Have you ever made a major positive change in your life?

Inspired by some recent threads on diets and a class I’m taking on behavioral change, I’m interested in hearing about major changes people have made in their life. These are purposeful, intentional transformations you’ve successfully undertaken.

I think most of the changes will fall under behavioral changes- attitude, communication style, diet, exercise- but there could be other categories I’m not thinking of. I’m not talking about

If you have made such a change, what inspired it and how did you succeed?

Thanks in advance.

Although I already have a degree, I went back to school to become a nurse. I don’t know if I could answer the question of why except to say, “I wanted to.” I seems simplistic but that is the only real reason that means anything.

Before I started, I had a hard time getting started, I kept mulling over the pros and cons. I finally said to myself, “Mine is not to reason why, mine is but to do or die.” So I stopped thinking about it and did it.

It felt much like jumping off of the high dive for the first time.

I was a painfully shy kid and a somewhat shy adult. This shyness was impacting my life in a negative way, so I decided to change. Though I still get bouts of shyness at weird times, I would no longer characterize myself as shy and I doubt anyone who met me now would ever apply the word to me.

I’ve posted this before, but it’s relevant here -
Diet. Inspired by high blood sugar. Diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I dropped a ton of starch from my diet, including most bread and pasta. I balance carbs with proteins now. And my blood sugar is normal.


Financial. For 15 years I was a typical North American spending more than I earned and eventually spending most of my disposable income on interest. I was unemployed for 18 months and in that time we actually improved our financial situation. I’ve been back to work for almost a year now and by the end of 2011 we will owe money only to the bank for our mortgage. We have somehow managed to do this without depriving ourselves of anything we need and very little that we want. I look back now and wonder what the hell we spent that money on.

Diet/exercise. In April 2009 I weighed 220 pounds and could barely run for one minute. In July 2010 I reached 143 pounds. In September I ran my first half marathon. Yesterday I registered for my first full marathon, which will be this September.

I’d been thinking that perhaps I was ready to tackle my weight problem, when a friend mentioned that she’d joined Weight Watchers. So I signed up with her. I lost 75 pounds and am now a Lifetime member. She’s lost about 110 pounds and is still losing.

I also have gradually overcome shyness and low self-esteem. My childhood and school years were No Fun. I can’t really name any specific steps I took, but perhaps just life experience and little successes have pulled me out of my shell. Now instead of being afraid of everyone and worried about what they think of me and trying to hide in the corner, I can walk into a room full of strangers, introduce myself, and strike up a conversation. My younger self would be amazed.

I make major positive changes in my life on a routine basis. It’s kind of a hobby of mine. The most significant one I can think of is recovery from severe depression and a number of anxiety disorders. For the first 6 or 7 years of my adult life I was so severely depressed that I was barely able to function, could not work, had to withdraw from school, etc. I worked very, very hard - for years - to learn to cope with those inevitable emotional ups and downs. It was a major change but it wasn’t one that occurred overnight, and it’s still something I have to work on every day. But compared to the complete misery and paralysis of before my life is a kind of miracle. I’ve been back in school for years and I’m going to graduate with a Master’s degree in less than two months.

Then, about two years ago, I saw a nutritionist and radically changed my diet. That one is more of an ongoing struggle but I now cook and eat whole foods the majority of the time and exercise regularly.

I think it’s awesome you’re taking a course on behavioral change. In my experience, it comes down to two major elements:

  1. How you think
  2. How you shape your environment

If you want to sustain long-term change, you have to address both of these.

Holy cow, good for you! My dad ran a marathon a couple of years ago. I’m not sure I could ever be in that good of shape.

I think the biggest change I ever made was in high school when I decided to become less self-conscious. Sure, I still get embarrassed but I figure, there’s nothing so embarrassing I can’t ever recover. And in return, I’ve netted a lot more friends and become much more comfortable as a leader and in front of large groups.

After my double bypass operation last July, I started to follow the American Heart Association dietary guidelines very, very strictly. I cut down my saturated fat intake dramatically, and lost over 30 lbs in 6 months, going from 174 to 144. I also started an ambitious exercise routine, and now I’m pretty damn ripped. My goal now is to put on 15-20 lbs of lean muscle over the next two years. I’m not quite ready to post photos, but I plan to by the anniversary of my operation - July 14th. I’ve decided that I’m going to be in the best shape of my life, at age 50.

Both diet/exercise and financial, which were both sparked in June of 2009 when my husband and I finally decided we wanted to have a child.

We faced several serious obstacles: regarding my health, I was very overweight and had severe PCOS, which basically made me anovulatory. He has a chronic, painful genetic disease that half his children would develop (it is a dominant gene, so no “carriers”). Because of this, we knew that getting pregnant would involve a lab and would be expensive. We also were in significant debt. Furthermore, we wanted him to be able to stay home when the baby came: not so much because we think it’s the best thing for the child (though I don’t think it’s worse than daycare) but because we felt and feel like it would be the best thing for our family. Dual-working + daycare seems so hectic, and we want to enjoy our child thoroughly. All babies are hectic, of course, but someone having to take off work every time the baby gets sick or the daycare can’t be used for other reasons is just added chaos.

So we had a lot of things we needed to fix. I revamped my life to lose weight. This did involve some real sacrifices: I went from working 60+ hours a week to around 45, and because of this, some kids got a less thorough education. If teachers truly make a difference, there may well be some kids who would have gone to college but didn’t or would have felt like someone cared who didn’t or would have stayed in high school but didn’t because I made this choice. My social life also suffered: there were some good friends that I just no longer had the time to keep up with.

