Change Your Life Now: How To Live More Rationally In 15 Simple Steps

You won’t believe how much your thoughts can decide upon the quality of the life you lead until you try and change them. Right then, you’ll be able to sense the power of your thoughts and realize how important for us to start to choose one thought over another if we ever wanted to improve our lives’ quality.

Below are some simple steps I learned from reading self-help books to help you think more rationally thus live more rationally:

1- Be aware of the “overgeneralizing”:

It’s common for us to dramatize matters every now and then. Like for example, when one says “I can’t diet”, this is an overgeneralizing, it would have been more accurate if he said: “I find it hard to diet, but it’s not impossible”. Or when someone wants to give up some bad habit and finds it hard, instead of saying for example “I can’t stop smoking”, he should rather say “I can stop smoking, but so far, I hadn’t”, that way you start to see things more rationally and give yourself a chance to do it. because dramatizing matters, not only down you but also make you less able to do something about your problems.

2- Remember that you largely feel the way you think:

While it is obvious that we think the way we feel, like for example when you feel sad, you think sad thoughts, it’s more important to know that we feel the way we think. Our thoughts decide which feelings to feel in any given situation. If someone, for example, would speak in public, he would probably think like this: “what if I fell on my face and it didn’t come out right?” these thoughts are what will create the feelings of anxiety as he is about to start speaking. Then, many people, after they start speaking, see that they didn’t fall on their faces, nothing horrible is there to fear and the world didn’t come to an end, they start to relax and feel comfortable then.

So, if you’re going to change the way you feel about anything, you’ll have to start by changing your thoughts and beliefs about it. When you fail at something, instead of being disappointed and depressed, view it as a chance to do better and to look for something to improve. If you couldn’t go for a walk because it’s raining, don’t be upset and look for something else to enjoy doing instead.

3- Learn to distinguish between healthy negative feelings and unhealthy ones:

Although we’re constantly looking for positivity, it is as vital for us to feel negative feelings. it helps us, change, learn and be the person we are today. It’s normal to feel sad when in grief, after the death of someone you love, or after a breakup or a divorce… it’s healthy to let yourself the grief and not sustain it. But at some point, the grief might become unhealthy. It is once you start to dwell on your loss, insist that you have nothing left for you to live for and complain about the world being unfair and so cruel to you. Right then, you’re not feeling healthy grief, you’re rather making yourself severely depressed.

The thing is, while we can’t control the circumstances of our lives, we still can control the way we feel about those circumstances by deciding the thoughts we want to think.

Instead of saying that life is now meaningless or believing that you’ll never be happy again, start thinking differently; go on, for example, like this:” I’m not alone, a lot out there are grieving and a lot have lost and still they moved on with their lives. This won’t remain the way it is right now This is a normal reaction that will take some time, eventually, I’ll feel better with time. There’s more to life, I might not be feeling too hopeful about life right now, but I do believe that life will get better, I will get better…”

So, it’s not exactly the situation, as much as it is what you tell yourself about the situation.

4- Be aware of global rating:

To fail in doing something, doesn’t make you a failure. Because as being a failure, that would mean that you’ll fail in anything you’ll do. You make it a fact and thus you’ll find yourself unable to take action on your goals. So, the solution for this is unconditional self-acceptance; to enjoy yourself even when you fail and to view failure as a detached experience that doesn’t make you a failure which means that it might not happen again and instead you might succeed.

This shall do to solve the matter once you’re aware of your global rating yourself. However, this is not usually the case, in fact, some people don’t even let themselves experience, let alone fail. They’re already failures in their minds with no previous fail experience. For example, someone who’s studying to be a doctor and having some troubles getting along with his mates at college might end up thinking that he isn’t adequate to be a doctor because he isn’t enjoying it, thus he’s a failure and so he wants to quit college. This person isn’t aware that the reason why he feels like he can’t be a doctor isn’t that he might fail, but feeling uncomfortable about anything related to his college because of having some problems with his mates.

5- Overcome your complexes by thinking rationally:

We all have some traits that we feel bad about. It isn’t like there’s some ideal personality or a set of traits one should have. We’re meant to be special and not perfect. For that, any trait you have, good or bad according to you, shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable. Like for example if one is shy occasionally, this shyness might cause him complexes, for he might be in discomfort when talking to people or when being watched. Now, he still can feel shy and not have any complexes about it at all. For it’s not about having the unwanted trait, rather it’s about his ideas about the trait. He can say: “This trait makes me uncomfortable and unable to perform well, thus I must be unworthy.” Or he can say instead: “I can be a shy person, but that never makes me unworthy.” And by saying this, he will have no complexes about his shyness and will accept himself and try to manage his shyness so that it won’t be a problem anymore.

