The leaves may not yet have fallen, but the transition from summer to fall is imminent. As vacation season comes to a close, it’s a natural time to evaluate the year—after all, there’s only one third of it left.
How are you feeling about 2016 so far? Many people answer this question in a dissatisfied way. They wanted to be earning more or weighing less by now. They wanted to be in a new relationship they adore or out of an old job they hate.
The good news: September is a great time to kick-start change and begin again. For me, it marks the start of my “back-to-school” mode, when my focus sharpens and my motivation peaks. You don’t need a new calendar year or a list of resolutions to get your sh*t together.
The best way to kick off any positive movement? First, stop being so hard on yourself. Acknowledge the good things you’ve already accomplished this year. And they exist, even if it doesn’t seem like it—I promise!
Step One: Reflect
If 2016 hasn’t shaken out exactly as you’ve hoped, start getting back on track by asking yourself these two questions.
1. What unexpected lessons did I learn this year?
Did you discover a new favorite author or workout class? Did you learn to stop trusting a friend who doesn’t deserve your confidence? Did you stand up for yourself at work? Did you say yes to a spontaneous date, trip, or seminar? You don’t need to start a new job, run a marathon, or have a thriving side gig to have made progress. Heck—even turning something down this year (with relief) that you would have said yes to one year ago (just to please others) is a major sign of growth!
2. Have my desires shifted?
Think about that for a second. Do you still want the same things you did in January? Maybe your true desires have changed, but you still hold yourself to an old blueprint that leaves you feeling heavy and uncertain. Perhaps you wanted a promotion but really want a career change. Maybe you wanted to move to a new city, but you’ve met someone romantically who lives in your current town.
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A friend of mine who is based in London came to New York in February for a business trip. Over margaritas she shared with me that she wanted to move here, and we were excitedly planning it. Six months later, she’s engaged (and pregnant!) after meeting a great guy at home and is now happily staying in the U.K.
Life is dynamic and ever-changing so it’s natural (and good!) for your desires to shift too. You’re also allowed to change your mind. In fact, the fast-moving evolution of life can be really encouraging!
Step Two: Set Goals
In the spirit of moving toward what you want (and it’s OK if it’s the same things you wanted in January), it’s time to take action.
1. Write down three specific things you really, really want.
Imagine on New Year’s Eve a friend asks how 2016 was for you, and you answer, “Incredible!” (and mean it). What are three things that would need to change between now and then?
Be as specific as you can. No one knows what you truly want but you. Will you have taken an overseas adventure to Thailand, earned extra income on the side as a yoga instructor, received a 20 percent raise, or gotten a dog? Write them down.
2. Set goals (and a timeline) for each desire.
No matter what anyone says, four months is a very long time! You can do so much between now and December 31. Using the above examples, you could set out and accomplish the following goals.
Travel to Thailand: Research flights and hotels online, evaluate funds, book time off work, and then buy the damn ticket.
Get a raise: Submit a brilliant project at work or go the extra mile in a way your manager will appreciate. When timing feels right, ask your boss for a 10-minute meeting where you share your salary increase request.
Earn money by teaching yoga: Create a list of 100 friends you can email about your new side gig. Tell the first three clients you’ll teach them for free in exchange for testimonials. Promote these kick-ass testimonials everywhere you can.
Adopt a dog: Research breeds. Visit shelters. Understand the costs and commitments of owning a pet and make sure it makes sense for your lifestyle right now. Go get one.
In fact, if you’re truly inspired, you could probably do all of this in one month (or less). It is that simple.
It’s amazing what happens when we reconnect and become aligned with our desires. When get clear on what we really want and remind ourselves how capable we are, we can’t help but become motivated to take action. We kind of become unstoppable. So if you are starting this fall filled with discontent, remember the purpose of any pain you experience is not to make you suffer. It’s to drive you to action.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!