I mention this only because one of my greatest realizations in all of this was that making something a priority means letting other stuff go. And that was hard. But taking the time to always go to the grocery store instead of eating out, to exercise, to get enough sleep, to not get so stressed about stuff that I ate medicinally meant being less of a good teacher and less of a good friend. I think it was worth it, but it would be a lie to pretend their wasn’t a cost. I don’t think it’s nearly as noticeable to others as it is to me–I’m still a good teacher and I hope a good friend–but it was a change.

Anyway, once I made that shift, the weight came off pretty easily and I got down to a near-normal BMI and much improved my health. We started getting the money together at the same time. We restructured our budget from the ground up, using only my base salary. My husband’s entire salary plus any bonuses/stipends I made all went into paying off debt and then into savings. To do this, my husband took over extremely careful record keeping. It was a real wrench at first–we went from living like middle class people to working class people–but one we got used to it, it really wasn’t a lower quality of life. We have splurges and manage to buy most anything we want–it just takes longer, and we no longer buy stuff we don’t really want–the impulsive stuff.

Anyway, getting pregnant was its own complicated set of procedures, but I am almost ten weeks now, so things are looking pretty good. We still have no debt, a significant nest egg, and we are confident we can live on just my salary when he quits his job. Three years ago I never would have dreamed my life would be like this now.

Another who lost weight. I lost 50 pounds around 8 or 9 years ago (don’t remember the year anymore). Have maintained the loss, and like others, took up running. I have been running for a year, and plan on running 11 races this year, including two half marathons.

Positive things I’ve done: quit smoking, started running, went back to school, practiced doing things that made me nervous/uncomfortable (in late college, for exampe, I developed a temporary hangup about public speaking for example–I don’t know why, but I got over it by voluntarily putting myself in a few situations where it was unavoidable).

My story is very similar. Over the years, I have slowly become committed to not letting the crippling depression that haunted me for years back into my life. It took a long time and a lot of work, but now I have a much more complete emotional toolbox, including more productive coping techniques and a lot of positive-mood-maintenance methods. I’ve developed the discipline to apply these in a rigorous way to diffuse and prevent depressive episodes. At this point, I can confidently say that I have beat depression, without a single drug.

I did the “lost 55 lbs” a few years ago. according to BMI I was about 7 lbs above my “ideal” weight. unfortunately it didn’t do anything to help my other issues so it’s been a real struggle keeping it off.

Good for you! I myself sometimes have to deal with similar emotional issues. Depression can be a very difficult beast to subdue.

About five years ago, I lost 50 pounds. 300 if we count the bad boyfriend. Shaking all that off was a lot of work, but the years since have been the best of my life. :slight_smile:

Next up, quitting smoking. I’ve never really tried before, and the fact that I really do love my cigarettes is going to make it very hard, but I’m probably as motivated as I’ll ever be, so here goes…

Thirteen years ago my life was a total mess. No longterm job, more than occasional recreational drug use, wearing out my welcome and sympathy with family members, no real relationship, living close to the poverty line, and not much of a future outlook. Then I met my current wife and fell in love with her. I realized that if I wanted to be worthy of her love I’d better make some changes. I’ve since kicked the drugs, gone back to school, and gotten married. I kept the same job for 10 years, until I recently decided to change. I have earned the respect of my wife, my peers, and most importantly, myself. We now have two beautiful children, a home that is the envy of most of our friends and family, and a long term retirement plan. And a great marriage.
So yeah, I’ve managed to make some positive changes.
Still not yet though, not by a long shot

Psychotherapy. I went from depressed and constantly angry/hair-trigger temper (especially with the kids) to much, much calmer. Things still piss me off, but I’m not explosive. My relationship with my spouse and kids are much better. Life is better. When things piss me off now I usually say “Oh well” and move on. Or put myself in a different room than the kid who’s pissing me off. I’m not a perfect person, and Mama Zappa is still up for sainthood by living with me, but I’m far easier to be around.

The times I got more sleep - to the point of enough sleep - I feel much better and work much better. The siren call of work, house work, volunteer work, family time, entertainment time, SDMB, etc., usually wins over my need for sleep. :frowning: Getting a CPAP helped my sleep quality so I could function on 5 hours a night, but I still have a way to go.

Similar for exercise - I’ve tried it. I even enjoy nice walks. But the time commitment is not sustainable for me.

I’m the wrong guy to ask about diet. Food is a great stress reliever for me. I know for these last two my path is not good. I’ll have to live with it, or not. Knowing that my zombie ghost corpse will be raking the yard, doing my annual self-evaluation at work, running a couple of scout events all while watching a video with the family.

Major congratulations! Very inspirational :slight_smile:

In fact, all of these achievements are pretty awesome to see compiled together. I may reference this thread in the future when I need to kick my own ass into gear. Thanks to everyone for sharing!

Working on self acceptance. A lot of traumatic, embrassing painful things happened to me and I couldn’t accept myself. So that energy gets redirected into more destructive or neurotic outlets. However as I work on accepting my failures, limitations and pains I notice that those overcompensation measures are becoming less intense. Reading up on the concept of ego defenses by Anna Freud was a real eye opener to how this process works. I’m not perfect, but I’m less sensitive to criticism, less needy, can move at a slower pace, and feel my life is more authentic. I still have issues with anxiety and depression though.

I still need to work on my physical health, lack of social involvement and job situation though.