A few years ago, personal transformation was not part of my vocabulary. I did not even imagine that my life could change, that I could be a different person. I had been unhappy, depressed, and feeling overwhelmed for so long, I thought that’s just how life was. How I was.
Turns out, I could be a different person. I could change, be happy, healthy(ier), at peace, and at ease.
So, if you are wondering… Yes, you can change your life (in under a year, btw).
Personal transformation is real. It’s the journey that takes you from who you are to where you want to be. That is, assuming you ever “get” there, but I won’t get into super deep considerations here.
My goal here is to share with you (and remind myself) not only that I was able to transform my life, but how I was able to achieve such profound transformation.
So, this post is an overview of all the things I did, all the steps I took, and the tools and techniques I used to change my life completely.
What personal transformation looks like
If you want an example of what personal transformation can look like, here’s what happened in my case.
The person I was before
Before that transformation journey began, I:
- Was severely depressed;
- Disliked (hated?) myself. I think I unconsciously believed I was an unlovable monster that would end up alone (kinda like how I feel people perceive my father);
- Liked my job but hated it at the same time. I was crying in the bathroom every day;
- Was feeling crushed and overwhelmed all the time;
- Had no desires, no goals;
- Was a victim of my circumstances;
- Could no longer function in society without bawling my eyes out constantly.
Obviously, I was severely depressed. But beyond that, my negative thoughts and emotions were quite literally suffocating me, and it had been going on for as long as I could remember. Emotions such as shame, guilt, self-hatred, and a general anxiety that I felt deep in my body…
And I’m not even getting into the laundry list of health issues I was dealing with on a daily basis, from chronic stomach pain, wrist, and other joint issues, to excessive sweating (yeah, that can be a problem and negatively impact your life), severe dry eyes, etc.
The person I became
But then, I completely changed and (not so) suddenly became all the things I thought I was not: a happy person, at ease, a lot more confident and comfortable in my skin, active, disciplined, and organized.
But get this. After years of believing I was a follower and definitely not a creative person, I actually became what I truly was. Creative, a “leader” (in some ways, to my close circle), a risk taker… an entrepreneur. Granted, I’m not (money) rich yet but ‘success’ is personal.
The creative thing baffled me though. Here I was now writing stuff all day, drawing, doodling, painting… ??
(Turns out, one of the reasons why I was so unhappy (and sick) was because I was stifling my creative side).
But the most surprising thing was that I was able to achieve all that and change my life completely almost all on my own, and in just a few months.
All the steps I took to transform my life
I will not get into details here. I have written separate posts on almost all the topics mentioned below so I will link to them if you want to know more.
Also, keep in mind that transformation is different from one person to another. My personal transformation involved healing and discovering my true self and voice. It revolved around building healthy behaviors physically, emotionally and spiritually.
But your transformation can look totally different.
PHASE 1: EXPLORE MY PAIN
The very first step of my (any) personal transformation journey is obviously awareness: if you don’t realize there is a problem, you will never actually begin a transformation journey.
BUT, the next most important step for me was to figure out what exactly I wanted to change.
And to do this, I had to explore my pain.
You can’t transform something if you don’t know what it is you want to transform.
So many of us feel dissatisfied with our lives, but do we even know why or what exactly makes us so unhappy?
And so one day, I literally sat and dug deep within myself and pulled out EVERYTHING that was causing me pain at that moment. EVERYTHING. No bullshit, no lying to myself, no sugar-coating it. I remember it like it was yesterday. I took out my journal and listed everything that was causing me pain.
I created a workbook specifically dedicated to that stage, if you are interested in knowing more about it.
PHASE 2: REMOVE/MAKE SPACE
Once I figured out what I had to change, the next phase of my personal transformation journey revolved mostly around self-care, solitude, and healing. During that time, I had to relearn some very basic behaviors, such as how to love myself.
This is also the time when I prioritized self-care and healing over everything else and decided to take responsibility for my life.
During that phase, I became radical.
I put distance between myself and just about everyone and everything in my life. I quit/lost my job (I was on sick leave, it’s complicated) and told a few people I did not want to see that I would contact them when I was ready.
I even shaved my hair. (One of the biest thing I ever did, btw)
I often refer to this phase as my cocoon stage of healing.
It was extraordinary. One of the hardest (for health reasons) and yet happiest times of my life.
(This coming from someone who was already depressed from loneliness and had some abandonment issues, so… have faith).
That second stage of transformation included:
1. Forced rest and solitude
Solitude is not the end of the world. If anything, it’s what allowed that whole transformation process.
2. Journaling (daily)
I don’t think I would have experienced such profound transformation and been able to change who I am mentally, had it not been for journaling daily.
3. Relearning the true basics of self-care, and even hygiene, like a child
This goes beyond simple hygiene, although that was a part of it too.
