The Importance of Daily Habits

The point is to bring awareness to your daily habits. Many times, the decisions that we make are automatic choices that have turned into habits. 

Think about how many times a day you reach for your phone and the first thing you go to is a social media app? We aren’t even making this decision consciously, it’s become a habit. We’ve configured our brains to want immediate gratification in order to postpone making harder decisions. 

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”

James clear

The next time you open Instagram or grab the remote, take a second and decide whether that’s truly what you want or if your time could be better spent on something that’s going to help lead you to your best self.

For instance, when I created my goals in 2017, I envisioned my future self as someone who prioritizes their health.

When I looked ahead to my future, I pictured a woman wearing a white T-shirt and jeans with a baby on her hip, walking out of a Whole Foods store carrying groceries.

Obviously, this isn’t exactly what my life looks like, because I have paralyzed arms. It’s more like I’m walking beside my husband who’s carrying our baby and the groceries, but similar enough…

3. Avoid Making Excuses 

how do i change my life

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that you may not want to hear. Personality tests are bullshit. 

I hate to break it to you, but there’s no way that nearly 8 billion people in the world can be neatly categorized into a handful of segments–this grossly underestimates human behavior.

A personality test simply gives you insight into how you view yourself. Your self perception is displayed in your results, and while personality tests may be fun, that’s all they are. 

If you don’t believe me, check out Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story by Benjamin Hardy, Ph. D. In it, he explains why you shouldn’t let a personality test define you: “The only thing ‘special’ about those who transform themselves and their lives is their view of themselves and their own future. They refuse to be defined by the past. They see something different and more meaningful and they never stop fueling that vision.”

Essentially, personality is malleable, and life experiences change who we are as people. 

For example, the person I was before I had a chronic illness is completely different from the person I am now. Before, I didn’t have to plan ahead for anything. My body and mind were perfectly suited to handle whatever disruptions life threw at me. 

Now, because of my disability, I plan ahead to mitigate any problems that could potentially occur and alleviate stress. It would be ridiculous to tell myself that just because I never planned ahead in the past means that I’m incapable of ever doing it. It just means that planning ahead wasn’t something I needed to prioritize back then. 

Self-fulfilling Prophecies

This is important, because personality tests can easily turn into self-fulfilling prophecies where a person ends up making excuses in order to justify their behavior. It’s like saying, “I can’t achieve XYZ, because of some indeterminate trait of my perceived personality.” If you’re not careful, personality tests can just be another reason for you to avoid taking action.

If you believe that you have the power to change your life, then you’ll feel more confident when trying to achieve your goals. 

Right now, I am nowhere close to where I want to be with my writing. However, I’m confident that one day I will have a column in a publication, write a book and pay for my son’s college with it.

It’s not because I believe that I’m that much better of a writer than other people. It’s that I’m taking small but actionable steps every single day to achieve my long term goals. I know that it will happen, because I’m following the path to get there. My personality has adapted to the goals that I want to achieve.

Which leads me to my next stepof how to change your life completely…

4. Introduce Healthy Habits

The next way I changed my life was by introducing healthy habits.

If you’re looking for a great explanation on creating habits, read Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve ever read and has helped me change my life more than any other book. In it, he explains why habits are the building blocks to achieving the success we want. 

Every day we’re faced with decisions that ultimately determine our progress towards achieving our goals. These (usually unconscious) choices turn into habits that become so ingrained in our daily life that they essentially form who we are as people. In other words: change your habits, change your life. 

The book gives an example of a woman who wanted to lose weight. After taking time to become aware of her choices, she realized that the bulk of her snacking happened after dinner and before bed. In order to stop this bad habit, she reframed her thinking and imagined her kitchen as a restaurant. Each night after dinner, she would clean the dishes and turn off the light. Once the light was off, the “restaurant” was closed. 

Overtime, the habit of turning off the light worked and led to her becoming a person who doesn’t snack after dinner; thus, achieving her weight loss goal. 

According to Clear, “We don’t rise to the level of our goals. We fail to the level of our systems.” Having big dreams doesn’t  make you successful. It’s the systems you create that eventually lead to your success.

