How to Restart Your Life From Step One (3 Steps)

So you want to know how to restart your life, huh? That must mean you’re in a tough place, and I sympathize. I’ve been there. I’ve also been on cloud nine…

I’ll never forget the time I held my first girlfriend’s hand in the park for the first time. I hadn’t a care in the world!

two person holding pinkies
Photo by Valentin Antonucci on

In certain magical moments, life can seem so perfectly simple and easy. Unfortunately, it’s between those moments where we spend the most time. After sports teams win the championship, after the honeymoon period of a relationship, and on a quiet, plain Tuesday morning are the times when real life is won or lost. What do we do then?

That is to say that all of us know how to live when the champagne is actively flowing. It’s easy. But otherwise, we need to figure out what to do with our lives.

I’m talking to anyone who is in a rough or dark patch of life, where the champagne bottle is shattered on the floor and the next one is not in sight. I’m also talking to people who know they have a lot to be thankful for, but feel like they’ve lost their way. Basically, I’m talking to everyone, because this process works for everyone. It’s a top-down look at how to build a life worth living from scratch, from step one. Let’s go!

Step One: Determine Your Values and Desires (Difficulty: Tough, but doable)

Your values should be the core of everything you do, with your desires being intertwined in many cases, and like additional sprinkles on top in other cases. Values are like the operating system of people—they give us a framework of perspective. Once you know how you see the world and your role in it, the rest gets a lot easier.

Someone recently asked me how to figure out what this is. I told them that only they can decide (obviously), but that experimentation and research are the foundational ways to figure out what drives you. In addition to those, values can be innate or taught, such as from your parents or society. Most people have the value of being a generally good person (which can be defined in different ways). This is why very few strangers spontaneously slapped me at the grocery store yesterday (only a couple).

Try writing down some absolute values that you know you have.

Questions that can uncover your values: How do you think humanity came to be and what’s our purpose here, if any, as a species (God/Religion/Spiritual/Naturalism)? What are your natural talents? What makes you really happy? How do you see yourself fitting into society (Contributor? Peacekeeper? Activist? Entertainer? Pioneer? Observer? Commentator?)? What’s your personality like? What makes you angry about the world? What do you love about the world?

Answers to these questions will unveil some of the most powerful driving forces of your life. 

My example: I believe in God. I highly value health, personally and as a topic of interest. I love sports. Writing and being creative are extremely important to me. Freedom is my top desire. I see myself as contributing a lot to society, despite and because of the fact that I don’t conform to its many conventions.

My life: I spend a lot of time alone writing and thinking, playing sports, eating healthy food, and have a pretty isolated career that affects many thousands of people. This is a pretty predictable result given my values above! Notably, I had to experiment to figure out that writing about behavior change was such a sweet spot of intersecting values and desires. As someone who thinks so much, that’s saying a lot. Experimentation is crucial!

Once values are in play, desires come in. Desires are trickier, because they tend to combine our values with our natural instinctual side. Desires aren’t all bad, and some people, hedonists, even believe that feelings and desires are the greatest values (which goes back to what you think our purpose on earth is). But oftentimes, desires conflict with our values and cause confusion. For example, my desire to live on the couch and entertain myself until the end of time conflicts with a lot of my values and other desires.

All values lead to desires, but not all desires come from values. 

Step one in a nutshell: Gather your values and desires together, and highlight the synergies and conflicts between them.

Step Two: Construct Your Ideal Lifestyle (Difficulty: Medium)

Now that you have good information (the thing most people are missing when they try to figure their lives out), you can start to build a life from it. Most people try to start from this step (or even step #3), when their desires and values are still a confusing, tangled, and conflicting mess of vagueness!

Looking at your values and desires as a guide, try to construct your perfect day. The 24-hour day is the main unit of time we have to work with

In addition to that, think of some mid-to-long-term goals that would satisfy your values and desires. From this, you should generate a list of ideal lifestyle choices, many of which would lead to certain accomplishments.

