Feeling Stuck? 100 Ways to Change Your Life

By Nora Dunn on 9 February 2008 245 comments

You've got 20 minutes to change your life in 100 ways. Go.

This is the premise of an exercise I tried once, when I was feeling stuck in life. I wasn't sure what was amiss, but the routine I had fallen into was not satisfying the inner voice in me that insisted there was something else out there for me. (See also: Change Your Life With Storytelling)

After trying (forcefully) to understand what was going on, reading self-help books, filling out aptitude tests, and working with business and life coaches, I was given a suggestion that became a catalyst for some pretty big personal changes.

Here is how you can change your life in 20 minutes, step by step:

  1. Clear all distractions. Turn off the phone, the TV, the computer. Lock your door, and go to a quiet place.
     
  2. Sit down comfortably at a desk or table, with a blank piece of paper and a pen in front of you.
     
  3. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
     
  4. Go. Write down 100 things you want to do. Or careers you want to have. Or people you would like to meet. The sky is the limit.
     
  5. Don't be realistic. Dream big. Write down the craziest things you can think of, as well as the things that you don't even think bear mentioning because they are so simple. Write it all down.
     
  6. Work quickly. 20 minutes isn't very long, and you have 100 items to get through, if you can. Don't think about whether or not to write down an idea — just write. Write everything that comes to mind, even if it doesn't make sense. Just keep on writing, and don't stop until that timer goes off.

Something happens after about 10 or 15 minutes if you employ the exercise to its full potential. You stop caring about what specifically the ideas are, and you start to release an inner creativity that may have been locked away for a while. In an effort to get through 100 things in 20 minutes, you start to write outlandish things down that you aren't even really sure you want, but that are ideas that came to you nonetheless.

Ding! The timer goes off. No matter where you are in the process, or how many items you have written down, stop. (OK, if you are really on a roll and have a few more to write down because the juices are flowing, keep going. I won't tell.)

Leave the list alone for a day. Try not to look at it, and certainly don't revise it in any way. The following day, sit down and look at your list. How many of the items on it are feasible? Can you see your way to accomplishing any of it? Did anything come out of the list that you hadn't actually really thought of until you wrote it down in a hurried attempt to get to 100 items in the time limit? Any surprises in there?

The point of this exercise is not to create a giant and outlandish "to-do" list that never gets ticked off. Instead, it is simply to open up your mind to the idea that anything is possible, and to give you ideas that will help you to become unstuck in life.

Personally, after feeling stuck and making out my list, I identified a few ways to make positive changes in my life at the time; I joined Toastmasters because an item I wrote down was to become a public speaker. I also eventually started a blog to satisfy an inner wordsmith in me that has blossomed into a career. And ultimately, the list helped lead me to the decision to sell off everything I owned to live out my dreams of travel and adventure now.

And it all started with 20 minutes and 100 ways to change my life.

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Feeling Stuck? 100 Ways to Change Your Life

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Guest's picture
Andrei

Thank you very much!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the great idea!! Too many ideas with too many distractions!!!

Guest's picture
Genifer

It's great to come across articles to refresh what one already think about. I also like to add that having it written down and visible daily can help take these dreams into goals. After all, the only difference between dreams and goals is that goals has a deadline. This is a great way to benchmark the dreams.

Guest's picture
Guest

Even though i am only 15 this helped me so much because as a teenager I feel so lost and judged by everyone and I must be honest most of the time I realy hate myself and I feel like a loser but this opened my eyes that I can be whatever I want to be no matter how big my dreams are =)

Guest's picture

This is really a great idea. I really like your advice about dreaming big! I wrote a blog that relates to this idea, about having to overcome your past first and get it out of the way, and then really the sky is the limit.
And I agree with you whole-heartedly - anything is possible. Sometimes, we just haave to get out of the way!

Guest's picture

I love this entire concept. I'm definitely going to give it a shot and I'm going to share the post with my friends as well. It never hurts to daydream. It's great for the creative process and good for the soul. Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

The simplicity of this technique is amazing. It should not be overlooked. I started using this technique after I read this article about a week ago. The results I have had are phenomenal to say the least. Thanks for a great article and a great technique. Andrew.

Guest's picture

I did this but was pissed off at myself for forgetting to hit the start button for the timer...no biggie..rather than restart I reviewed my 100 anyways. Not much different from the goals I already have (and "Get a Girlfriend" is still top of the list) but a nice filter nonetheless

Guest's picture
M

Seems like a form of self-actualization...and it does work.

