The Seven Ingredients to Highly Effective Life Change
For those who are walking on their own personal development path, the internal question may often arise; “what can I do to ensure that the changes I make stick with me?” This is an important question to ask if you are interested in real self development, and I would like to share with you the seven ingredients that I believe are necessary for effective life change. If you can incorporate all of these ingredients into your journey of change then you will be well equipped to overcome almost any negative habit or dis-empowering pattern in your life. Read these slowly, and take action quickly.
Ingredient 1: Self-Awareness
To make serious life change requires a high level of self-awareness. Many people decide to change because their faults have been pointed out to them by loved ones, friends, religious leaders, spouses, or coaches. This is a great way to find out about ones faults because often others can see in us the things that we cannot see, or refuse to see on our own, however the most effective way to begin a change within ourselves is to be so self aware that we see where we need to change before anyone else does. A person will always be more likely to stick with a change if she believes that the idea was hers. We must therefore become self-aware so that we can always see what we must improve upon. “If you will place learning before pleasure,” wrote Guy Finley, “soon learning will come before your pain.” So in the case of personal change, if you will correct yourself before your pride steps in, then soon the pain of having others point out your faults will be gone because you will automatically know when you are wrong, and in knowing that you will be in a better position to correct yourself before you are embarrassed.
It is a common technique among comedians to point out their own flaws to the audience before the audience has a chance to do just that. For example, if a comedian is excessively overweight he will include jokes about his love of buffets, and his disdain towards exercise. If you want a great example, watch John Pinnette. By doing this the comedian can save face and laugh about it himself before the audience points out his flaws. Be like the comedian. Be the first one to see your struggles. Be self-aware.
Ingredient 2: Why?
“What is your why?” We hear this question so much, especially within the area of personal development, yet how seriously do we take it? The importance of this question cannot be overstated. Without a “why” there is no will, no purpose to change, and therefore no reason to try. Whenever you find a pattern that you wish to change you must decide on the reason why you wish to change. For example, maybe you want to start appreciating your wife more. And what is the “why?” Because if you appreciate all that your wife does for you and all that she is then she will feel better about herself, home life will be more pleasurable, and your relationship will be restored to a more satisfying state. Maybe you want to lose 15kg? Your “why” might be that if you lose 15kg your overall enjoyment of life will increase, as will your vitality, confidence, intimacy, and sense of well-being.
Whenever you wish to change, first decide on your “why.” If you do not have this then your decisions will be weak, and the durability of your change will be greatly diminished.
Ingredient 3: Goals
Once you have decided on what you need to change, and you have your “why,” it is then time to set your goals. Goals are so important to the whole process of change, and you must not skip this step if you are serious about your personal growth. You should set both short-term and long-term goals. You must know where you want to be in a week, as well as a year, or even ten years.
Jim Rohn always said that you need to “set goals that make something of you to achieve them.” For example, don’t set the goal to become a Millionaire just for the money, but set the goal for the person that you will have to become in order to make your first Million dollars. Then when you make the money you can throw it all away, because now you know how to become a Millionaire, so you can do it again! When you learn to set these kinds of goals your life will be changed drastically.
An important point to make is that your goals must be specific. Have dates, deadlines, and very specific numbers. Without specificity you will not be as attached to the goal and to the change. I’m talking about the difference between saying “I want to be a kinder person” and saying “every day I will look for three opportunities to do random acts of kindness for people.” There will be a massive difference in commitment and execution between those two goals.
Finally, write your goals and review them twice daily, once when you wake up and once before you sleep. Keep your mind focused on your aspirations by constantly evaluating your progress.
Ingredient 4: Information / Strategy
Information and strategy are possibly the most important ingredients of change, for without a plan of execution one cannot make progress. Once you have developed a deep love for wisdom and information you will never again face an issue in life that you cannot solve. Information is the bridge between setting goals and achieving them.
If you have set the goal to become a better public speaker and communicator, why not start by reading 5 books on public speaking? Maybe you could subscribe to an online communication course, or even attend seminars in your town and learn from the speakers there. Information is abundant in this world, and if we will search then we can find the knowledge that will take us to any goal we set. Seneca said “Truth lies open to everyone. There has yet to be a monopoly of truth.”
