Change is very, very hard. Breaking bad habits isn't, but the way we see ourselves and what others think about us is. That's why in order to change yourself you need to change everything around you.
Yesterday, someone came to our house and when I opened the door, they wondered if I had been taking a nap. At 7pm.
It wasn't the first time someone assumes I was being lazy (or eating more than I should) since I got back from the US.
I don't blame them, that's the version of me they know. The Adrian that left more than 5 years ago is no more, but they still don't know it.
You see, I used to have a 9-5 job (in front of a computer) and I used to do nothing for the rest of the day. A trip every once in a while, but it was mostly sitting on the couch (more screen time) and going out for a few drinks on the weekends.
For many people, the life I have now might not seem all that interesting either. But believe me, it's been a huge change from what I used to do before.
How did I go from waking up really late in the morning to being able to sleep just a few hours and get up to go to a remote location to photograph the landscape? Not only that, but enjoy it much more than staying in bed.
This is how I did it.
September 2013. We packed our bags and drove 34 hours from Indiana to Portland, OR. The Pacific Northwest was going to be our new home for a few years.
We left everything behind, including family and friends. What was ahead of us was a blank slate, and we were free to do whatever we wanted with it.
There, there wouldn't be anyone to ask me if I just had taken a nap. No one would assume anything about me because no one knew me. I was free to be whoever I wanted.
I just needed to believe it myself, since I'd be the only one judging who I was and what I was able to achieve. This took a while, but having people around you assuming your New You got me really motivated.
Most people in the Pacific Northwest love being outside in nature. I tried to sell the same story to myself, so I started going on hikes and taking some pictures. After a while, I was telling everyone (and myself) I lived for the great outdoors and photography.
It was then when the assumptions started (from me and from everyone else): this time, it wasn't about a lazy guy who enjoyed eating and taking naps, but about someone who loved spending time outside and taking photos.
And I really did, and still do. All I needed was the motivation, a facilitator for change. Moving to the PNW freed me to be who I wanted to be, and even though there are plenty of things I'd love to change about myself and my lifestyle, I'm much happier today than I was 5 years ago.
This is just my story and it doesn't have to apply to everyone. But I believe that in order to change ourselves we need to break with the past. And that includes people.
The best way to accomplish this is to move somewhere else where no one knows you. I realize that'd be very hard or impossible to many, so I'd suggest you start doing whatever you want to do (or stop what you don't want to do), becoming who you want to be right away.
Then tell everyone, and yourself, about it. Most importantly, leave your old self behind: it's not a baggage you want to keep carrying from here.
Let's say you want to write a book: just start doing it. And then tell those around you that you are a writer. Don't say things like "I've started writing" or "I'm going to try to write a book". No. Say: "I write, I'm a writer". Believe it. Keep saying it. Until it happens.
The resistance will be strong at first, but over time the expectations will change making everything so much easier.