No need to hire a life coach when you can be your own. Really think about the answers to these questions, take in the advice from life coaching professionals, and get ready to embrace change.
1. What would I see in a snapshot of my best self?
Before you start making goals for yourself, be sure you know what end result you're hoping for. "Start with your vision of what you want most in life," suggests Linda Smith, a physician assistant, integrated health coach and director of educational programs at Duke Integrative Medicine. Think basic—how you look (slimmer? well rested?), what you're doing (creating? traveling?)—then go deeper. Imagine how you feel, who you're with, where you are and more. Let this image be the end point on your road map to change.
2. Which of my values have I put on the back burner?
Health? Respect? Honesty? "When life feels off track, it's often because we've become less intentional about living according to our own values," says Derrick Carpenter, a life coach and expert with Happify.com. "By identifying what values you've let slip, you can regain your intentionality and boost your happiness." You may have a lucrative career, for example, but if you've sacrificed personal growth at work, you may be ready for a more meaningful pursuit. If you're feeling lonely despite a long list of acquaintances, it may be time to build deeper friendships.
3. Is this a "should" or is this a "want"?
You may not realize it, but your bucket list has two types of entries: things you really desire for yourself and things you think you should desire but actually don't. "To figure out the difference, take the word 'should' out of your thoughts and statements and replace it with the word 'want,' " says Tricia Huffman, life coach and founder of yourjoyologist.com. Should you do yoga, or do you want to do yoga? Should you bake those brownies from scratch, or do you want to? This simple trick can help you sort through your time priorities. The earlier you realize you don't actually want to meditate, the sooner you can start working toward getting better at photography.
4. How can I be kinder to myself?
If you hear "Why can't I do this?" or "Why don't I have any self-control?" each time you slip up, your internal dialogue may be more harmful than your actions. "Judgmental questions can send you into a downward spiral," says Marilee Adams, PhD, a life and executive coach and author of Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life. Beat yourself up enough about eating a doughnut and you may feel bad enough to splurge on another. Next time, skip the tongue-lashing and get curious about your actions and motivations. Ask, "How can I make a better choice next time?" or "What am I really upset about?" By bringing compassion to yourself and getting to the root of what's derailing you, you'll be better able to reduce the slip-ups.
5. Could I be sabotaging my success?
People lose their motivational mojo because they never learn to keep promises to themselves," says Lauren Zander, founder of the Handel Group, a coaching company in New York City. "You'll always take your kids to practice, for example, but you'll skip taking yourself to the gym." To break this cycle, Zander asks clients to envision a 30-day boot camp that would change their lives. Want to be a better cook? Broaden your knowledge in the kitchen once a day for a month, whether that means trying a new knife skill from YouTube or teaching yourself to cook a dish without a recipe. Want to start a new business? Set aside an hour each day to create a proposal. If you stay focused, you may even reach your objective by day 30. Pat yourself on the back and then gear up for your next goal. After all, that business proposal isn't going to pitch itself.