I used to subscribe to an Astrological/Horoscope magazine that suggested, as an exercise, every month on the day of the New Moon, you were to write down ten things you wanted...being somewhat specific, and at least marginally practical. Put the list away and come back to it the following month. Voila! Some of things on the list, you actually got!

This happened to me, and it's good to be reminded to try it again...because frankly, I need some stuff right now.

Without even consciously thinking about it, you are moving toward your goals with the first step being to write them down.

Guest's picture
GuestNoelia

A M A Z I N G
would have never thought of doing this !!!!

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Anna

This is an amazing blog! Going to try this soon! Thank you!!

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Kevin

I tried this out was pretty good, few things i got without even thinking id want to do. Think i'll give it a shot of achieving them.

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Teodora

This is strange. I just did it and the first thing I wrote was ''I want to be famous''. I have never wanted that! There are also other strange things I wrote. Actually my list has only 40 points, I couldn't think of more and some of the points are similar. I'll see what will happen now. Thanks for posting this article.

Guest's picture
Ruth Holley

I have been struggling to change my life since the death of my husband. He started me down the road of being a servant of slave masters before he suffered the strokes
that eventually killed him. He wanted to live for free, and the only way he could do this
was to sale my freedom in exchange for housing and utilities. When I was ready to relocate us, seeing the lady he endentured me to, had violated the agreement he made with her, several times, when his disability checks arrived, I got us out of there.
She had already planned to take the money that he was getting, trying to say we owed her for the utilities. I want to be free again.

Guest's picture

I think your heart knows what you want in life. I tried making a list many times, but it didn't work until I sold everything and with only a backpack took off to Asia for a year. After about 3 months I began to let go of stress, sleep through the night and start to love life again. It opened up my mind and I sat down one day and wrote my list. I moved back to the US a new person. Now everyday is spent pursuing the things I love. I even created a business around adventure and having fun, inspired by my journey. Good luck everyone : )

Guest's picture
Stella

That's an interesting idea of knowing yourself and discovering your wishes, thanks.
Dare make the change, you are giving a chance to yourself for a new experience, your life will become reacher because of that. If you make mistakes on the choice or you fail, don't worry, this will make you stronger and you will enjoy the moment to come much better because of that.
J.P. Sartre (french philosphe)said: "Life exists in idividual moments, is up to us to make sure that those moments are vital, interconnected and vast. To make them meanfull, contributing to the process of living that life is embrassing. We have to create a master piece out of life and wanted to live again and again, for eternity"
Be proud for your life and do the things that you want to do, don't push till the limit, yourself will appreciated:)

Guest's picture
Zetsu

Sounds....... sounds interesting

Guest's picture
Mark Drew

Hello Nora... sometimes it really feels as if we are fed-up of life and want to end it! It becomes very important to learn those small things of life that makes the difference and keeps any person happy, http://tiny.cc/ulj9jw

Regards, Mark

Guest's picture
Matt

That's a great idea and can really get the juices flowing...

after you have your list there's a couple things you need to do to make it happen. check out my latest blog post at http://www.matthewinsardi.com/the-ultimate-success-formula/

Guest's picture
Dan Feld

Thank you, Nora Dunn. I've tried this myself and while it didn't directly lead to an epiphany, I noticed having written down what gets me going kept those things near the top of my mind which helped me later on.

I myself was a longtime sufferer of "what to do with my life" and I've created a podcast about people trying to live the lives they want to live called Prologue Profiles. If you're interested here's the link: http://prologueprofiles.com

I'd love to hear what you think.

Best Regards,
Dan Feld

Guest's picture
Shaun

This sounds almost like a freestyle rap! It sounds pretty hard to do.

Guest's picture
Wahoo25-0

I never find the true answers in articles like this. Sure anything is possible.... if you have the money to pay for it! Everything I need (not want, there is a difference) is based on how the HELL am I going to pay for any of this. It seems every time I just barely squeak by, save a little extra, start to dream a little - Pow, I get hit with some huge bill that wipes it all away. I don't deserve it - I pay all my bills on time, i work hard, I volunteer, I raise my children to the best of my ability, I have the best spouse in the world to walk through life with. So to hear time and time again the advice that if I can dream it I can do it is BS. Unless I hit the lotto (which I won't since I don't gamble) that's not going to happen. There has to be a better way to find happiness. Unfortunately it seems without going into debt - which is easy to do - but i refuse to do so like so many others - without a little extra money - you can't find that true happiness! All I want is for my car to stop needing repairs when I need to pay my tax bill. Please something don't break in the house - when the utilities are due. Please don't let me save $50 this month only to have the car insurance, a birthday, Christmas, a wedding, and who knows what else that will cost me something. They say money can't buy happiness and that may be true -but barely breaking even and worrying constantly about what's next? Is pure torture.