6- Change your attitude about loss:

When you lose something you desire, it’s quite normal to be sad, this is a rational reaction. But what is irrational, is to feel utterly depressed and overwhelmed over your loss. A loss can be an unfortunate event however, it shouldn’t be viewed as awful. Awfulness means that the loss is so bad that it absolutely mustn’t exist, that it’s one hundred percent bad, which cannot be true, for it can always get worse.

Awfulizing makes your feelings of grief worse than they otherwise would be and makes you less able to cope with the loss.

Like for example when your mate rejects you. You can consider it an unfortunate event and feel sad over it, that way you imply that it would be fortunate to relate to another partner. Or you can view it as an absolutely awful event and then you’ll tend to do little about it except putting yourself down for creating such an awful result, foolishly predict that you can never have a desirable relationship and convince yourself that you’re an undesirable person who doesn’t deserve acceptance.

And that’s how big of a difference the way you view your loss makes.

7- Remember that you don’t need the approval to survive:

Certainly, it would be most convenient, if we had enough social acceptance. It’s quite normal for us to want love and care. However, wanting and preferring is different from needing. For needs mean something utterly required for life and happiness and approval shouldn’t be a need for several reasons:

- If you could get some approval from those around you and presumably love you and care for you, you will probably never get anyone to love you the way you demand.

- Even if you did get the approval, you’ll be constantly anxious that he or she might stop loving you or might leave you.

- If you always need approval, then you need to be always at your best, but who is? We’re bound to have bad days every now and then; bad hair day, bad mood, getting sick… and if you’re relying on approval from others how will you manage on those days, when you can’t be at your best.

- It is impossible for anyone to be able to spend the amount of energy and time that will grant him approval at any given moment.

So, the only solution to this problem is to give up the idea that you must have the approval to be worthy, because you’re only worthy when you believe so regardless of what you, what you say or what others think of you.

8- Reduce your dire fear of failure:

The idea that you must be thoroughly competent, adequate and achieving, is a common irrational belief many people dwell on. This implies that you have value as a person only when you accomplish something, otherwise, you might as well curl up and die. Such an idea includes several irrationalities:

- No one can be competent and achieving all the time.

- Achievement does not increase your value and worth as a person, nor do your failures lower your worth, even if you might “temporarily” feel worthier after an achievement.

- To raise your “ego” by achievement is false pride. Feeling better doesn’t make you a better person. You are worthy and deserving simply because you exist because you’re alive.

- You’re not just an activity, being a teacher doesn’t make you just a teacher, and you don’t have value as much as that particular activity. You have many other things you do.

- Overworking can be painful and uncomfortable and you might end up not enjoying yourself at all.

- Often people have an urgent need to surpass others and show them that they’re better, but if someone has inferior traits, does that make you better than him?

- If you strive frantically for success, you develop and anxiety for failure, you hold yourself from taking risks and if you make mistakes, you feel depressed about them and do little to learn and fix them.

The solution to this problem is to accept yourself, whether you succeed or fail. Definitely, it would be most convenient if you would succeed, but even if you failed, that failure doesn’t make you less of a person.

As a result of accepting yourself:

- You start accepting that your performance might be less than what you would like it to be at times.

- Your dire need for success disappears and you stop all your self-blaming.

- You start enjoying your work remarkably and you will probably perform better than when you’re obsessing about succeeding and outperforming others.

9- Stop blaming and start living:

The idea that others must not act in an unfair way and when they do, you should blame them and consider them as a bad person, is an irrational idea, as it is the idea of blaming yourself, and that’s for several reasons:

- We can’t agree upon the standards of “right” and “wrong”, there will always be a relative sense to each of these terms. Even when some people know and accept certain standards of good conduct, they will always find good reasons to do bad things. So, no one can be absolutely certain about what’s good and what’s bad.

- Even if we agree upon standards of right and wrong, we cannot by blaming wrongdoers help them acknowledge their mistakes and correct them because the more you blame someone, the more defensive he will get and the less likely to admit his errors. He will most probably translate the blame into this: “I have made a mistake, what a bad person I am for doing it!” and thus, he would consider himself as worthless and inadequate.

