- Aug 23, 2016
#1: Accept Reality: There Are No Shortcuts. Real Change Requires a Real Process.
Let’s first get the uncomfortable shit out of the way.
Anything worthwhile in life will require a worthwhile effort. There are no shortcuts. There are NO silver bullets, NO magic pills, and NO secret sauces. If you’re still trolling the internet looking for this stuff, move along. You’ve got the wrong forum, the wrong article, and the wrong author.
So lets start with the old guru mantra “take action!”
We say it a lot around here: Take action! Take action!
While action is important, action isn’t what creates change.
Taking action, by itself, is just an event that produces little, if any results. In fact, “taking action” is right behind “do what you love” as one of the biggest guru hoaxes ever perpetrated on the self-improvement industry.
“Taking action” is merely a micro-task to a process, and a process is what precedes real change.
What’s a process? A process is a systematized series of focused actions. A process is repeated. A process is “taking action X 1000" and making adjustments along the way.
Once a process is established it then becomes a habit, which then integrates the process into your mind as automatic, instinctual, and almost subconscious. It actually becomes woven into your existence. The result is a lifestyle which ultimately creates the change you want. The change isn’t fleeting or short-lived, but permanent. Short-cuts are short for a reason— they don’t last.
Unfortunately, most people leverage “taking action” into some sort of mental masturbation trick designed to give us a fleeting "feel good" moment. It’s a temporary exercise orchestrated to fool yourself into thinking that you are doing something, when in actuality, you’re just painting lipstick on the pig. You’re committed to the idea of change, but not committed to the process of change.
Hit the gym the first week of January. See all those people? They’re committed to the idea of change (which are just fleeting thoughts) but not committed to the process (which is the focused action). By February, 95% of them will be gone.
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You see, going to the gym constitutes “taking action”. However, if you never return, will anything really change? Not a damn thing except for that moment of “feel good” which is now, long gone.
Want to eat better and shed a few pounds? Great— for lunch you have steamed halibut and broccoli. Awesome choice. Healthy and nutritious, a perfect decision for your goals. Unfortunately, for dinner you’re back at the old double-bacon cheeseburger with fries. Again, absolutely nothing has changed despite “taking action.”
Ever hear someone say “I’m on a diet?” What they’re really saying is this:
I am NOT committed to permanent change.
I am NOT committed to the process.
I am NOT committed to a transformation from action, to habit.
The word diet implicitly means FAIL. Diets are event-driven based on “taking action” — but the word implies temporary, which implies failure of process.
Diets die and only succeed when they become lifestyles, making the diet, no diet at all— but a simple way of living.
You see, your lifestyle is what produces the real change you seek. That’s how you make a difference in your life. No pill, no diet, and no book can give you the “secret” — the secret lies within yourself, your process, and your expectations of that process.
Focused action > Committed and Repeated > Habit > Lifestyle.
#2: Identify What You Want
What exactly do you want?
Envision yourself time-shifting 1 year into the future at a New Years Eve party. Envision yourself celebrating the year that was, the year that changed EVERYTHING. Take a moment and reflect on the accomplishments you are celebrating in this moment.
Do you want to lose 60 pounds and did it? Did you eat better and got your cholesterol down to 180? Did you enter a fitness competition and placed in the top three? Did you start a new business and doubled your income? Quit your job? Met your soulmate? Complete a full length novel?
Identify EXACTLY what you want to feel in this moment and envision yourself there.
If you don't know where you want to go, you don't know the road that will get you there.
#3: Apply Mathematics To That End Goal, If Possible
Now that you’ve envisioned how awesome your new year will be, attach a numerical figure to your goal.
If “lose weight” is the goal, this would translate into “Lose 25 pounds” or “Get to 15% bodyfat”. Likewise, if your goal is to “start a business” you would need to identify a numerical number, say sales, profits, or # of customers.
The mathematics of the change is crucially important as subjective milestones cannot be measured, and often are action-fakes for real progress.
For example, if “start a business” is the goal, what measure identifies meeting the goal? The moment you get business cards? Or a fancy logo? The moment you launch the website?
While these milestones are apart of the process, they are merely circle-jerking action-fakes designed to make us think that we’ve accomplished a goal, when the real goal should be a sustainable mathematical momentum that keeps us moving toward habitual and addictive producing results.
If it cannot be sustained, it isn’t real — it isn’t habit and it isn’t lifestyle.
#4: Segment The End Goal Into It’s Daily “Take-Action” Step
After you isolate what you want to achieve and quantified it, break down that achievement into its core “take action” component, or what I call “the daily target”. What daily routine will get you there?
For example, if your objective is to write a novel, your daily target could be to write 500 words everyday, or a minimum of 2 hours. If your objective is 12% body fat and six-pack abs, your daily target would be to either workout and/or eat no more than 2,000 calories. The important thing here is to isolate the micro-task that builds the process.
If your goal cannot be measured, use a daily accounting instead. For example, on my attached spreadsheet I have an end goal as “education” — I want to expand my knowledge. In order create change in this area, I will strive to learn something new everyday. Doing so completes the task.
#5: Identify What Threatens The Daily Target.