Example list: 

  • Eat healthy (from health value)
  • Exercise (from health value)
  • Be generous and kind to others (from God or religious value, society teaching, parents, etc)
  • Provide for myself (from desire for and value of freedom)
  • Play sports (from desire for competition, value of health, and desire for community)

That’s a common if not generic list, but it gets the point across. Yours might have unique things like playing violin (value of art, value of creating, and desire to play music) or having a garden (desire/value of nurturing).

Step Three: Strategize and… Action! (Difficulty: Very doable with good strategy or impossible with poor strategy)

Let’s recap what we’ve done.

  1. We’ve hammered out our values and desires (the driver of our behavior).
  2. With that information, we’ve chosen a lifestyle that fits us.
  3. ????

This third step is where my books come into play. You need to strategically shift your behavior and life towards the ideal you’ve created. The reason this can be challenging is because we’re already in the middle of living life, and it probably doesn’t look exactly how we want (which is okay because we are imperfectionists!). With the right strategy, however, it’s the easiest part of the process. But I want to warn you that it’s only easy if you are clear about the first two steps!

In the grand scheme of creating a great life, my books mostly only deal with step three. You have to figure out what you want, and then you can use Mini Habits to help you get there. I’m not discounting the value of my books, but I do want to highlight what they cannot do, which is help you decide what to do with your life. Notably, however, a mini habit could help you take the necessary steps to figure out the first two steps of clarifying your values/desires and deriving goals and behaviors from those. The planning mini habit I wrote about is precisely about step #2 in this flow. Planning is looking for new behaviors that fit your values and desires better than what you’re currently doing.


It’s tough work to create a life that you love, and not only because it requires effort. It requires clarity, strategy, and execution (which includes effort among others). Most of us struggle with the very first step, clarity, which makes the next two almost impossible. For example, if you try to do something that you don’t actually value or desire (but maybe you think you should value or desire it because of external pressure), you’re going to fail almost every time. Clarifying your values and desires (and how they should interact) is the toughest part of the entire process, and it can take a long time since it often requires experimentation and trying new things. After that, it gets easier.

To restart or realign your life, try this. I recommend using a blank piece of paper and writing it all down.

  1. Figure out what you value by experimenting, researching, and asking yourself pointed questions. Observe what you desire (And be honest! If you desire power, money, or whatever else might be less-than-selfless, write it down. Lying to yourself will only give you less control over your desires). Take note of conflicts between your values and desires, and brainstorm ways to manage those conflicts.
  2. Model your ideal lifestyle from everything you’ve learned in step one. (Be careful not to ignore your desires here! Don’t be a values-only dictator or you will mutiny against yourself!)
  3. Strategize how to implement these behaviors in a way that aligns all the way to the top (step 1). I recommend pursuing routines and habit-formation as your main strategy.

Here’s how my books relate to everything I’ve just said.

Mini Habits: My first book will give you a great go-to strategy for establishing a behavior derived from a value or desire of your choice that you wish to implement. It’s the core strategy that I and thousands of others have followed to better align ourselves with what’s important to us.

How to Be an Imperfectionist: This book begins by discussing why we should all value and desire imperfectionism and then gives you the strategies to make it happen. It points out a hidden value that most people would choose have if they were aware of it. Few are aware of it because nobody talks about perfectionism as the self-destructive trait that it is (perfectionism is strongly tied to suicide, depression, anxiety, and anorexia to name a few).

Mini Habits for Weight Loss: Health and weight loss are two of the most common values and desires, respectively, in the world. I wrote this book because the world’s strategies for these are atrocious and based on short-term results instead of real change. If you value health and desire weight loss, this book helps you identify ideal behaviors that connect to those, shares strategies for obstacles like cravings and weak willpower, and then guides you to create your own (personalized) plan for lasting change. 

Mini Habits is a “step 3” strategy, great for people who know what they want, but can’t seem to get themselves there.

My other two books are specific entire “columns” that show you from why-to to how-to change your life in the two particular areas of perfectionism and health (steps 1-3). So if you have vague feelings of low self-esteem and aren’t sure why or if you feel like you’re missing out on life because of fear, How to Be an Imperfectionist would be a good read for you. If you know you want to get healthier and lose weight, but don’t know where to begin, or are sick of yo-yo dieting and fads, then Mini Habits for Weight Loss would be a good read for you.

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