Since I was in my late teens, I have studied success. I have read the success canon, studied with masters, and made my observations. At its core, the principles are about transformational change (as is most everything I write, even if it isn’t always clear that is the point).
I have had—and still have—coaches and teachers, finding that the shortest and most direct path to better results. I enroll in courses, always finding more ideas than I can execute—and at least one idea that more than pays for the time and energy expended.
Here are 13 observations about transformational change:
You Can’t See Yourself Very Clearly
The Greeks had a saying: “Know thyself.” Because you are always with you, you might be tempted to believe that you know yourself better than anyone else. Sadly, this is untrue. In a lot of ways, it is easier for others to see some of your nature than it is for you to recognize it in yourself.
Because this is true, you rarely see the obstacles that prevent better results, the largest of which are of your own making.
You Are Infected with Beliefs That Aren’t Your Own
Most of your beliefs, including your strongest-held views, are not your own. You didn’t choose them; they chose you. Ideas are very much like viruses, jumping from host to host. It’s easy to believe your ideas represent the truth. One of the reasons you don’t produce the result you want is because you have beliefs that conflict with reality (and reality being devoid of any empathy or compassion, isn’t flexible to meet your desires).
A lack of awareness of your self-limiting beliefs is not evidence that you aren’t infected with them.
Confirmation Bias is a Form of Self-Protection
Rather than change, it is easier to find information that confirms that your beliefs are good and right and true. Unless you are incredibly introspective, you don’t even notice your confirmation bias. Your mind sees things that seem useful to your case, and it catalogs those things to protect you from being wrong and from having to change. Facebook is built on showing you what you already believe.
It is rare that one naturally explores the ideas that repel them, even though all growth comes from new beliefs, new ideas, and new behaviors.
You Rationalize Other’s Performance as Being Unavailable to You
It is easy to look at another individual and describe the natural advantages that have produced a result not available to you. They have been gifted with attributes that you lack. They were given a head start you never had. They were fortunate to have events occur that have not—and never will—happen for you. There is no end to the list to the number of advantages to which you have been deprived.
The truth is that there are people producing results you want who have done so without any of the so-called advantages you believe are necessary. We are all subject to the circumstances of our births.
Until You Change Your Beliefs, You Won’t Change
You are not capable of changing unless and until you change your beliefs. The more stubbornly you cling to ideas that don’t serve you, the longer it will take for you to realize the result you proclaim to want. Ask yourself, “What if I am wrong?” Ask an even better question is, “I am sure I am wrong, and I am missing something. What is it that I am missing?”
There is nothing wrong with being wrong. There is a lot wrong with never being wrong, as it limits your willingness and ability to change. One of my primary operating philosophies is, “Try to be slightly less dumb each day,” accepting I am wrong and I need to change to do better.
Awareness Isn’t Enough to Cause Change
You can know what you believe and what you are doing without changing. No one smokes and believes it is a healthy decision. Yet, many do not change—even when they recognize the consequences. Before we decide to judge people who can’t quit an unhealthy behavior, let’s remember that each of us is likely guilty of harmful conduct of our own.
Awareness isn’t enough to cause you to change. You can go a very long time without a result you want, fully aware that what you are doing is working against you.
When You Have to Have Something, You’ll Start to Change
Only when you want something bad enough will you change. Here is a universal example: Everyone you know wants more money, but very few do what is necessary to obtain it. Wanting isn’t enough. Neither is needing something. Unless and until you have to have something, you are not likely to change.
Until the pain of not having something is greater than the pain of letting go of your present identity, your current beliefs, and your habits, you won’t change. When you have to have something, when it becomes a must-have and not just a wish, you will start to change.
Your Goals Are Too Small to Cause You to Change
Call this “the poverty of small goals.” If your goals are too small, they will require too little of you. Transformational change, the only kind worth talking about, doesn’t come from tweaking around the edges. It comes from significant changes in beliefs and behaviors. If you want to change, you have to first challenge yourself with a goal so big it frightens you.
The bigger the goal, the more necessary it will be for you to change. A small goal is impotent when it comes to transformational change. When you miss your big goal, you will still be in a better position than you would have been by setting a goal that doesn’t cause you to change.
You Underestimate the Choices Available to You
One of the reasons people get stuck is because they believe there is only one way to produce a specific result. When you get stuck, you fail to notice that there are more choices available to you. There are different strategies and different approaches. Some people are succeeding in generating some result in ways that are wildly different from others.
One of the keys to success is to be open to exploring all the ideas available to you so you can making adjustments to what you are doing, persisting until you find the recipe that works best for you.
You Try Too Hard to Make Things Easy
There is a particular category of people who sell how to get rich on the internet who have never done anything to get rich except for selling how to get rich on the internet to people who want to get rich on the internet. You find this category of people in a lot of endeavors, mainly money-making and weight loss schemes. The promise is that there is an easy way to produce some outcome, a way to cheat reality. You are likely to try to cheat reality, too.
Real change is not easy. If it were, everyone would make the necessary changes to have what they profess to want. To have what you want, you have to do the hard work. Don’t look for an easier path. Instead, commit to grow enough to take the harder route.
Behavioral Change Requires Discipline and Self-Mastery
You have to do what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it. You also have to do it for consistently longer than you believe should be necessary. You can call this “self-discipline” or “self-mastery” or “habits,” of “getting after it,” or “embracing the suck,” or just plain “gutting it out.”
If you cannot will yourself to do the work, you will not have what you want. There is a reason that the most talented people don’t always produce the best result. There is a reason that people who master themselves produce better results than their more gifted peers. If you can’t will yourself to act, you will not realize transformational change.
Transformational Change Takes Longer Than You Think
It takes a Monarch butterfly 10 or so days in a chrysalis to transform from a caterpillar into its new, completely transformed state. It’s going to take you a little more time to convert from your present caterpillar-like form into the butterfly you are surely becoming. Because it is difficult to see yourself clearly, you won’t recognize your progress. We, however, will.
You have to stay the course for longer than you imagine. At some point, your results will prove you have transformed. If the results aren’t forthcoming, you have to stay the course until they arrive.
You Are Still Pure Potential
Let’s say you achieve your transformational change. While that’s all well and good, you are just starting. From your new vantage point, you will notice you can now see further. You can see how much more growth there is available to you and how much more work you have to do to be more, do more, have more, and contribute even more.
In the end, no matter where you are, you are still pure potential. The identity that you give up is nowhere near as good as the one that replaces it.
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