There’s so much each of us can do to become a better version of ourselves: We can adopt healthy habits that help us feel happier or more energetic, treat ourselves with enough kindness that it spills over to others, or simply practice being a dreamy human each and every day. Ruth Soukup, author of Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Overcome Adversity, Face Your Fears, and Create a Life You Love ($25), is no stranger to a transformation that takes place from the inside out. She recently shared five ways you can continue along a path of self-improvement and live with true purpose.

Smiling Black woman against yellow background

1. Design a routine that works for you every day. Routines can help keep you anchored. Even more, having set routines and rituals can help you free your life from stress, chaos, and feelings of being spread too thin. After all, the average person makes about 35,000 decisions in a day! A good routine is easy to stick to because it truly suits your lifestyle and helps you feel happy and healthy. Not sure where to start? Consider deciding if you’ll start your day with a shower, how and when you like to get to work. Next, pencil in regular coffee dates, lunch meetings, or exercise classes. Set times to grocery shop and do laundry, along with the time you need for hobbies, a side hustle, or time with family and friends.

2. Know what stresses you out. Hate surprises that come from nowhere, or find that certain people, attitudes, or situations are almost unbearable? Knowing exactly what causes you to feel anxious or overwhelmed is the first step toward freeing yourself from stress.

Soukup says that knowing her stressors — which she says are not enough sleep, exercise, or downtime — has had a huge impact on her quality of life. “Sometimes it feels like the things that are causing the most stress are out of our control, but focusing on three distinct areas has improved my health and helped heal my immune system. Plus awareness keeps my stress level down.”

For example, if choosing what to wear each morning takes a ton of time, you might consider creating a capsule wardrobe, or investing in a handful of pieces that are easy to mix and match. If you realize that gossip-loving friend gets you feeling down, you’ll be in better shape to decide how to deal with them.

3. Work on your willpower. “Our brains are pretty amazing, and although it initially takes a lot of willpower to create a new habit or routine, after a few weeks that behavior starts to go on autopilot,” Soukup says, echoing other experts. “Your new routine is a great example: Start your day the same way each morning, and your brain will learn when it’s time to start working.”

Work on your willpower by creating small but powerful habits that have positive overall changes in how you feel. It won’t happen overnight, but you’ll eventually feel stronger, more confident, and empowered to stick with it.

4. Live with intent. Being purposeful about the things you say and do can change your life. For Soukoup, learning how to be intentional about how she spends her time with other people was a game-changer. “What is it that you want to get out of your time with someone?” she asks. “What are you struggling with that you want help thinking through? Where do you need to be pushed? Where do you need to be encouraged?” Setting your intentions early on is the key, as Soukup says that you can hold yourself accountable from the start.

5. Trust your gut. “Just like we need to dare to follow our intuition and to use common sense when it comes to peer-to-peer interactions and group-think mentality, we also owe it to ourselves to question those ‘rules’ too,” Soukup says “It can be hard to do, especially if you’ve been told to do the opposite.” Successful women say that listening to your inner voice is one of the best ways to know which path you should take — especially when you’re facing a difficult decision. Tuning in takes practice, yes, but it will be a huge boost for your career, health, and happiness.

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