I think it’s pretty fair to say that at some point in our lives we’ve all wanted to change.
- Change our personality
- Change our health
- Change our relationships
- Change our thoughts
- Change our habits
- Change our beliefs
- Change out emotions
Hell, even change our underwear.
Take a second to look back at your life and think for a moment about how much you’ve already changed. Has your body changed, the way you treat people, philosophies on life, love, or wealth? Think about the various things that were important to you 15, 10, 5, or even just a year ago and how some of those priorities have stayed the same but also how so many of them have fallen by the waste side.
I read an amazing quote sometime back that read:
“…The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives…”
For me this acts as such an important reminder that anything we hope to do; wether it be something related to our health, wealth, or personal relationships has to start in our noodle.
If you don’t actually believe you are capable of doing something you will never put forth the amount of work that’s required to achieve it.
So how can you get your mind right so that possibilities are limitless? Read on… I dare you.
THINKING ABOUT CHANGE IN ALL THE WRONG WAYS
When you think about creating change you may associate it with terms such as:
With change we just assume that it’s going to suck. No pain, no gain right?
So does this mean that the more pain we feel the more gain we’ll get? I’m going to say no here.
Pain is a sign that we’re using a piss poor approach that typically creates more problems and asks more questions than it answers. So instead of creating possibilities for ourselves we’re stuck trying to fix problems.
When thinking about change in our life lets start thinking more about the possibilities in front of us. What will building healthy habits like consistent exercise and eating more “real food” do for you? What new doors will it open?
- The ability to play recreational sports with your buds
- To have the confidence to ask out that person
- To finally try rock climbing
- To be able to play with your kids without getting exhausted
And this just doesn’t go for your health. What opportunities will open up if you change careers? Start a new relationship? Or go back to school?
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE NANCY’S
It’s great that you’re now thinking about all the possibilities and opportunities out there but what about everyone else that is still focusing on all the problems, pain, and discomfort? It’s hard not to listen to those negative Nancy’s out there when there are so many coming at you from all angles.
The big thing to remember here is that when you make changes in your life you inadvertently are breaking the routines and daily experiences and expectations for others in your circle. So not only are you going to be different you’re asking others to be different as well and change is often hard and uncomfortable for most people.
We like routines, stability, and security. Anything that disrupts that makes life more difficult (or so we think). So in essence it’s not that others are trying to bring you down it’s just that your emphasizing that you want to be different and they’re a little uncomfortable with that. They just want you to be the same, the same person they’ve always known.
When someone says “Hey, don’t think about a giant pink elephant,” what immediately happens?
You think about a frick’n giant pink elephant, that’s what happens.
To often you end up thinking obsessively about what you don’t want to happen and in the end that things is exactly what you end up doing.
You get so wrapped up in not eating that chocolate cookie that all day, all night, and for the next week it’s all you can think about. Paying no attention to healthy lunch you just had or the great exercise session you got in.
I see it far to often when discussing exercise with clients, friends, and family. When they think about exercising all they imagine and talk about is how hard it is going to be. Their focus is on all the things they are “losing,” like eating certain foods or losing a certain amount of weight (which you think would be a good thing), instead of putting their focus on what they will be “gaining.” Like all the health and fitness, cooking skills, ability to take on new activities, confidence, and so much more.
How fun and motivating does exercising seem when all you can think about is huffing and puffing? But when you think about all the rewards that come with it… a much more enjoyable experience.I don’t know about you but that’s much more motivational to me. Constantly thinking about what I’ll be missing out on or losing would wear me out.
This sort of thing even happens in our jobs and personal relationships as well.
Take a big work project for example. Instead of thinking about the opportunity you have in front of you to really make a difference, create something amazing, and really help your organization, self, and others – you get fixated on the long hours you may have to put in or the struggles that may come about in communicating with team members.
Same goes for that big talk you are having with a friend or significant other. Instead of seeing all the positive opportunities to communicate effectively with each other, express openly and honestly thoughts and emotions, and to build a stronger bond together – you only think about how tough this chat may be, how the other person is going to respond negatively, or how important it is to prove that you’re right instead of using is as an opportunity for understanding and learning from one another.
Now this is where it gets tricky.
Turn what you want to do (or see happen) and think about into a positive statement. Even more importantly take time to visualize what you want to happen or are thinking about. See the opportunity in that big work project or conversation that you’re about to have.
- Get clear on the behaviors that are needed in order for those results to manifest the way that you want.