- By downing yourself for a mistake, you tend to feel worthless and you may never get around the simple act of correcting your behavior. You might as well develop a fear of committing other mistakes to the point that makes you avoid new experiences.

- People cannot be judged as intrinsically evil, because today or tomorrow, they can change their behavior and commit no additional bad deeds.

- By blaming others, you make yourself angry and hostile toward them for no justified reasons. If someone’s behaved badly, that doesn’t give you the right to blame him. Why should he not act in that way and act in some other way? By all means, your belief that he should’ve acted differently would hardly make him acknowledge his wrongs or change his behavior.

- Blaming others, not only lead to anger but also to many unpleasant consequences of anger, such violent reaction. But two wrongs don’t make a right, your violence won’t make him change his behavior, it can only make the matter even worse.
The solution to all of this is to turn off the heat of blaming, not just others but also yourself. You can try the following:

- Whenever you feel depressed, consider that maybe you’re blaming yourself for something you did, or something you failed to do, such as meeting a certain goal you set for yourself. Discover that specific belief, then say to yourself: “Maybe I acted badly, humans frequently do, now what can I do to correct my mistake?”

- Not just do you have to correct the mistake, but also work and practice a new way of behavior so that you won’t make that mistake again. And that’s the point of making mistakes, to learn and avoid future misdeeds. A change doesn’t happen over night, you must keep practicing.

- Keep in mind that irresponsible acts don’t make you less of a person. You’re worthy regardless of what you do or say, just by the mere fact that you exist.

- Don’t confuse feeling enraged with merely dislike or feeling annoyed at others’ behavior, the latter is a healthy negative feeling that implies that you’d prefer for others to act differently but you do not think that they mustn’t act in that way. While rage implies that others mustn’t act in that way and thus you’re blaming them.

The root of irrationality is blaming. If you stop blaming yourself or others, you would find it almost impossible to upset yourself, and by quitting it, you start to feel better about yourself or others, because you start to see rationally that making a mistake doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re a human being and you’re bound to do good as well as bad.

10- When treated unfairly, allow yourself to feel frustrated but not depressed:

It is irrational to see things awful, terrible and catastrophic when you are severely frustrated or treated unfairly, because, although it might be unpleasant not to get what you want all the time, it can’t be terrible or catastrophic until you see that way. When things aren’t going your way, you have two choices of beliefs. You can say: “I don’t like this situation, what can I do to change it. and if I can’t change it, my life would be tough but not awful.” And you can say as well: “I don’t like this situation, things shouldn’t be this way, it has to change or I won’t be happy again.” While the first belief will lead you to feel frustrated and at the same time allow you to change the situation, the second belief will make you too busy blaming the world and complaining that you’ll be downing yourself to depression and will make less able to do anything to change the situation.

So, some ways to deal with frustrations are the following:

- Try to determine if the situation is difficult for real or it’s just you defining it as difficult. When your parents, for example, don’t approve of your career, ask yourself, if their opposition is what made you give up? Or it was just an alibi for you to cover your fear of failure? When you cancel your awfulizing, would the frustration still be awful?

- If you face some great frustration to which you can do nothing to change them. Accept them, not bitterly but with grace. This isn’t a sort of giving up, it’s accepting the inevitable only when it is really inevitable and not when you can change things.

- When faced with frustrations, ask yourself: “Why shouldn’t I be frustrated? Would it kill me to be frustrated? Would it bother me? Why should I make myself upset about feeling frustrated” All the more reason not to let it bother you, for you’ll be having double the trouble for the price of one? You don’t have to depress yourself over feeling frustrated. It’s quite normal to feel sorry about your frustrations, but not depressed.

- When being in pain, try to distract yourself from it, by thinking about something or someone that cheers you up, or getting engaged in some activity of your interest. This might help you feel better rather than truly get better. Still, it’s better than depressing yourself by saying: “I’m in pain, how awful is that!”.

The point is you don’t have to change the situation and the circumstances as much you’ll have to change your attitude about them.

11- Control your depression by changing your thoughts:

We’re bound to have a difficult time every now and then, for which you don’t have to make yourself miserable about and that’s for several reasons. People and events can hardly cause you any physical pain or discomfort, and most of the pain you think they cause actually stems from you taking their criticism, for example, seriously and thinking to yourself that you can’t stand their rejection and that you find it awful.

You can reduce your misery considerably when you accept the inconvenient incident instead of keep on thinking how awful it is that something, you had absolutely no control over, had happened to you.