Not that I didn’t have good hygiene before that. I did, but I had to relearn what mattered and how to do it consistently. Figuring out what self-care means for me and what the pillars of my self-care routine are is a process.
I mean, do you prioritize (your) self-care over everyone else’s? I didn’t.
- Pillars of Self-care For When You’ve Been Neglecting Yourself
- 5 Myths About Self-care You Need to Kill Right Now
- Why I Shaved My Hair After 7 Years Natural
4. Decluttering (all aspects of my life: house, people, feelings, documents, computer, etc.)
It’s hard to see what matters to you and figure out what you want when you live in a figurative sea of crap.
That’s why minimalism and decluttering are essential to deep, durable transformation.
Clutter is everywhere: in your house, your phone, your laptop, your network, your agenda, your feelings, etc. It creates noise that makes it impossible for you to hear your thoughts and identify what truly matters TO YOU.
5. Exercise daily
Exercise helps evacuate “bad” energy and leaves space, and the peace and quiet you need to figure out (and act) on what matters.
Honestly, I don’t think I would have experienced such a deep personal transformation (and so quickly!) if I hadn’t forced myself to do some sort of exercise every single day.
6. Paying attention to what I eat and cooking all my meals
The Wahls protocol is an anti-inflammatory diet, and it has TRANSFORMED my life.
I know I say that a lot here, but it did.
Granted, I have an auto-immune condition so the impact of this diet on me is dramatic. But honestly, most people I know have a really crappy diet, and the reality is, these people are not on top of their shit.
As the saying goes: you are what you eat.
And also, the way I see it, if you can master your behavior regarding the little things in your life (like what you eat), you can tackle bigger things.
7. Expressing my creativity
I decided to spend more time creating than consuming (content, for example).
8. Learning to kill negative self-talk
I had a monster in my head. I had to kill that monster in order to change.
9. Setting firm boundaries
You will not transform your life and do hard things if you don’t learn to say no. No to people, things, events, bad foods, unhealthy habits, etc.
PHASE 2: REBUILDING
After healing and creating a new baseline of healthy behaviors, it was then time to build the new version of myself I wanted to become and take action.
In this phase, I entered the realm of self-management. This is where I focused on setting goals, building new habits, managing myself, my thoughts, my actions, etc.
“Self-management refers to methods, skills, and strategies by which individuals can effectively direct their own activities toward the achievement of objectives. It includes goal setting, decision making, focusing, planning, scheduling, task tracking, self-evaluation, etc.” (International Research Journals)
10. Reprogramming my thoughts through Cognitive behavioral Therapy (CBT), journaling, positive audio
In order to achieve personal transformation and become a different person, we have to think like a different person (and then act like a different person, but we’ll get to that after this).
I learned to deconstruct my beliefs using cognitive behavioral therapy and journaling, and then rebuild them by intentionally “consuming” content that’s aligned with what I am trying to achieve.
This means that every day, I was listening to “positive audio” (i.e. podcasts, YouTube videos, audiobooks) on health, self-confidence, success, leadership, self-care, recovery… you name it. I listened to it all.
11. Mindfulness and meditation
Some of the best tools for managing your thoughts are mindfulness and meditation, especially when practiced daily at the beginning and end of each day. Even just for 5 minutes, it makes a difference.
12. Face and get rid of my addictions (to substance, approval, the need to be loved by others, to negative self-talk…)
What is the one habit that is hurting you the most?
No matter how hard you try to change everything else, if you maintain the bad habit(s) that hurt(s) you the most, you will not go anywhere. In any case, you won’t go far.
For me, this meant facing and dealing with my addictions. Addiction to substances (weed and tobacco), but also approval, the need to be loved by others, and negative self-talk.
Yes, you can be addicted to all sorts of things (Cleveland Clinic)
- How I Stopped Smoking Weed (Even Though I Didn’t Really Want To)
- Why I Decided To Quit Smoking Weed and How My Life Has Improved Since
13. Figure out what I want
Figuring out what you want is about asking yourself the right questions repeatedly until you find the answer.
It’s almost like repeating PHASE 1 indefinitely.
And of course, keep trying new things. You only know what you want once you’ve tried it.
14. Learn how to set and achieve goals
Goal setting (and goal achieving) is an art. Take the time to learn it and learn tactics to become better at it.
15. Discipline and a routine
Discipline and a routine are the only ways you make yourself take focused action consistently. You just do it, on autopilot, without questioning it every 2 seconds.
Just. Do. It.
16. Repetition and consistency
Same as my previous point.
I wasted so many years living in a fog, waiting for people and things outside of me to change my reality. I am so grateful now to have discovered self-help and the personal development literature. It has truly transformed, not only my life but my mind and the way I view everything.
Now, your turn.
Are you ready to see the transformation happen for you?