When you have the information that you need you can then set up a strategy by which you will attain your goals. Remember that information is only as good as it is used. Don’t let an unread book stand between you and your personal development. By that same token, don’t leave a book finished but not implemented. Use the ideas you learn, and turn your study into strategy, and then your strategy into results.
Ingredient 5: Honesty
Learn to be truly honest with yourself. Once you have set your goals and learned what it will take to get there you must be dedicated enough to be honest with yourself about the efforts you are making. If you know that you could be working harder, doing better, or being smarter in your efforts then you need to see that and change it.
Many times we lie to ourselves, justifying our actions and finding excuses for failures that could have been averted had we gone to greater efforts to achieve them. We often feel pain because we are fooled by other people, but the greatest damage is that which we do when we fool ourselves. You owe it to yourself to be honest enough to admit when you have not been all that you know you can be.
Ingredient 6: Self-Forgiveness
Self-forgiveness comes after honesty because it is important to know that even though you may mess up, you must learn to love yourself and be forgiving of the mistakes you will make. Change isn't easy, and it is not a single event. You will revert to your more basic and automatic behaviors. Those who have addictions know that it is unrealistic to completely stop the habit for good. Relapses are inevitable, and the worst thing to do after a relapse is to hate and curse yourself. Yes, you will be disappointed when you aren't changing as fast as you would like, but you are a creature of habit and so it is natural for you to fall down a few times.
When a baby learns to walk, does she cry and tantrum every time she fails? Of course not. The baby knows a lot more than most adults! She knows that the stage she is in is called "crawling", and the goal is "walking", and it doesn't matter how many times she falls, because if she just keeps trying then eventually she will walk. She doesn't quit trying after her third failed attempt. She simply keeps on failing until the goal is reached.
Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher, said the following of self-forgiveness; “Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if thou dost not succeed in doing everything according to right principles; but when thou hast failed, return back again, and be content if the greater part of what thou doest is consistent with man’s nature, and love this to which thou returnest.”
Know the stage that you are in, and forgive yourself when you fall. You’ll thank yourself when you rise.
Ingredient 7: Support
I have left this point for last because I believe it to be the keystone ingredient that holds the entire recipe together. It is imperative that you find the friends who will support you on your journey of transformation. Make sure that the friends who are closest to you know about the habits that you want to change. If they are close to you then they will hopefully be supportive of your intentions.
When your friends and family are aware of your intentions to change and are involved in supporting you then you will have achieved a very important step in the journey to change: accountability. When you are accountable for your actions you are more inclined to stick to the changes that you want. There are many ways to achieve support in the action of change. You could join a chat group, ask your close friends to work with you, hire a coach, or ask for help from your spouse.
In his book "The Power of Habit" Charles Duhigg writes of Alcoholics Anonymous; “AA has built a system of meetings and companionship - the 'sponsor' each member works with - that strives to offer as much escape, distraction, and catharsis as a Friday night bender. If someone needs relief, they can get it by talking to their sponsor or attending a group meeting, rather than toasting a drinking buddy.” Think of ways that you can get that kind of support in your journey to change.
Finally, surround yourself with those people who lift you. Frequent the homes of those who will make you better. And not only this, but you should seek those people who you know will be receptive to your help. Be not only a receiver, but a giver. Give the gift of progress and experience to those who would learn and grow with you. When you immerse yourself in a culture of learning and teaching among your friends and family it is easy for your mind to be at an optimum state for positive change, and you are well on your way to achieving the divine.
If you will employ all of these ingredients in your pathway to personal and life change, I can guarantee that not only will your efforts be more fruitful, but the fruits will be much sweeter. Change is not a single event. It is a marathon. It took you a long time to build the habits that have lead you to where you are now, so it would be unrealistic to expect that it will take any less time to rid yourself of those negative habits. If you will train yourself daily in the art of personal change then you soon will be a master. Changing habits is one of the most valuable skills a man or woman can have, and those who are serious about progressing in life would do well to become fully acquainted with this skill.