Guest's picture

Dear WAHOO25-0...

Circumstances definitely matter. I think at certain points in our lives we have responsibilities... maybe to take care of or be there for others. The point of dreaming is to set the desire in your mind and not to just dismiss it. I am a divorced dad, not 51 years old. My kids were grown up and on their own path in 2008 and I had a dream to travel. A few years prior, I was quite successful, but pretty much lost everything in the economic crash. Instead of stressing over bills I couldn't pay, I sold all my worldly possessions and bought a one way ticket to Asia where I lived for a year throughout 2009. I was broke, but got by on the proceeds of my worldly belongings. Had I not had that, I would have volunteered or got a job in order to pursue my dream.

As it turned out, through my travels I found a life that I was totally passionate about and am currently living it. I don't have many of the things I used to find so important, but I do love my life.

If you are prepared to look, you will find someone... actually many people who have far more difficult circumstances that yourself, but somehow manage to find a way to follow their hearts. Don't ever give up dreaming and when the time is right don't forget to take action.

Best of luck to you : )

Guest's picture
Dayveon

I did about 75 things I was so close

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Laura

I just did then and ended up breaking down in tears. Really made me re-evaluate my priorities.

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Joey

Very great idea, ended up trying this as soon as I saw it. I ended up crying as well after I tried it. Still not sure exactly what I want to do in life but this definitely helped me realize what I feel is important to me. Thank you.

Guest's picture
Besart

Thanks a lot for this article! I hope to help me because i'm really in stuck right now!...

Guest's picture
Mudi

I could write 59 only. its my first day of exercise. now when im done, more ideas are coming into my mind. but i have closed the page :(. im thinking that i should try it again. BUt i have fear that it will lose its value thenn. Things will become artificial. What to do then. Im really stuck. I will work on these 59. Lets c what happens !
And yes, this is great idea

Guest's picture
OfficialLD

Interesting...I will have to try this when I have some time to myself.

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Reina

Thanks for sharing this! I'm feeling stuck in my life right now as a graduated high school student and deferring college. I hope I will find my true self and express it.

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Louisa Steadman

This really is beautiful. Thank you.

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Spencer

Simple. Easy. Powerful.

I like you take on the list of dreams. Have heard of this before. Have sat down and done it myself. And the twist is... I never gave it a time limit. I like that aspect because it forces you to commit, engage, and win the battle for 100 things you want to be, do, or have.

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Guest

the first step told me to turn off the computer...

Guest's picture

Thanks Nora! What a cool idea, to brainstorm everything I want to do, then look the list over and sort it for items to put into action. I love it!
Thanks for posting,
Harv Whitman

Guest's picture

I need to do this exercise.

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Patrik

Hello Nora! Thanks for a very good article! I will implement some of your ideas! I'm trying to change my life around and I think it's all about committment, to keep your focus far ahead and just never give up!

Regards Patrik

Guest's picture
Guest

I'd rename this article "ONE way to change your life."

Guest's picture

Okay, I might just try this! What do I have to lose? But 100 things in 20 minutes, that means five things per minute? Actually, I think that's doable.

Guest's picture
michelle

And what if you're married with kids and little money?? Not really anything "feasible " on my list...

Guest's picture
guest

life revolves around money. very disillusioning but true.

Guest's picture

Great idea! I also practise writing out my worries when they annoy me, they're much easier to control when they're in the writtem form:)

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Christina

Well, stuck in my life is putting it mildly! I just did this 20 min thing. I am 61 and wasted my entire life in self hate isolation and regrets. I thing it is time to take charge. No friends no kids husband boyfriend. No family. This has to stop. Thanks, as in spite of all I just wrote I know I am positive to take the rest of my life where I wanted it to go! Happy I read this. I will use this to keep u posted as no doubt I am your only 61 year old to post on your blog. By the way have no idea what a blog is !! LOLOLOLOL
Christina Marie Concetta Zuverino Nappi
PS. Ironic that my email reads what I have never felt and I have had this email for maybe 13 years!! Lololo

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Guest

I could only get to about 65 items...mind went blank.

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Guest

I did list 2-28-16. Since then I have done 2 things on list: 1. seeing new therapist,
2. throwing way--not washing--used zip-lock baggies! LOL

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pintu singh rajput

thanks for that i think that is great idea thanks for shayring