How to Establish Life-Changing Practices

a peaceful and organized room with a window, with a yoga mat, journal, and plant, sunny background, water color. The image overall conveys the idea of setting intentions and taking active steps towards creating a fulfilling and meaningful life.

What’s the trajectory that your life is on? Are you letting circumstances carry you along and just seeing where you end up, or are you being intentional about creating the reality that you want to experience?

Intentional practices have the potential to improve your life. By cultivating a life that’s marked with useful rituals, you can become the person you want to be and experience the reality you want to have.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Your Current Practices

You already have practices in your life. Some of them may be working in your favor. Others may be creating a disintegration within you. Either way, they exist.

Do you wake up in the morning and check your phone every day? That’s a practice. Do you hop on social media or look at your email? Those are practices.

I point this out because people often resist the idea of establishing intentional practices. They worry, “Oh, I’d have to change my life so much!” Life-changing practices feel inaccessible to them.

But cultivating intentional practices in your life isn’t so different from what you’re doing right now. If you can check your phone or log into social media daily, you can do other things daily as well — and those things might actually serve you better.

Your New Practices

What practices could you begin incorporating into your life? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Journaling
  • Breath exercises
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

For more suggestions, head over to our article on the topic, “Practices to Improve Your Life: 10 Practical Tips.

As you consider various practices, I encourage you to consider the Wheel of Life model, which helps you think about life through different dimensions. The ones you’ll see included most often are physical, mental, spiritual, environment, romantic, social, family, career, financial and creative.

As you consider various practices, I encourage you to consider the Wheel of Life model, which helps you think about life through different dimensions. The ones you’ll see included most often are physical, mental, spiritual, environment, romantic, social, family, career, financial and creative.

wheel of life model

I like practices that help me maintain my wheel. When I evaluate myself on each of those dimensions using a scale of 1 to 10, I can figure out where my “flat tires” are — the dimensions where my scores come in lower. And then I can focus on practices to bolster those areas.

How to Create Life-Changing Practices: Willpower vs Environment

Setting up an environment that supports life-changing practices is one of the most useful things you can do. In a resourceful environment, it takes less willpower or discipline to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

Here’s a classic example: When you want to change your diet, it’s often recommended that you clean out your cabinets. Sure, you could leave that other food there and just make a different choice every time you go to grab a bite to eat. That takes a lot of willpower though. 

So instead, you could make one decision to clear out all the snacks that you no longer want to be a part of your life. The next time you look for something to eat, you’re probably going to make the easy choice: eating the healthy food that’s right in front of you.

That’s so powerful. It doesn’t require making disciplined decisions day in and day out. It doesn’t depend on constant willpower.

Willpower is a finite resource; sometimes we’ll have more, and sometimes we’ll have less. When your environment is set up for success, your choices won’t depend on your level of willpower that day.

What will a useful environment look like for you? It will depend on what your chosen practices are. If you want to commit to meditation, then put your yoga block in the middle of your office every morning. If it’s free writing, then leave your journal out and ready where you’ll see it first thing in the morning.

The goal is to set up your environment so that the practices you want to employ in your life become easy and accessible.

Time Environment for Life-changing Practices

When we think about setting up our environment in a way that encourages useful practices, the physical environment is what usually comes to mind first. There’s more to our environment than just our physical surroundings though. Our time environment is another aspect to consider.

Morning vs Night

First of all, when are you going to set aside intentional time for your practices? Yes, you can engage in them throughout the day, but it’s also useful to have an established time that’s dedicated to certain habits.

For many people, morning is the best fit. My colleague Clayton Olson is one of those people. He recognized that he often began the day with some anxiety about all the tasks on his plate. In response, he’s developed a series of morning practices to help him enter the day in a more useful way.

As he says, “I want to make sure that as I’m waking up, there is a clear intention.” His morning practices are designed to cultivate “an inner stance that I’m approaching life with that will allow me to be flexible, resourceful, connected to myself.”

I, on the other hand, am not a morning person. I’ve always felt more alive at night. That’s become the time when I engage in my most important practices and set the stage for the day to come.

Often, around 9:30 or 10:00 pm, I feel an itch to get moving. I grab my Airpods and my dog’s leash and head out the door. When I walk at night, I can practice Tai Chi or connect with coaching inspiration or practice my affirmations. For me, those night walks are the most important part of my day.

I’d encourage you to carve out time for intentional practices whenever it works best for you. Mornings often get the most attention in the coaching community, but if you’re a night owl like me, I can tell you from my own experience that evenings can work too.

Practice Length

Another thing to think about in regard to your time environment is how often or how long you engage in certain practices.

Sometimes, holding yourself to expectations that are too high can derail you from actually getting things done. It may be more useful to allow yourself some flexibility; a short practice session can be more beneficial than no practice at all.

My friend Clayton is a good example of this. Yoga is an important part of his life, but he doesn’t do it every day. Three or four times a week is a more comfortable fit for him. 

He also doesn’t insist on hour-long sessions. As he puts it, “A 30-minute class, as opposed to an hour class, is the difference between me doing it and me not doing it.”

Living with Intention

When you establish your environment to support useful rituals, you are being intentional about how you live your life. Intentionality is a key component of becoming the person you want to be.

Cultivating Your Life

Take a minute and picture a well-tended garden. Think of the neat rows of vegetables, the green foliage, and the rainbow of bright flowers. The garden didn’t spring up that way overnight. It was carefully cultivated.

well tended vegetable garden symbolizing cultivating the life you want by setting up your environment for success

Someone laid out the garden and planted it. There was hoeing and weeding and watering that made the garden what it is today. As the plants received the resources they needed, they grew and flourished.

Resourceful practices work in much the same way. Through them, we cultivate the reality that we want to experience in our world. We clear out anything that would get in the way of that, and we give ourselves the resources that will allow us to flourish.

Cultivating a new way of being in your life is an ongoing practice. 

Intention Throughout Your Day

Some practices may go through seasons in your life. You may focus on one or two practices for a while and then cycle to others that are more resourceful for you at that time.

But for whichever you are committing yourself to at a given time, consider how they can become an intentional part of your whole day. They’re not necessarily one-and-done things where you do them in the morning and then go back to the prison of the mind for the rest of the day. You can come back to them again and again as you go about your everyday activities.

For instance, imagine that you go to a yoga class in the morning and identify a posture that feels really good in your body. Does it then make sense to slouch out of class and slump down for the rest of the day?

No, you can take what you’ve practiced in yoga class and bring it in as a structure around which you build your everyday life. You are in the driver’s seat. You can have full ownership over those changes.

Intentionally bringing resourceful practices into your everyday life will allow you to cultivate the best version of yourself and create the relationships or the business that you want.
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