Remember, at the beginning of this article, when I broke down the type of person I was in my past? (If not, click here.)

Well, I’m happy to say, I’m no longer that person. I’ve taken control of my life and formed healthier habits that are better suited to reach my goals.

The healthier habits that helped change my life

  • Make my bed first thing every morning 
  • Meditate everyday
  • Go out on daily walks
  • Don’t smoke
  • Have a daily skin care routine
  • Limit TV
  • Stick to a budget 
  • Drink a couple times a month
  • Plan ahead for everything

The person I am today is someone who prioritizes health and believes in the power of habit to help change my life.

5. Start Small. Start Now.

Once you decide the habits that will help you reach your goals, you have to actually start. Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Start small. Start now. 

No one woke up and decided they would run a marathon that day. Marathon runners take months to train in order to get their bodies ready for the ultimate goal. 

Looking into the future and seeing the best versions of ourselves can be intimidating. Without knowing where to start, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to start small.

For instance, Leo Babauta talks about the importance of starting small in order to change your life in his blog, Zen Habits. He writes, “…take an action, no matter how tiny. You just need to do one little, minuscule, almost nothing thing.”

People who achieve their goals realize that it’s the small, every day changes that ultimately lead to success.

Furthermore, in Atomic Habits, Clear explains the difference between being in motion and taking action. Both feel the same, however, action is what leads to results. 

A lot of times, people get trapped in motion, believing that they’re doing the things necessary to accomplish their goals—and they’re right, to a certain degree. Motion is necessary to strategize and plan, but, alone, will not get you results. You have to take action.

Examples of motion vs. action

  • I’m in motion when I brainstorm articles to write. I’m in action when I write and post the article. 
  • You’re in motion when you look up healthy recipes. You’re in action when you eliminate processed foods from your diet.
  • In motion is reading a book on business plans. In action is writing your business plan.

Oftentimes, we get so hung up in the process of motion that we fail to take action, believing that we’re moving towards change. It’s important to recognize the difference.

Truth is, it’s easier to stay stuck in motion than move into the action phase. Taking action means that we are subjecting ourselves to failure, while staying in motion gives us the illusion that we’re progressing. But motion won’t lead you to life changing goals–you must focus on taking action in small steps.

6. Don’t Give Up

Change takes time. It took years to get where you are now, and it may take years to get to where you want to be. Fall in love with the process and congratulate yourself on daily wins.

For instance, my goal is to eliminate gluten from my diet. I’m not perfect, and, at least once a week, I usually cave for a slice of pizza (or some other wheat product, but usually pizza).

The old me would have used that opportunity to tell myself that I’ve already messed up, therefore, I should go ahead and eat all the bagels, sandwiches and donuts during this “off time.”

However, it’s not a zero-sum game. I don’t have to be perfect. Just because I allowed myself to give in, doesn’t justify me throwing away all the progress I’ve made up until this point. I’ll never be perfect, but as long as I am achieving an 85% success rate, then I consider that a win.

Focus on Improvement, Not Perfection

Don’t let small things throw you off the wagon. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being consistent. When you get discouraged, remember that everyone had to start somewhere. 

Take this quote from James Clear, for example, “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”

Remember that following the small systems that you’ve set in place will lead to positive results as long as you keep pushing. You will never achieve the success that you want by giving up.

How to Change Your Life Completely (Even with Chronic Illness)

As I reflect on how I was able to change my life, it’s clear that creating positive habits has helped me navigate life with chronic illness and disability. Without these routines set in place, I would be left wondering year after year why I’m no closer to achieving the things I want in life. 

Changing your life is possible, but it won’t happen by doing the same things you’ve always done. In all honesty, you have to stop bullshitting. Stop putting it off until tomorrow and start with one tiny change today.

I hope the tips above give you some insight into how to build a plan and take control of the life you deserve. Good luck out there. Now, hurry! Go!

Are you wondering how to change your life completely? What have you found success with? Comment below and share your tips on how to make positive changes in your life.

Allie Schmidt

Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.

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