I spend a lot of time imagining my perfect life. I think about the clients I want to work with, how many hours a week I'd like to work, which pair of really cute boots I'd like to wear while working. If I had to plan it out, it would look something like this:
I would wake up to the sound of water lapping at the beach. My breakfast would consist of a perfectly foamed latte and eggs scrambled with feta and roasted peppers, eaten on an old farm table I found for a pittance at a flea market. I would be wearing pajamas that are somehow simultaneously crisp, flattering, and comfortable.
Wonderfully, miraculously, I'm very nearly living the dream these day. I'd like a few more clients who have built philanthropy into their business models. I'd like a bit more upper body strength. I need more winter-friendly clothing and, eventually, I'd like a better car. But I got this close to my dream life by doing something so crazy-stupid-easy it nearly falls under the heading of "I don't want to tell you about it because it's so obvious that I feel embarrassed saying it out loud."
But here it is: I figured out what I wanted. Then I stopped doing things that didn't get me closer to that goal. And when I stopped doing those things, I started doing things that brought me closer to what I wanted.
That's it. Below are a few examples of how easy it is to put this method into practice:
If you want to save money so you can do something big and exciting:
Stop: Eating out, buying things you don't need, keeping monthly payments (gym, cable) you don't use.
Start: making and sticking to a budget, reminding yourself why you're on a budget, eating in, doing cheap things with your friends.
If you want to be in a serious relationship:
Stop: Dating people who don't thrill you, mooning over your ex, hooking up with that person you know is bad news, putting off Big Deal conversations that need to happen.
Start: Asking your friends if they can set you up, online dating, defining your deal breakers, thinking Do I like him? rather than Does he like me?
If you want to be healthy and fit:
Stop: Eating unhealthy food, driving everywhere, avoiding exercise, drinking so much coffee or alcohol.
Start: Eating more produce, walking or biking when you can, finding a physical activity you actually enjoy, drinking more water, getting outside.
If you want a great social life:
Stop: Hanging out with people who don't fill you up, hoping that people will call you, gossiping constantly, flaking out on events you committed to.
Start: Reaching out to people you want to know better, planning events and inviting people to them, saying yes (and attending) more events, taking classes filled with like-minded people, being reliable and helpful, saying nice things to and about people.
The really magical thing? Even when you take just one of these steps — either the "stopping" step or the "starting" step — big, startling, I-didn't-expect-this-to-happen-so-fast changes will fall into place.