Hi everyone! This will be the first post in a series of posts which I call the “4 Ways to Change Your Life,” where I share the techniques, activities, approaches I used to start changing my life for the better. If you’re not at a place where you want to be right now, or you’re recovering from a major setback, or you want to improve and achieve more in your life, then this series is for you.
What Will Change Your Life?
For the longest time, during the days I consider my darkest, and when I felt the most despair, I kept on searching for answers and solutions. Something, some secret, or some belief, thought, set of actions or magic map that would lead me out of this situation of hopelessness, and into a life of happiness. What did I do?
During that time, I read and read, I asked, I listened. I kept on buying books, attending seminars and talks, asked to interview successful and happy people. I took it all in. I literally devoured anything I saw that could possibly help me and could get my hands on.
And after all that, my life did not change one bit. It was not enough.
Yes, I knew more, had more knowledge and wisdom, but everything was just in my head. Nothing around me changed.
If you want something new in your life, or you want to change something, there is no getting around this basic fact:
“You’ve got to do something. You’ve got to have some effect on the physical world around you.”
I wasn’t about what I needed to know. It was about what I needed to do.
“But I have to learn the secret / the trick / new stuff first!”
Traditionally, learning and education meant sitting at a desk, books open, with a teacher lecturing on and on about math, science, or languages. What they didn’t teach us, what they didn’t tell us, was that although we may learn by reading and listening, yet all that serve to impact what we do.
So although we may have been taught principles, even specific action steps, it won’t be a lot of help to us unless we use what we know, to do something that will help us.
It is what we do, physical action, that affects the world around us, and will effect change in our lives.
No, I’m not saying that it’s not important to learn, and change beliefs and viewpoints.
But all that inner work and learning, serve to equip us to take actions that will matter to our present situation, that can change where we are right now, and get us to where we want to go.
There is no silver bullet, except to do.
Develop a Preference for Doing
There is no way around it. The fastest way to get better is to take action and do. It’s part of how our bodies and minds are built, how they are connected, and how they operate.
Taking action, no matter how simple, like a push-up, wires the brain and creates new paths, or strengthens already present ones. It engages muscles needed to do the activity. So if I haven’t been doing push-ups, and I do one, I might feel difficulty, and a general feeling of novelty and “i’m not used to this.” This is because our brain and bodies haven’t formed the connections to execute and do the action.
In simple terms, the more I do push-ups, the better I get at it, and the easier it will be for me to do. Not only because I might be building muscle, but because doing of the activity strengthens the mind-body connection. Both my body and mind get used to doing push-ups. So it’s not only the mind that learns, but the body also.
This is the reason why journaling and note-taking is so effective. The physical act of writing further wires the brain and body, and creates a stronger memory of what is being taken down. It’s the same principle that teachers use when they ask naughty students to write down the phrase “I will behave” 100 times. I’m an advocate of note-taking and writing. If it’s something you don’t want to forget, want to remember, or want to emphasize, write it down.
Deliberate Action and Practice Changes Lives
“So what does this mean for me, if I’m not in such a great place right now, and I want to change my life?”
Especially when there seems to be no hope, and the material, mental, and emotional loss and devastation is just so great.
When i lost my businesses, it was like being hit with a freight train, in slow motion. The anguish, pain, helplessness, and loss of control you feel was just like no other experience I have ever felt. I fell into such a deep pit, where I felt that I had to get a regular job again, that maybe business isn’t for me. I went for my dreams, and was totally crushed.
It’s hard to be in that situation. Maybe yours is different, but the pain and hopelessness is there.
And despite all of what you’re feeling, you’ve gotta get moving and doing. When you’re in that “personal pit” of yours, it’s actually more important to get moving and doing.
Get moving and doing in small steps. Your body and mind will resist it. It will want to stay still and continue its pity party. That will only drag you lower and lower, and keep you from moving forward. Get moving and doing in small steps.
Here are some small steps that worked for me:
1. Make your bed when you get up every morning. I got this from the University of Texas Commencement Speech of Admiral McRaven. This is what he had to say about this:
It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
Start with the small things. It will give you a little bit of confidence, and a small sense of accomplishment. Very important fuel for you to change your life and get to where you want, especially after a painful setback.
2. Exercise. It can be tempting to go whole hog and go for a full on program, but I actually started with the very modest goal of a push-up a day. One. One push-up a day. Start small, and as you get to feeling better, or you feel you can go for more, increase the load. But I always set the goal absurdly simple, then once I was in the push-up position, and did my first push-up, I felt wanting to do more, since I was already doing it!
There is also research, the exercise has a positive effect on our mood and emotional, as well as psychological state. And it doesn’t need a lot of exercise to achieve this. The Association for Applied Sport Psychology has said that even 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, like a walk, can already have a positive effect.
3. Write down 10 ideas a day. This one I took from James Altucher. It’s a practice to use your brain and thinking mind, kind of like exercise. Pick a theme for the day, and write 10 ideas down about it. It’s not about the quality of the ideas, it’s about doing the practice.
Stop the self-censoring, and just get down to writing the ideas, 10 every day. This is like exercise for the mind, brain, and imagination. You are teaching your brain to think up of new possibilites and avenues, forcing it to produce and to think up of new ideas and ways.
This is important, especially when we’ve been so used to the same way of thinking and the same way of doing the same things over and over. James Altucher explains in detail on his site.
4. Start small. But keep on going. Small steps develop the muscles and capacity for larger steps, running, leaping, and eventually, flight. Get used to the small steps first. Get doing with small steps first.
Here’s a fantastic link about this concept : It’s written by James Clear, and is about building small habits.
We’ll discuss more techniques and practices that you can use to change your life. For now, focus on action, and on starting with small steps. Next post, we’ll take a look at what obstacles prevent us even from just starting small, and techniques and approaches to overcoming them. See you next time, and tell me what you think in the comments below!