You can have many incentives to change your life: for example, recognizing that you need to change your financial situation, realizing that the person you are is not who you want to be, feeling the need to answer a spiritual call, or accepting that a relationship or situation can’t continue as it has. As a first step to altering the course of your life, you need to examine how things truly are rather than falling back into denial of the discomfort your situation is causing you. It’s important to understand the events and processes that have shaped your current situation, and how your actions sustain it. Otherwise, all your best intentions for writing a new story for yourself will simply remain intentions. Time will tick away, change will be slow and superficial, and you’ll wake up one day wondering why your intentions were never manifested.

A necessary prelude to change is to quiet your busy activity and make an honest appraisal of the actions you took in the past and are taking in the present. Once you gather the determination and energy needed to reflect honestly on your life, you can start discerning how to make—and sustain—wiser choices. You can begin to imagine a new story you can create for yourself in the future.

You might say that you’re too busy for deep reflection to discover the truths of your story—that your time is limited. But do you find the time for undesirable activities that have become habitual? What if you spent that time observing and assessing your habitual choices and where those choices are leading you?

If you’re in a constant state of activity, with no down time for reflection, it will be difficult to alter your direction, and easy to not make the changes you might say you desire.

Writing a new story and bringing it to life can be a very long process but it has to begin somewhere. How can you begin this process today? How can you carve out time for reflection?

Perhaps you have questions you’ve been meaning to ask yourself and answer in a journal. Perhaps you have always meant to journal about your experiences but never got around to doing it. Take the time now. Commit to a small goal to begin the habit of reflection. You might choose to write at least two pages every day, for example.

Perhaps you mean to meditate, or take time for walks, but never seem to find the time. Time has not scurried away like a squirrel and hidden itself in a tree! Take out your planner and schedule reflection time.

Here are some questions to start your self-reflection process:

In the past, how have you made time for attending to your desire to spend more time engaged in an activity you particularly enjoy and find enriching? What happened that you “lost” the time to engage in that activity? How can you “find” the time to begin engaging in it again?

Is there an emotional reason for not “finding” the time for this activity? For example, if you worked it into your schedule, would you feel embarrassed, ashamed, afraid, nervous, or frustrated? Why would you feel that way? How might you engage in that activity and feel only positive emotions that energize and rejuvenate you rather than embarrassment, shame, fear, nervousness, or frustration?

In asking these questions, you might find that you have been holding on to false beliefs, such as “I have to be skilled at this activity to justify my engaging in it.” You might realize that simply experiencing the pleasure of the activity is enough for you. Perhaps you hold the belief “If I engage in this activity, I’m taking valuable time away from my family who deserves more of my time.” If so, explore that. It may be that by engaging in an activity you enjoy, you become less irritable and more pleasant to be with when you are spending time with your spouse and children.

Most of us hold on to beliefs we should question that hold us back from writing a better story for our lives. If we were to take the time to reflect, we might realize that such beliefs can be discarded, opening us up to more fulfillment and happiness—and a better story in the future.

What story would you like to tell in the future?