When you feel depressed, for whatever unconscious reason, stop yourself in the midst of the depression and ask yourself what thoughts are you thinking that brought you this depressed mood. See what’s irrational about it, that way you’ll be able to think more rationally and stop this depression. It might not be too easy at the beginning, but in the long term, you’ll learn how to manage your depression with much ease. For example, when being in a relationship, you might worry yourself about what if your partner didn’t approve of you and looked for someone else, you might be thinking how awful that could be. By acknowledging those thoughts, you can see for yourself how it is irrational for you to think that way. If your partner didn’t approve of you what could that really prove about you? Does that make you less of a person? Hardly.

12- Conquer anxiety and panic by changing your thoughts:

It is irrational to believe that if something is dangerous or fearsome, you must obsess about it. This is not just healthy fear that one needs to feel in order to stay away from danger and be safe, this is a different kind of fear; anxiety that consists in an overconcern of exaggerated or needless fear. For example, feeling concerned about what others think of you. This anxiety is usually self-defeating and that’s for several reasons:

- When a danger that is not physical, whining about the situation will not change it, at the opposite, you’ll be making yourself even upset and unnerved, and you’ll be less able to do anything about it. the situation is already troublesome without you adding up your anxiety, for worry alone a painful condition.

- You often exaggerate the awfulness of many unpleasant events, the worst thing that can happen to you is to die, which isn’t likely to happen for most of your so-called disasters and apart from death, what need you ever fear? Anxiety isn’t, in fact, emanating from the danger itself, but from your exaggerated beliefs.

- If you think of an event as being “awful” and “horrible”, you’re unconsciously implying that this event mustn’t exist, while there’s no law in this universe that states that certain events mustn’t exist.

- Some of the anxiety you might feel, if it isn’t conditioned by some event, it emanates from a false belief you tell yourself. Like for example, when someone feels anxious but without a real reason, it’s probably because he believes that he’s always weak, inadequate… therefore, he has something to be anxious about.

Sometimes you have a realistically fearful condition, such as being in a car that is out of control, but most of the things we panic and feel anxious about are self-created, and we keep feeding those exaggerated worries with our beliefs. the way to conquer this anxiety is as the following:

- Acknowledge the false beliefs that you feed your worries with. Such beliefs can go like this: “Wouldn’t it be horrible if they didn’t approve of me?” and so on. Forcefully ask yourself: “Why would it be horrible if they didn’t like me? What could that prove about me? Would it make me less of a person?” hardly. People’s disapproval may be disadvantageous but hardly a “horror”.

- When faced with a situation where there is a real danger, try to change it and if you can’t accept the danger as an unfortunate fact of life without adding any worries or trying to dramatize the situation.

- Push yourself to do the things you fear and keep acting against this fear and creating rational self-statements while doing the things you fear. Show yourself that this very thing you used to fear can’t be that horrible and that you can handle it just fine.

- Don’t exaggerate the importance of things. This doesn’t mean not to care at all about people and the things you feel attached to, but it just implies that you shouldn’t overestimate their value, as for example to see your car as the only car in the world or that your life will be absolutely empty without someone you love, otherwise you’ll be too vulnerable to their possible loss and make yourself needlessly anxious.

- Distractions can help significantly, for example when speaking in public, focus on the talking you have to do instead of the reaction of the audience. When waiting for something and feeling anxious about it, try to think of something else that interests you.

- Don’t beat yourself for feeling anxious, even if you occasionally fail to rationalize your thoughts, you don’t have to feel ashamed about it. You can always try over again.

- Don’t be surprised if your anxieties come back again after you beat them. Even if you conquered your fear of public speaking and had done much of it, yet still now and then feel fearful and get anxious, remind yourself that you’re a mortal human and life is a ceaseless battle against irrational worries.

13- Acquire self-discipline:

It’s irrational to think that you can live happily by avoiding difficulties and going after the easier ways, and that’s for many reasons:

- Avoiding fearful tasks, in the long run, will bring you greater conflicts and annoyances. You tend to exaggerate the pain and the discomfort of these difficulties as you keep avoiding them.

- When you act on your difficulties, even if you fail, you’ll certainly learn something, and do better next time.

- We achieve a few outstanding gratifications without risk-taking.

It’s the example of dieting in order to lose weight, it might seem difficult, time and energy-consuming in the short-term, but in the long-term, it’s most certainly more rewarding than remaining the way you are now.

