Many people believe it is so hard to alter their lives that they make excuses for the way things are - but simple changes make a difference

It was the longest day of the year last Saturday - and it felt like it! I spent the day painting my house; someone said it would be quite therapeutic, but it wasn't.

It did, however, get me thinking about how we all gloss over the irritations in our lives (I know that was a terrible pun, but it really was a long day). Research has shown that it's the cumulative effect of lots of little things that does the most damage to our wellbeing.

People tend to get stuck when they think things get too much for them or are out of control, and they make excuses for things being the way they are. To make themselves feel better they say it is OK for life to be the way it is. They believe there is too much to change, so life must remain like it is. "I don't even know where to start" is the most common first response I hear when working with private clients.

The answer is simple. Start where you'll make the biggest difference; do the simplest thing you can that will have the biggest impact.

You will get immediate satisfaction and motivation from a quick win (or at least a change) and it will reinforce to you and those around you that change is possible.

That last issue is particularly important: just because you have made the shift and changed your thinking, the people around you have not and will still expect things to be the way they always have been. They may even try to keep things fixed that way - it's the only way they know.

When something changes we all ask the same question: "What does that mean for me?" We then make up some answers that may be true, but just as likely may not. If we don't like what our imagination comes up with we may try to maintain the status quo.

Be aware that when you start shaking things up the dust will settle differently, not just for you but for those around you, so don't expect change to happen in isolation.

The trick is to find all the small things that you'd like to be different and - perhaps by grouping them into sets - find the common link between them.

Although the context may be very different, I am sure you will be able to find a common theme. Change that common theme and everything else will fall into place.

Find the thing that makes the biggest difference and focus your attention on how to make that better - stop running around fighting lots of little fires.

It could be that you change your way of thinking or what you choose to get upset by - or you could just choose to stop glossing over the cracks - but stop pretending that things are OK and take action to live the life you want to live. n

Ali Campbell is a life coach and NLP master