- See yourself doing those things/acting out those behaviors
- Practice them consistently. A little bit each day build momentum
OTHERS ARE INSPIRATION
We all have our own unique personal history. Each of us has had very different events in our lives that have helped to shape who we are and with each of those unique experiences we all interpret them differently.
However, one thing that each of us can take away from one another is that if one person was able to do something then anyone can do it. Nothing is impossible, there are far to many people out there proving that.
- What to start a charity from scratch? Someone’s done that.
- Want to lose 100 pounds? Kim’s done that.
- Want to create your own business online? BOOM!
Don’t think you can create more confidence for yourself, make better decisions, learn another language, discover your passion? There are people out their everyday proving that these things are possible. Use them as a source of inspiration to prove that you can do it too.
Hell, reach out to them if you need to. That’s what emails for damn it.
Think about it. The iPod, the cellphone, computers, the internet, an airplane, the telephone. These were all someones crazy dream at some point. They had no examples to look to of these things ever being done before. They only thing they could look to were the other crazies that did what no one else thought was possible.
There are so many resources and examples for us to pull from now that it almost is just silly to think something can’t be done.
With all the examples of success and achievement out there today you’d think that would be enough to get anyone fired up right?
WHEN SUCCESS JUST ISN’T ENOUGH
It’s pretty damn inspiring to read about someone’s amazing personal transformation, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, or pushing past personal limits. But the intense spikes you feel from reading, watching, or hearing about these stories is usually short-lived.
Sometimes the inspiration may last a few weeks but then life somehow gets in the way and your big goal falls by the waste side. Work is always keeping you late, the kids need you, someone special needs some snuggle time, the laundry has to get done. There’s always other “priorities” that need to be taken care of first.
One of the big reasons we have such a hard time creating change, establishing habits, and tackling those big goals (or even small ones sometimes) is because our priorities are all jacked up.
- The laundry takes precedence over our workout
- Watching our favorite show is a turns into a bigger priority than sleep
- Work keeps us from our kids baseball games
When you say you’re “too busy” all you’re really saying is that something else is a bigger priority. Next time catch yourself saying you were just too busy to do something and change the phrase to “I’m not making _________ a priority. Take note of how your entire mindset changes. They way you talk to yourself really does make a difference.
Laura Vanderkam over at the WSJ put it beautifully:
“…Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently…” –WSJ
This is why it so important to get clear on the various roles we play in our lives and then to take time to prioritize them. Once this occurs you’ll start to see a pattern develop. Every time you feel anxious, stressed, uncomfortable, or scared it’s typically because you are placing a role (or priority) over something you consider much more valuable to your life.
As my friend Mark Manson puts it over at his site (warning for this quote. It’s in your face and may rub some of you the wrong way but the message is clear):
“…Modern capitalist society sometimes doesn’t reward having strong personal values. In fact, it sometimes punishes you. Everyone gripes about politicians and their lack of values. But an inherent flaw of democracy is that it rewards those who parrot what people want to hear rather than those who stand up for their core values (see: Mitt Romney, John Kerry). What we get are presidents who talk about peace and go to war, and senators who talk about family values but hire male prostitutes or get caught jerking off in an airport bathroom.
Society rewards the valueless with superficial benefits. But developing strong core values are the foundation of lifelong happiness and fulfillment. They’re the prerequisite for any semblance of a healthy relationship, romantic or otherwise. They’re the compass that always points toward your life purpose…” – Mark Manson
It’s important to get clear on your values because they’re driving force behind motivation. The stronger your values the more motivated you’ll be.
Once you’ve done this all of your dreams, goals, and ambitions act as drivers for fulfilling those values.
If you’re having a tough time figuring out what your values are I suggest heading over to this site to take a brief strengths and virtues test. Below you’ll see a little breakdown of some of my strengths and virtues (I’ll link to some more screen shots from that test at the bottom of this post.)
Take a few moments and define somethings that you value in life. Think of these things in terms of some of the roles that you play. These should be things that you are not willing to compromise on, these are “must haves.” The stronger your values the more direction and motivation you’ll find in moving forward with them. No wishy-washy here.
Think about it as “organizing your life.” Almost the same way you would organize a messy drawer, your closet, or your work desk. Once this happens so much discontent can be removed because instead of feeling like you “have” to do something, you can get back to want you really “want” to do.
