Metanoia – How and When to Change Your Mind


Of all the things you could change in your life, which is the most important: a new job, a new relationship, a new location, or a new hobby? As important as they all may be, nothing is as important as the ability to change your mind.

This post is about metanoia, which comes from the Greek word metanoein, meaning to ‘change one’s mind’. It is a word that should be introduced to everyone’s vocabulary, and a concept that should be integrated more into our lives.

There are times when we may need to tweak our perspective, or alter a minor habit, but there are also times when an entirely new direction for our life may be required, hence the concept of metanoia.

Psychologist William James used the term to mean a fundamental but stable change in life-orientation, whereas Carl Jung used the term to refer to a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself, by dying a spiritual death and being born anew.


In religious and spiritual terms, the act of committing to a positive change after evaluating one’s behaviours is known as repentance. This usually occurs after feeling a sense of regret or guilt over sins that have been committed. Repentance is most commonly associated with Christianity, Judaism and Islam, although you don’t have to be religious to see the error of your ways and wish to make a change.

The process of repentance generally confession to God, a monk, or a priest. This confession may include an admission of guilt, a promise not to repeat the same offence, and an attempt to correct any behaviours necessary for positive change. It can have a therapeutic effect on the repenter, as they commit to this new change of life.

Character Growth

In literature, it is common for the development of the characters in stories to follow an arc shape as the plot develops. The ebb and flow of the story is punctuated by key pivotal moments, where the greatest conflict occurs between characters as they move closer to or further from their goals.

The most interesting and engaging parts of a story tend to occur when a character undergoes growth and transformation, usually after learning something new about themselves or the world.

Of course, real life came before storytelling, and so in this sense ‘art imitates life’. The character archetypes often found in popular stories must surely, therefore, reflect real people that once lived, even as amalgamations or metaphorical representations.

When to change?

Everyone will have their unique circumstances, and times when a significant change is required in their life.The following are some examples: extreme dissatisfaction with oneself or one’s life, ending a harmful habit or addiction, continually repeating the same mistakes, transition from childhood to adulthood.

How to change?

Making a significant change ultimately comes down to asking two important questions: what paradigm are you currently living in, and what paradigm should you be heading towards?

1) Evaluate

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

What are your main beliefs?

What mistakes do you often make?

Are there any sins you especially regret?

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Do you keep experiencing the same kind of problems?

What criticisms or feedback do you often get from others?

2) New Direction

Decide on a new and improved direction for your life a based on the answers to the previous questions. Then, you should to try and visualise this new version of yourself as clearly as possible, and start to believe that this change is possible.It may also help to associate this change with an image, a song, or feeling.

3) Commitment

Fully embrace this new paradigm, and be mindful of the fact that there may be times when you feel like slipping back into the old one. Whether or not you actually find yourself in the old paradigm again is a usually a testament to how serious you were about changing in the first place. Ultimately, if your faith in a new paradigm is stronger than the current one, then don’t be surprised if things start to change.


“Every great life needs a renunciation.” ~ Zan Perrion

“If you cant get a miracle, become one.” ~ Nick Vujicic

“Be the person you needed when you were younger.” ~ Ayesha Siddiqi

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” ~ Jimmy Dean

“Dark and difficult times lay ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy.” ~ J.K Rowling

“The time is a critical one, for it marks the beginning of the second half of life, when a metanoia, a mental transformation, not infrequently occurs.” ~ Carl Jung

“When times are the most difficult, you’re closer to either a breakthrough or becoming a better version of yourself than any other time.”

Other recommended posts

Finding your life’s purpose – Compass – the Holocaust and Stoicism can Teach us About Living a Meaningful Life –

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