We often have huge aspirational goals that feel completely out of reach. Even if your ambitions feel a zillion miles away, though, there's good news.
It's often small changes you can make in your life today that will allow you to reach those milestones. Even if it doesn't seem like it, shaking up your routine can zap you into action and snowball into those changes you've always desired.
Here are seven proven ways you can realize your full potential, stay motivated, and revamp your life.
1. Science says to have fun
A University of Scranton study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that 45% of American make New Year's resolutions but only 8% actually realize their goals. However, science also offers answers to combat this phenomenon.
It turns out having fun is one of the best ways to get motivated and generate massive and lasting changes in your life. Motivating yourself through the promise of rewards might work for a little while, but this often leads to dissatisfaction or unsustainable mental energy.
Not every life improvement will be pleasant, but try to pick the most enjoyable way to do it. If you want to get in shape but hate the gym, for example, think of a different method of getting healthy like swimming, dancing, or something that you would truly have fun doing today.
2. Get an accountability partner
Committing to long-term self-improvement can be an overwhelming endeavor, but you don't have to go at it alone. By asking a friend, mentor, or family member to help keep you accountable to your goals, you're more likely to follow through and accomplish them.
According to Leigh Stringer, workplace strategy expert and author of The Healthy Workplace, "It turns out this peer pressure thing, when you turn up the 'accountability' knob, is a motivator for a lot more than losing a few pounds."
Find someone reliable who can ask you for progress updates or even accomplish goals right alongside you. If you want to start exercising or increasing your sales, for example, enlisting the help of a friend has the potential to transform the act of change into a fun and motivational bonding experience.
3. Practice mental contrasting
This visualization technique, developed by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen, mixes traditional positive visualization with realistic goal-setting to create a powerful and science-backed self-control strategy.
The idea is that positive visualization on its own can trick our brain into feeling like we've already accomplished something when we haven't. However, if we do this on top of envisioning the realistic goals we need to accomplish to get there, we are more likely to reach the proverbial finish line.
According to writer Amit Amin, "Mental contrasting helps your subconscious understand. It ties together the promise of future reward with obstacles which must be overcome in the present."
4. Educate yourself
Some of the most famous entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Bill Gates attribute their tech and business savvy to their insatiable reading habits. When Musk was asked how he learned how to build rockets, he replied, "I read." If you don't know where to begin, their eclectic book recommendations are a fantastic place to start.
Learning (beyond your job description) is intrinsic to becoming a better you. So whether you read a book, listen to an educational podcast, or go to a conference, there are a ton of easy - yet life altering - ways you can further tap into your areas of interest and improve.
5. Surround yourself with inspiration
Inspiration is the be all end all motivator, but sometimes that feeling is hard to sustain. However, surrounding yourself with people, peers, and mentors who are putting in the hard work and succeeding is a great way to stay excited on the road to achieving your own hopes and ambitions. Oprah Winfrey herself advocates this method and has said, "Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher."
Doing this can work almost like a positive visualization technique. By seeing positive change happening around you, self-improvement will feel less vague and more tangible.
6. Sleep and eat your way to a better you
In our busy lives, many of us are guilty of taking what we can get. Maybe it's fast food during a quick lunch break or only getting five hours of sleep. But massive change can occur in our careers and personal lives just by making simple shifts to getting a full night's sleep, waking up early, and choosing healthy food that sustains our energy levels instead of tanking it.
The Harvard Business Review notes that, "Spikes and drops in blood sugar are both bad for productivity and bad for the brain. Smaller, more frequent meals maintain your glucose at a more consistent level than relying on a midday feast."
If you're looking to change your life, having a solid foundation like this is the perfect platform to build healthier habits and transform your life.
7. Give your comfort zone the boot
As Ginny Rometty, CEO of IBM, wisely said, "I learned to always take on things I'd never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist."
Too often people don't realize their full potential because they are afraid to step outside of what makes them comfortable. While it might feel good to only do what you confidently know how to, there's a very good chance this habit could also be holding you back from personal growth. Opportunities you might not be able to see just yet could be lying in wait in places you haven't imagined.
These life tweaks might seem uncomfortable in the moment, but almost anything great in life is found when we evaporate that feeling of ease. So even if you don't feel like it, start taking these steps today, and see how far they'll eventually take you.