How to Make Big Changes in Your Life: Just Start!

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Wondering how to make big changes in your life? Why is it better to just start even if you don’t have a plan?

Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, says that there is no process for making big life changes, you just have to do it. It may be easier to procrastinate or to be swayed by conflicting emotions, but the best way to initialize change is to just do it.

Keep reading for advice on how to make big changes in your life.

Making Big Life Changes

People often get stuck on the question of how to make big changes in life — it seems complicated and they don’t want to fail or be perceived as a failure. For instance, they ask, “How can I just drop out of school,” or “How can I break up with my partner?” 

There isn’t really a process. It’s simple: You just need to do it.

The solution to many problems in life is a matter of just taking a step that we already know is necessary. The reason it seems complicated and we hesitate is that pain is involved. 

For example, asking your children to move out is simple, but feeling like you’re abandoning them is complicated. You feel like you can’t do it, because you’re mistakenly conflating your emotions with the reality. You need to separate your emotions from what you need to do, then realize you’re capable of making big changes and do it.

Procrastinating Change

Sometimes we wait for inspiration to motivate us to change. Or we wait to be forced into action by a crisis. But this approach gets things backward.

  • As a student in math class, the author would sometimes get stuck on a problem or challenge. His math teacher would advise him to just start working on it, rather than sitting and thinking about it.

You can start doing something regardless of whether you know how to succeed, because once you get your brain moving, the solution will come. Just do something. If you start by doing something simple, larger tasks will seem easier. Also, doing something helps you overcome procrastination.

Motivation is part of a loop rather than a linear sequence. Instead of moving from inspiration to motivation to action — you should cycle from action to inspiration to motivation (and repeat).

You might be held back because of fear of failure. Because just doing something is such a low bar, failure becomes less of a concern. Anything you do is a step forward, which inspires you to do more (inspiration is a reward rather than a catalyst). You feel freer to fail (the consequences of a small failure are minimal) and therefore you learn.

Changing Your Values

While doing something as large as changing values seems daunting, it’s no different than changing anything else — start right now by doing something small and building toward a new value step by step.

  • For example, if you’ve been selfish and want to develop empathy, your initial goal could be to listen to someone else’s problem and try to help. Then do it. Taking action inspires you take another step and then another. You motivate yourself.

You can always act — and when even the tiniest action constitutes success, failure can be a catalyst rather than something you fear.

How to Make Big Changes in Your Life: Just Start!

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Mark Manson's "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck summary:

  • How to clarify what's important to you (and not just what you think should be important)
  • Why it's okay for things to not always go well in life
  • Why you need to care about fewer things

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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