In other words, you need to identify what IS NOT working. What can and will threaten your daily target? There’s that old adage: The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results. In other words, the choices you made this YEAR resulted in the CONSEQUENCES you have NOW.
In order to hit the daily targets you’ve set, you’ve got to identify exactly WHAT will stop you from achieving them. Why have you failed for the last 10 years? What things do you need to stop doing to make this happen THIS YEAR? Success is more about what you need to STOP doing versus START doing.
In order to tackle the hardest part of process, which is “committed and repeated”, you have to dig down into your life and expose everything that is thwarting process.
- Are you spending 5 hours a day on Facebook playing the latest and greatest game?
- Are you jumping from one idea to the next with no focused action or plan?
- Does your ego require an expensive BMW? Which then requires you to maintain your 60 hour a week soul-sucking corporate job?
- Are you giving into false narratives (I have no money! I have no skills! I'm not a morning person!) that preclude you from making a change?
It all boils down to one thing: Your choices.
What are you choosing instead? What bad habits are stealing your time and derailing your progress?"Greatness is a lot of small things done daily."
The bottomline is, if you don’t have what you want, its because of one reason only: You’re simply not making the required sacrifice. You are choosing actions not correlated to your goal.
#6: Target Threats By Identifying Where the Battles Are Won and Lost.
Most people fight their wars on the wrong battlefield, resulting in loss after loss. If you only knew WHERE and HOW to fight, you would have a fighting chance to create the change you want.
For example, if you want to lose fifty pounds, you have to first identify where the battle is won and lost.
Most people think the battle is won at the refrigerator. As you open up the door, the battle begins:
Sorry champ, but you’ve already lost.
- “OMG, don’t eat that ice cream! Pick something else!
- “Oooh, look at the cheesecake! Should I eat a few bites? No don’t!
- “Mmmm, I would love an ice cold Pepsi right about now… but I shouldn’t.
- “Don’t eat that block of cheese! OMG I can’t stand it!
- “No, don’t grab that gallon of ice cream! Oh, just a little dish won’t hurt…
The war you’re fighting isn’t fought at the refrigerator, its fought at the grocery store. The moment you put this crap in your shopping cart, is the moment you’ve lost the war. You’re fighting a war with sticks and stones while your enemy has an AR-15.
Been spending hours watching mindless reality television? The battle you need to fight isn’t on the couch with the remote control, it’s on the telephone. Pick up the phone and cancel the freaking cable TV.
#6) Attack bad habits with inconvenience and/or pain.
Once you identify the battlegrounds, your bad habits are now ripe for attack.
How do you attack them?
By leveraging your natural human instinct which is to seek the path of least resistance. In other words, make your bad habits a royal pain in the a$$ to continue. Make them invasive. Inconvenient.
In our refrigerator example, if you’ve won the war at the grocery store, you now have attached inconvenience to the bad habit. If you want ice cream, you’ve got to hop in your car, drive to the store, troll the grocery aisle, buy it, and drive home. Not super complicated, but certainly not super convenient.
If you’re trying to stop playing video games, pack up your XBOX console and sell it. Or throw it in the attic. Now if you want to play, you’ve got to climb a ceiling ladder and crawl through a dusty attic to unpack it, wire it up, and play.
Again, not very convenient.
#7) Reward Daily “Action-Taking” Accomplishments with a Physical Cue.
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve learned that crossing-off line-items on my to-do list is addictive.
It feels good.
I love seeing that “X” being marked off as it gives me a sense of reward. If you can do the same with your daily “action taking” we can encourage process and habit changing behavior to take place.
I’ve attached a spreadsheet that can help us accomplish this. It also outlines this entire exercise in procedural change.
Going back to our “lose weight” example, your daily ritual should include a visit to the gym and a better diet. Each day this is done successfully, mark down its accomplishment in a journal or a spreadsheet. On my spreadsheet, it’s achievement is marked by an X.
The objective of the spreadsheet is to create a mental map of your “action taking” so it eventually forms a process.
The goal is to get vertical with the X’s as much as possible for each goal target. If you target ONE X MINIMUM for each day for each row, you will experience KAIZEN, or constant improvement.
Over the course of thirty days, you will see noticeable results.
In a year, you won’t recognize yourself!!!
Optimally, you want to create columns of Xs on consecutive days for each objective. The minimum goal should be at least one X on each day— this means you are improving yourself every single day. To get started, I suggest a simply 30-day challenge, or baby steps, a 10-day challenge.
Pick a goal, line up some “X”s and see how to goes for you.
On my spreadsheet, I have several categories. Each are designed to improve my life in a different facet. This challenge also exposed an interesting "false narrative" in my life ... The last 2 weeks, I've been getting up at 4:15AM and hitting the gym. While the early days were a struggle, I'm to the point now where I discovered that "I'm not a morning person" was simply a narrative I told myself so I didn't have to exert the discipline to get up.
So, who wants to change their life in the next 30 days?
KAIZEN: Japanese for "improvement" or "change for the best", refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes.
There's so much gold in this, and in this forum as a whole. Thank you for sharing this!
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