So, to acquire more self-discipline, try the following:

- Change your beliefs about the things you have to do, instead of saying: “I can’t discipline myself. Why should I have to do these unpleasant things to get the results I desire?” Try these lines: “I’ll find it less rewarding, especially in the long run, to do things the easier way. I do have the ability to discipline myself no matter how difficult it might seem at the beginning.”

- As imperfect humans, it’s normal for you to find great difficulty in starting something constructive, but once you convince yourself that you should keep on doing it even when you don’t feel much like it, it will get easier and you might enjoy doing it at times.

- Give yourself some sub-goals and always keep reminding yourself of the rewards.

Discipline is hard, you’ll find it difficult to keep fighting against your tendencies to give up easily and putting off until tomorrow what you’d rather do today, but you’ll need it if you want a fulfilling life.

14- Rewrite your personal history:

It’s common for people to believe that something that has strongly influenced their lives, will keep determining their behavior today. This is an irrational belief for many reasons:

- It’s overgeneralizing to believe that something that had happened under certain circumstances must continue to happen under all circumstances. Because you felt weak against your dominating parent hardly means that you must stay weak all your life.

- To remain strongly influenced by your past and believe that you can’t do anything about it will hold you from looking for a solution.

- If you maintain your past behavior and refuse to change when it’s time to change, you fail to learn by new experiences.

So, if you want to change your past behavior, you can try the following:

- Accept the fact that your past is influencing you and that you need to change it. true, that you can’t change into a new person overnight, but if you start changing yourself now, you’ll eventually behave differently soon enough.

- Forcefully resist repeating your past reactions. Force yourself to do something fearful, like for example when you feel anxious when you talk to people, force yourself to talk to them, even if you feel anxious or embarrassed, then change your beliefs about the act, instead of viewing it as horrible, see it as unpleasant. That way, you’ll fear it less and less.

15- Overcome inertia and get creatively absorbed:

It’s irrational to believe that you can maximize your happiness by inertia, inaction and passively enjoying yourself, and that’s for the following reasons:

- People rarely feel happy when they’re rested, except for a short period of time. although people can get tired when they’re constantly on the go, they get easily bored if they’re rested for a long time. 

- Enjoyment such as reading, watching sports events… can be entertaining, but an exclusive diet of these “activities” can lead to dullness and apathy.

- There are three major forms of vital absorption, (a) loving or feeling absorbed in other people, (b) creating or getting absorbed in things and (c) thinking or getting absorbed in ideas, inertia and passivity keeps you from getting absorbed in those three ways and thus from being alive.

- At first, it seems easier to sit and rest instead of getting active, but in the long run, people find the activity rewarding and enjoyable.

- People who prefer inertia and passivity often are harboring a fear of failure and viewing this fear as horrible.

- Achievement-confidence is strongly related to the activity.

- Inertia has a tendency to feed itself, the more you avoid doing something out of anxiety, the more you get used to not doing it. the more you keep your work off, the more it becomes hard for you to get down to work and you might lose interest in it as well.

So, the action is some of the mainstays of happy living, so to help you live actively attempt in getting vitally absorbed in some person or something. Although loving someone can present many advantages such as being loved back, still, things and interest can get you to enjoy yourself considerably. It might not seem easy to conquer inertia at first, but if you keep on being active, eventually it’ll become a habit. Try to track down your irrational beliefs about being active, view failure as an unpleasant event, yet not awful.

It’s good to want to be a better, happier and more successful person. These are some lovely wishes we tell ourselves, unfortunately, we rarely take any action on them. You should be more specific when you say these things to yourself or when you write them down. Instead of wishing to be a happier person, you should start saying “I want to be happy, let’s start today by expressing gratitude for the life I have and the people surrounding me” or instead of wishing to lead a healthier life, start saying “I want to be fitter, let’s start today by committing to a gym program”.

To conclude, to help you think more rationally thus live more rationally, you should try the following:

1- Be aware of the “overgeneralizing”

2- Remember that you largely feel the way you think

3- Learn to distinguish between healthy negative feelings and unhealthy ones

4- Be aware of global rating

5- Overcome your complexes by thinking rationally

6- Change your attitude about loss

7- Remember that you don’t need approval to survive

8- Reduce your dire fear of failure

9- Stop blaming and start living

10- When treated unfairly, allow yourself to feel frustrated but not depressed

11- Control your depression by changing your thoughts

12- Conquer anxiety and panic by changing your thoughts

13- Acquire self-discipline

14- Rewrite your personal history

15- Overcome inertia and get creatively absorbed

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