- Significant others/Lovers
Looking at my strengths and virtues I can see that kindness, humor, self-regulation, and creativity are very important to me. It’s probably a good idea to make sure that I display these characteristics and surround myself with people and various environments that emphasize the same.
If you’re still having a tough time getting clear on what you value the most there is a one step trick to getting clear in a matter of moments. Look at any instance that has occurred recently in which you felt violated, maybe someone lied to you for example. If it upsets you, you feel disrespected, anger, upset, or uncomfortable then this is a good sign that is something you value.
The same goes for if you act in a way towards someone or something like an event and feel that inner discomfort. For me, I know when I don’t act kindly towards someone is eats at me, it bugs the shit out of me, and I feel terrible. I now know how important being kind to others no matter what means to me.
What are your goals in these areas of your life and how can you apply your personal strengths and values (virtues) within them?
DON’T CONFUSE WHAT YOU WANT WITH WHAT YOU DON’T WANT
What if you already know exactly what you want?
I’d say that’s pretty frickin awesome and you’re one step ahead of the rest of us. But just make sure that what you want doesn’t need anyone else to change.
Waiting for someone else to change is out of your control and will only need to frustration. Concentrate your energy and time on behaviors that you can manage.
By simply paying attention to the language you’re using you can become aware if you are expecting someone or something else to change.
- I’ll be happy when…
- I want my boyfriend/girlfriend to stop…
- If my boss only ______ I could….
Think of ways instead that you can be more resourceful to those people or circumstances by focusing on your own behaviors that you can manage.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER FOR THE SAKE OF CHANGE
Often the “busy” don’t make what is really important to them a priority and it’s usually because the stuff that keeps us busy is easy and mindless while all that good stuff that’s really important to us can be tough and uncomfortable sometimes. Thus, change never happens because we never actually start really working on it.
1. Preparation: Measure twice and cut once is a something I remember my grandfather telling me back in the day when I was young I’m not a kid anymore, and some days I sit and wish I was a kid again (my hip hop reference for the day). An example of this would be performing a kitchen makeover before starting a new nutritional/lifestyle approach. You’re trying to set it up so that doing the good stuff is easy and the not so good stuff is hard.
If you’re trying to meet that special someone maybe you’re stepping up your hygiene game, getting a fresh-cut, adding some new clothes to the repertoire, or researching some cool local spots to check out.
2. Behaviors: It’s easy to get fixated on performance goals (performance goals are sexy). Losing 15 pounds, earning 100K a year, starting your own business, falling in love. The thing is you don’t control those but you do control the behaviors that lead to those outcomes.
To lose 15 pounds you can make it a point to exercise intensely 4 times per week and go grocery shopping every sunday for real food.
3. Rewards: Get clear on why making these changes and going after what you want will be rewarding for you. How will this make your life better? How will it make the lives of those closest to you better? Why is this so important to you?
4. Actually doing the damn thing: One small step! That’s all that’s needed to make progress. If you’re not exercising already a 5 minute jog is better than nothing. If you’re not saving money setting up your checking account to automatically deposit $5 bucks in your savings account is better than not. Saying hi to that cute teller at the bank (or handsome one) is better than just depositing your cash and moving on.
Progress is a powerful thing so just get started.
5. Refine: On a weekly basis you should be asking yourself “How’s this approach working for me?” What gets measured gets managed so for instance if you are trying a new exercise and nutritional approach you should be taking body measurements and weighing yourself.
This will give you feedback letting you know if what you’re doing is working or not (provided you are consistent with your behaviors). With anything that you’re trying give it a far shot – usually 30 days will do the trick before deciding if you need to shake things up or not.
6: Back again: Make any adjustments that you may need and get back at it.
7. Repeat 5 & 6: Keep refining and consistently acting on the those refinements until you get to where you want to go.
Aligning your values and your behaviors will provide you with a greater sense of fulfillment, happiness, self-worth, confidence, and enthusiasm. To get to where you want to be you may have to do the difficult thing from time to time or to really make some sacrifices but it should never be at the expense of your personal values. If you’re making changes according to the things that are most important to you it makes the difficult stuff more rewarding, exciting, and it will keep you from feeling anxious and stressed out.
Any changes you are making at the moment or are contemplating? Share in the comments below. Maybe we can help.
Notes: This article was inspired from some reading I did a while back about Neuro Linguistic Programming. I highly recommend these books if you are looking to improve the way you think about your life on a day to day basis.
Photo credit: Magnus Lindvall
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