The Six Mental Steps for Change

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

We all have improvements we want to make, but how do we go about making these changes?

1. Accept That There Is No Secret Conspiracy That Wants You to Fail

Ask yourself, if you were going to sabotage someone from making improvements, what would you do? Then ask yourself, how many of these things are you doing to yourself? The circumstances that are out of your control, are out of control. That's good news because you don't have to waste your time worrying about them. That only leaves the things within your control, namely you.

In the world of self-control, your only roadblock is you. Create a winning strategy by thinking of all the ways you could sabotage yourself then do the opposite. Anticipate your failure points then create countermeasures. We are masters of self-sabotage because we know our own playbook. But that goes both ways, we are also aware of our weaknesses and the things we will do out of fear.

2. Focus on Increments Not End Goals

Let's say I'm in a fight, and naturally I want to win this fight. My focus then is on the result, the victory, and all the things that come with victory. A is the start of the fight, B is the end of the fight, and my focus is on B and after. Everything between A and B, I wing it, I will do whatever my emotions tell me to do. I rush to B, looking for a knockout and either I get knocked out, or I quit because B is too hard and taking too long, and I realize I am out of my depth. This isn't an analogy; this is the actual psychology of a bad fighter. This is also the psychology of failure.

People look at where they are, A, they look at where they want to be, B, and make it up as they go and let their ego and emotions lead the way. They try hard for a bit, get discouraged, beat themselves up, and fail or give up. When we see how wide the gap between A and B is, it's overwhelming, which is why we'll try to shorten it, trying to lose 100lbs in a month. We vacillate between improbable and impossible.

If I focus on increments: circle, jab, make angles, walk my opponent to the ropes, and aim to implement every part of my plan correctly, the rest will take care of itself. I'll be a winning fighter. Winning, not win, because all the conditions we want to improve are conditions of living, and as long as we are living, the conditions continue. End goals, therefore, are illusions.

Lots of us have ideas for stories, but why is it so difficult to write? Because we know how it starts and how we want it to end, but we don't know what should happen in the middle. The middle is the story. When do people quit? In the middle. What people don't anticipate is that the journey is continuous. Rather than the end, focus on the increments, the small developments that feed the following developments. Continuously improve and make improvements a habit.

3. Conditions Will Never Be Perfect, so Don't Put Things Off

You can't predict whether things will improve on their own. Chances are it will only get worse, and you won't have the advantage of an early start. You'll get busier at work, you'll be more exhausted, you'll have more responsibilities, and you'll be older.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
— Chinese Proverb

Sometimes it makes sense to wait, but if procrastination is one of your known self-sabotage techniques, then start now and adapt as things come up. Trust yourself; you'll figure it out.

4. Manage Your Time

People don't have a lack of motivation problem, they have a logistical problem. What are the most common reasons we aren't able to do the things we wanted to do? We didn't have time, followed by, we were too busy. If we still want it, like if we failed at losing weight but still want to lose weight, then the motivation is there. We only lose motivation if we no longer want it, and if we no longer want it, then who cares. It becomes another thing not to waste your time worrying about.

Follow a schedule, it can be an actual schedule book, or it can be online. Time won't magically appear, you have to make time, and for you to do that, you have to schedule it. Consider it the same as you would an appointment. It is not to be missed. If you make up your schedule as you go, you will waste time trying to decide every little thing. Prioritize, schedule around the most important things, and if you have a routine, like gym at 7 AM every morning, still put it into your schedule.

Maintain your schedule, manage your time, keep things regimented, create accountability, understand change is about habits and it's easy to fall out of habits if you stop doing them.

5. Think Like an FBI Profiler

It's not a permanent change if you have to think about it every time. It has to become second nature, and that takes behavioral changes. For you to get the changes you want, you must change. Your habits are your patterns of behavior, and that must change.

An FBI profiler is able to catch criminals by creating a profile — the things they do and are likely to do. Everything you are, everything you have, is a result of your profile. If you want something different than what you already have, you must change your profile (otherwise you'd already have it). You don't make goals for things you're likely to do; you only make them for things you're unlikely to do. Because if you were likely to do it, you would have already done it. Then become the person likely to do it. People think it's about external changes, but changes are internal, the external only reflects your internal changes. A focus on the external only reinforces your current profile.

6. Progressively Train Resilience

If you keep expectations unrealistically high without the resilience to match, why wouldn't you give up? Your resilience should match if not exceed your expectations. Don't set unrealistic expectations, get rid of the unessential, maintain the meaningful. Keep it simple but challenge yourself. Take small falls as necessary learning steps. Train yourself to keep getting up.

Self-honesty takes resilience, ask yourself, "How is this working for me?" If you see that it's not working, change something. People fall in love with the idea of easy. If it ends up being easy, fantastic; if not, you'll need resilience to see you through.

There is a Japanese proverb that goes: "Fall seven times and stand up eight." How can you get up more times than you fall? You can't. But that's what it'll feel like, that getting up is not equal, but harder than falling.

Prepare yourself.